FUN

Guess What? Chicken Butt; How This Weekend Homesteader Says I Love You

A chicken is kind of like a kitten stuck to a lizard.

You know how it goes, right?

Guess what?

Chicken butt.

Guess why?

Chicken thigh.

Over the years, this silly exchange has turned into one of the ways in which Ed and I say I love you, because we're romantic in that middle grades sort of way between dorks.

I have mixed feelings about Valentine's Day. This is probably no surprise because, I mean, I have mixed feelings about all kinds of things. I contain multitudes, people. And that isn't a fat joke.

According to the Greeting Card Association, Valentine's Day is the second-largest of the card-giving holidays. And women purchase 80 percent of Valentine's Day cards. (I'm not clear on how many of those are intended for their kids to take to school so everyone in the class has one.) I was unable to find statistics regarding those chocolate roses sold at gas stations, alas.

Ed and I have never really been the type to give each other cards but we are continuing to work our way through The Weekend Homesteader, month by month (here's the tag so you can read about our efforts thus far). February includes four main activities: berry planting, stocking up on bulk goods, exploring backup lighting options, and giving consideration to your future homesteading goals. So when we discovered that our local county extension office (every county in the US has one!) was teaching chicken school on Valentine's Day, the timing was perfection.

Okay, that class only covers one of the activities for the month but let's evaluate: We've got our strawberry plants in containers and we missed out on the time to plant brambles for blackberries, which are our safest bet for this hardiness zone. We're still figuring out what dry goods we need; there's a gluten-free pasta experiment underway right now just to find a good brand we'd even want to stock up on. And backup lighting is currently candles but we'll revisit this closer to hurricane season.

That leaves us with those homesteading goals.

I think the setting of goals is actually a February activity in the book because it's such a brutal month basically everywhere that has real winter. I wasn't sure it was going to be super applicable to us, both because we're busy planting and spring cleaning and because I don't know how far down the homesteading rabbit hole we'll ever fall. I like living in a city for reasons. But, as we prepped for chicken class, Ed and I did wind up talking about what we'd like to do in the future.

He's super into grey water systems. I like the idea of growing more food and keeping chickens. He'd like to look into bee-keeping (which I don't think we're allowed to do where we live but that's part of the research). We're wondering about solar power. We're both concerned about how much work some of this would be on top of our regular commitments. In some ways, even weekend homesteading is a slippery slope of over-commitment. The difference is that no one feels that bad if a strawberry plant dies. But if you have chickens, for example, they're a greater responsibility.

Thus, chicken school. Which was not a bunch of chickens in school uniforms sitting exams in a classroom.

Roosters are not allowed in the City of Orlando. So, our instructor emphasized several times, you have to become the rooster. What he meant was that you are the protector of your tiny hen family (the limit was recently raised from three to four hens allowed) and that you have to be up for running out of the house in the middle of the night to chase of the coyote sniffing around your coop.

(We're seeing more coyotes in the urban parts of MCO these days and occasionally get flyers warning of one in the area.)

But the day-to-day care is the big deal, because day-to-day tasks often become the ones that grind people down and make them resentful. We'd never want to put a living being in harm's way based on us being tired, so it's a consideration. Chickens really only have about two solid years of laying eggs to give, as well — meaning you have to be distanced enough to trade in your birds for new ones or you have to give up on the eggs so you can keep your pets.

Orlando has only very recently expanded it's Urban Chicken program. It doesn't sound, based on things that were said, like there are a whole lot of permitted chickens within the city limits. But the class we attended on Saturday is at least the first step in the permitting process, and it was an educational one (though it also confirmed a lot about my issues with hipster homesteading, unfortunately). It was also a really fascinating glimpse into more details of some local politics — and there were a lot of good reasons given to get involved in local politics ourselves.

Also, we all played a game of Pass the Chicken. Because you've got to be able to handle your birds.

I'm actually kind of terrified of birds but that doesn't extend to chickens, even though I am well aware they're feathered dinosaurs just like any other avian. Chickens, apparently, light up the same part of my brain that is occupied by kittens. Except these kittens have been filled up with lizards.

Which was a much more adorable way of thinking about them in my head but whatever. Chickens are amazingly soft and warm. And the bird we got to hold was lovely and friendly as long as she felt secure. Can't that be said about almost anyone though?

Turns out, anything that involves cuddling a chicken while getting all riled up about civic engagement really does count as a good time for me and Ed. We grinned at each other every time a chicken made a noise, and we ended up getting our certificate and the relevant phone numbers of the folks we'd need to contact if we wanted to take the next step.

I don't know if Ed and I will be making those phone calls anytime soon. But I do know that talking about our homesteading goals worked out to be valuable in unexpected ways and that it also resulted in a mighty fine Valentine's chicken school date. Whatever our weekend homesteading future brings, I'll gladly take that for now because "chicken butt" still means "I love you" to us.