If you’ve been reading the blog a while, it’s no secret to know that the key to Babci’s thriftiness is in great part due to the abject poverty that she grew up in. In the winter, when food was running low, there was no meat ever. The family’s only source of protein came from eggs and milk. They were so utterly dependent to their livestock that they would have died without it. It reminds me of when I went on my honeymoon in Tanzania and we toured some local homes and learned that the people actually lived under the same roof as their cows. The locals had some folklore reason why that was, but in short, it’s because cows are just that important to the survival of a family.
A very common meal that my mom’s family would eat during the lean months was milk soup. This was very simply warmed up milk with egg drop noodles added for a little texture and flavor. My mom used to make it for me as a treat when I was little. She however would put sugar on top of my soup and I’m sure it tasted much yummier than the plain variety she ate for months at a time.
Getting chickens has special significance to Babci and I. For her, it’s inherently linked to survival. For me, it represents one of my happiest memories as a child. When I was 10, I spent a summer in Poland and I had the pleasure of being on my aunt’s farm for several weeks. This is the same farm my mom grew up in. It was the 80s and she still didn’t have indoor plumbing at that point. She did however have a son about my age and the two of us had a blast. There are 5 things I vividly remember about that summer.
- Hanging out in the hay loft.
- Having a cherry eating contest and eating cherries off a tree until our faces and hands were stained red.
- Being locked inside the house and not being able to go to the outhouse and having to pee really badly.
- Visiting with a cow and then having it step on my foot and then it just stood there while I was in agony…it just wouldn’t move and it was heavy. It had no idea it was hurting me…stupid cow.
- Holding a baby chick and appreciating all the wonder that goes along with a new life.
As a result, I love the smell of hay, I have a cherry tree in my yard (that I wish the birds wouldn’t eat every year), I am not crazy about cows or having a full bladder and last but not least, I want my children to experience the magic of chickens.
Babci’s Chicken Coop Advice Stinks
Since Babci spent half her life living on a farm, I thought I’d get all this sage knowledge about raising livestock. What I didn’t realize until just this week (and why I have no idea), was that if Babci grew up in an overcrowded malnourished state of poverty, that meant her animals did too. When I stayed at the farm as a kid, the standard of living was much higher, so I just imagined the animals living on that cheery version of Old McDonald’s farm, not the reality of what it must have been like during WW2. Well, the real question is…when the family was near starvation, what did the animals eat? The feed might have been organic because pesticides weren’t invented yet, but it sure as heck wasn’t well balanced. Apparently chickens can survive on nothing but boiled potatoes, crushed up eggshells and clabbered milk for long periods of time.
Then come the coop. Every time I ask her about perches or nesting boxes or space requirements, I get one answer: Oh, don’t worry about that, chickens don’t need that. “Nesting box? Chickens don’t need that. All you need to do is throw a basket or two in your coop or throw some hay on the ground and they’ll make their own nest.” Space? “Chickens don’t need that, I had 30 chickens in the size of the closet..and ducks too. The ducks live on the floor and the chickens live above and they work things out between each other.” Thanks mom, that was really helpful. (I wish there was a sarcasm font). She obviously employs the Darwin method for livestock rearing. She has absolutely no concerns about overcrowding or stressing out the animals. If they can’t hack it or turn into egg eaters, there is only one solution and that solution is: Chicken Soup. Mmmm Mmmm Delicious.
Needless to say, I’m going to want to stay somewhat involved so I don’t get a call from the ASPCA, but my gut tells me she’s going to baby her little chooks and feed them all kinds of yummy treats to keep them happy. I did work on the nesting boxes and perch over the weekend. My kids and I went into a friend’s yard and cut down a couple of saplings for the project. Here is the photo below. Note, I’m trying to spend as little as possible given the cost of the permit, so I will be updating you on my low cost coop ideas shortly. Can you picture the chickens perching here?