I once heard someone say that chickens are a gateway animal. And since then I have from time to time reflected on the fact that they certainly are.
In my experience, most people seeking this "simple life" often start with chickens. Sometimes they are purchased whilst still living in suburbia, and what seemed like a harmless trio of happy layers turns out to be a dangerous rabbit hole to fall down. Dangerous, that is, if you planned to retain your way of living. Exciting, however, if you'd dreamed about something different, a simpler life perhaps, or were discontent with your day to day. Those chickens have the power to potentially change your way of thinking, eating and ultimately, living.
Even if you don't complete the tree change by leaving your town abode, you can still head down the simple living path. As you collect eggs from your new feathered friends, and discover that they have personalities, and even a brain, you'll find you're no longer able to consider buying factory farmed eggs from the shops. Even when your layers decide to take a holiday.
If you can't find a free range pastured alternative you'll find yourself going eggless. Exactly how it should be, I say. This is seasonal eating, appreciating animals for what they are rather than just seeing them as a natural machine for producing food.
We purchased our first chickens nearly a decade ago. Three point-of-lay crossbred pullets, who we named Hilary, Harriet and Caroline. Those three layers where the first step towards this life we live now. I learnt so much about animal care in the first twelve months of owning those three hens. I enjoyed eating eggs for the first time in my life, and had the thrill - for believe me, it is a thrill - of putting our fruit and vegetable scraps into a bucket knowing they would not be wasted, but enjoyed and eventually appear back on my plate in the shape of an egg.
Those three chickens are responsible for where we are now. I grew my first veggies in the soil that they had worked, we hatched our first rooster from eggs of friends under those hens, which led to breeding our own meat. Now here we are, with two dairy cows, a small herd of cows, a flock of sheep and several acres to care for.
I'm still amazed that we are here. As I write this I have a cup of tea by my side and a plate of cheese and crackers. That cheese on my plate is one that I made months ago. Romano, crafted from raw milk from our darling Missy-Moo, and left in the cheese fridge to mature so that it could be enjoyed on an evening such as this. I mean - we made CHEESE!
Those sheep and those chickens are perfect proof that you don't know where your road will lead. But, if you follow that road you'll find out what you're destined for and although there might be a few bumps and even some potholes on the way, and everything - even the things you don't particularly like - are the way they're supposed to be.
And in the end life will take you exactly where you're meant to go.
So, if you're meant to start down the path to what is commonly referred to as The Good Life, I suggest you start with some chickens.
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PS If you're interested in chickens read my chicken buying guide.
PPS If you'd like to know more about our cheesemaking, check out this, this and this.