What could make a man happier than his wife giving him the go-ahead to rear a stock of poultry in his back yard? Plenty of things, of course, but bear with my hyperbole; when Cristina and I first bought our St. Louis house, there was an ongoing discussion about what we would do with the yard. Would we get a dog? Would we get a goat? Would we build a play palace?
At first, Cristina was opposed to the idea of getting chickens. We were about to have our second child, and she supposed it would be too burdensome a responsibility to look after a baby plus an additional brood of gallinaceous friends. Nevertheless, she did share my desire of someday planting a coop in the back yard and generating our own farm fresh eggs.
As time passed, however, and as Spring drew nigh, Cristina’s mind began to change. She warmed up to the idea of getting a couple of chickens as a learning experience for our son Gershom, and as an experiment in small scale farming. Nevertheless, Cristina is a much more careful creature than myself, and being more conscientious to walk only within her rights, she first applied herself squaring our micro-agricultural enterprise against the law of the land.
Now, I am not generally inclined to look before I leap; I’ve found that it is indeed easier to ask forgiveness than to ask permission with many things, but I’ve also found that as many things that such a disposition works favorably toward, the law, rigid and impartial, will seldom be silenced by the plea of ignorance. Although I wouldn’t have checked the St. Louis County chicken laws before buying chicks, I know that Cristina did the right thing. Indeed, is it not written,
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.
1 Peter 2:13-15 (NASB)
My wife’s investiagation confirmed that we were within our rights in unincorporated St. Louis County to have chickens in our backyard (as long as we didn’t sell any eggs). She found that in some towns chickens were forbidden, including Twin Oaks, which is an incorporated town founded (so I’ve heard) by a farmer who didn’t want the surrounding cities with their yuppy city laws encroaching on his neighborhood’s freedom. Isn’t that ironic?
So, blessed by the County’s legislation, it happened that on St. Patrick’s Day 2016, Cristina sent me and Gershom off to purchase our chickens. We decided to first check the OK Hatchery in Kirkwood, just down the road from us.
The chicks were a few cents less than 5 dollars apiece, and after the shopkeeper admitted that they were overstock, I tried to talk him down in price. They seemed really expensive to me considering that I can buy a fully cooked and seasoned rotisserie chicken from Walmart for 5 dollars, but I probably shouldn’t have tried bargaining with the man I had just met, and would have likely been better off developing a gentler rapport with him for the benefit of our future engagements (which were not few).
We ended up buying two little chicks. The shopkeeper had originally told me what breeds they were, but I very quickly forgot, and still haven’t found out. One was orange and one was black, and from the time we brought them home, we noticed that the orange one seemed both hardier, and keener.
As soon as we got home, we showed them to our son, who took an intense interest in the birds, and really loved them. He loved to pet them gently and to look at them. Initially, they were small enough that they could both fit comfortably into a small diaper box. The whole family loved to watch them peck and chirp in their little cardboard house.
Buying chickens was a liberating step for our family. We stepped out and took a chance with something that not many people dare to try, and were rewarded with a rich experience that expanded our farming abilities, and our opportunities here in the suburb. The chickens have been the source of more than a few of our conversations with others, and have been, in a subtle way, a blessing to our neighborhood. I love to see my son so excited about chickens now, and hope that he continues to learn as he grows.
No, it wasn’t the happiest thing that has ever happened to me, in an absolute sense, but it gave me a reason to call my suburban home a “farm”, and that warms my heart.