After 5 years of teaching high school and 7 years of teaching kids to cook, you could say that I am a big believer in what kids can do. They can, indeed, make an impact on the world. When I met Orren via Twitter, I loved that he was passionate enough about his chickens to start a blog about them. Happy Chickens Lay Healthy Eggs is amazing – and my daughter loves to visit, to see what Orren has been up to and to browse through the recent photos of his animals. We are considering adding a few girls to our flock (since the three babies we hatched all turned out to be roosters!), and have learned a lot from him!
I had the opportunity to ask Orren some questions about his critters and here is what he had to say…
What inspired you to start raising chickens and bees?
Honestly, one day I woke up and thought chickens were cool. So I volunteered at a local barn for a year cleaning coops, sweeping the barn and most importantly caring for the hens. After volunteering for a year, Julie, who owned the barn, said I could have some hens of my own. It was one of the happiest days of my life. I went to the local feed store and picked out 12. I couldn’t stop looking at them. They lived in a brooder in our kitchen for about six weeks until they were big enough and strong enough to go to the barn.
For people just starting out, what is your number one safety tip for people setting up their coop?
Make sure the coop is predator safe. It is easy to think a little doghouse and some chicken wire will do. I don’t think it does, especially if you live in an area with raccoons, wandering dogs. My coop has a clear plastic corrugated roof so that in the winter they still get plenty of light. The coop itself is made with chain link that goes 6 inches into the ground. You have to work hard to keep animals out.
In your experience, which breed of chicken is the best layer?
I think my New Hampshire Reds and Buff Orpingtons.
Which breed do you think is the most friendly?
Buff Orpingtons are very social but I have to say my most friendly bird is my standard (big) light Brahma, Paprika. She is like my good friend and is very social. She is kind of the boss. She is protective and an organizer.
Personally – do you have a favorite chicken from your flock? Alice. She is a bantam Belgium D’Anvers. She is so small I can put her in the pocket of my hoodie while I am doing chores. She chats the whole time, telling me where I missed sweeping, which coop needs more mealworms. She’s got it going on. I think she is awesome because she is really brave even though she is so little. She is really confident and talkative. One day she was bossing around the big barn cat. She wanted some corn and he was interested in it, she told him to wait his turn. He did.
Why should young people take an interest in animals like chickens and bees?
Well people should care about bees because 1/3 of what you eat is a result of bees pollinating. We can’t pollinate avacados, blueberries, almonds without bees. We have to take care of them.
I am reading JSFoer’s new book Eating Animals and he talks about the time his babysitter said “You know that chicken is chicken, right?” I’m afraid most people know that but don’t really want to think about it. It is hard to imagine. Many people have never “met” a chicken before and this is what makes it possible to eat chicken. When you do meet this interesting animal, it is hard not to realize they are very much like other animals. Maybe even like animals you love. They have personalities, likes and dislikes. Do you know any other animals like that? Do any live with you? Maybe I’ve said enough. If you are going to eat chicken, I would encourage you to consider how that animals was raised and slaughtered for you to be eat. If it were tortured would you still want to eat it.
If people don’t have land to have chickens or bees, how can they make an impact (on the planet or on the food ecosystem)?
If you decide you are going to eat chicken I think it is a good idea to know how that bird was raised. Support farmers who respect their birds and truly care for them. As for bees it was just recently discovered that a pesticide named Clothianidin really hurts bees. It is crazy toxic. This pesticide is used on corn. So people could call the EPA to ask them not to allow it.
My 10-year old daughter wants to know if you get stung every day by the bees, or just every once in awhile?
I think I have only been stung 4 or 5 times. I tend to my bees in barefeet, because I think if I show my bees that I trust them, they will trust me.
I think we all have a lot to learn from Orren. He is compassionate and has a strong sense of ethics. How can we, as parents, support the development of those characteristics in our own children? I’d love to hear your thoughts…