When we bought our four little chickens, I inadvertently stumbled into the curious world of the backyard chicken. One of the most active forums I have ever participated in is about keeping chickens, especially in suburbia. I guess farmers in rural Nebraska are probably not looking for a support system for their chicken habits, nor tips on dealing with authorities like the renegades I have met online. One woman lives in a suburban area where the city limits her to three chickens. She has thirty. She keeps them in the garage, letting them out in groups of three throughout the day so no one catches on. Another family is even more daring keeping not only chickens but a rooster in an urban area where chickens are outlawed. A coop in the basement and strategic eggs delivered to the neighbors have kept this operation under wraps as well.
At first glance, they seem a little nutty. Worse than the cat hoarders. But reading the discussion and the linked articles introduced me to a small little social world not so very different from ours as homeschoolers. Many of the arguments used at city hall sound rather familiar, and the goal of any meeting involving chickens and laws is to bring as many people as possible to speak up for the humble backyard chicken.
After owning chickens for awhile, I’m beginning to understand. Top on my list of purchases once we move to our little slice of country life is more chickens. But there are other things we want, too. Some geese for weeding (and meat), guineas to help with insects (and meat), goats, sheep a large garden and an orchard. This, too, seems a part of a larger movement, a heavily politicized back-to-the-land movement, seeking independence from Big Oil, Big Business, Big Ag. When looking for information on a variety of topics, it is Mother Earth News that Google continually delivers me to. We’re talking hard left there, and it seems that this general philosophy is a driving force among many making the choice to live a more agrarian lifestyle.
It seems odd to me. In my mind, there is nothing so quintessentially conservative as growing up working the land. But as I read blogs and websites and magazines and books about returning to the land, I am increasingly aware of my unique position within this countercultural trend as a conservative. One with no particular disdain for industrial agriculture, even. I have stumbled across a movement with which I share certain perspectives in common but of which I am not really a part. That leaves me feeling a little on the outside, though I can’t say I did before reading up on the issue.
I wonder how I’d look in a granny dress?