For years before we got this first flock of chickens, we dreamed of them. We talked about the coop we would build, the different breeds we would raise, the variety of eggs we would receive. We even had a list, from several years ago, of chicken names. But I still couldn't fathom why some friends seemed to love their chickens like we love our dogs. That is, until we became those very same kind of chicken (and other animal) farm people ourselves.
Living where we do, it just makes sense to raise our own animals. Not only do we have the space, but we are always home. And kids and animals complement each other in every kind of way.
When we first decided to leap into tending our first flock, but also acquiring two piglets, we sat down with the kids and had a real "farm talk" with them. We let them know that living on a farm, we will see that some animals may get sick, we will see that some animals may get hurt (most likely by other creatures, even if we were to be the most diligent and careful of caretakers), and we will see that some animals may die.
We also warned them that keeping animals can be stinky and messy and we will most assuredly get poop on our shoes. At the very least, on our shoes.
All three of them were still keen.
I was warned by so many not to name the pigs. We did anyway and came to really love and respect Higgeldy and Piggeldy. When it came time to say goodbye, it was far easier than I expected...I was the only one to shed tears when we returned home to their empty pen, but I'm awfully sentimental like that. As we began our first meal, we gave thanks to the pigs and without missing a beat, one of the little farm apprentices mentioned next year's pigs and where they might live.
There are other critters on the farm that find their way into the hearts of one, two, or all of us. A little baby snail with its fresh, translucent home atop its back. A nest of abandoned newborn mice which surely would have died within an hour or two before being discovered by the kids. And of course, our beloved dogs, Nyla and Cocoa, who are like family members to us all.
The truth is, having animals live with us on our little homestead, not only cultivates compassion and responsibility and all the rest of it...but it is such a privilege to be a part of this circle of life. Witnessing birth and death, and birth again, develops a rhythm that gives life validity and purpose and reassurance. And there is such peace and joy in that reassurance. Afterall, we do so love our animals, and are grateful for the companionship and sustenance they provide.