Edgy Mama: Chicken education

What day of the week do chickens hate? Fry-day!

The lowly chicken has been big news around town lately.

For one, the Asheville City Chickens movement pushed through changes to the city’s animal control ordinance governing urban chickens last week at Asheville City Council. Now those of us with houses so close together you can use two paper cups and a string to chat can keep chickens, too. Thanks to the ACC, the minimum distance between a coop and your neighbor’s home has been reduced — though I still don’t have room for poultry.

Plus, I don’t much care for live chickens — it’s those beady little eyes and dinosaur-like claws — though I don’t mind eating them and their eggs (the raccoons who live in the house behind mine wouldn’t mind eating them either). So, no chickens in Edgy land.

Luckily, my kids’ school, Isaac Dickson Elementary, keeps chickens, and the mostly city-raised students there know much more about poultry care and chicken life cycles than, well, I do. In fact, these kids learn tons from the lowly chicken. I call it chicken education.

The other day, I watched Patti Evans’ class of kindergartners and first-graders loving on the month-old chicks they incubated and hatched. The students thrill at telling the birth stories of the critters — these kids are like mini-parents. One explains that baby chicks break open their shells using an egg tooth that then falls off. See? Small dinosaurs in your back yard, ACCers.

The Dickson kids also care for the adult chickens and collect their eggs. They kindly gave me half a dozen, which were delicious fried with chopped chives and a smattering of goat cheese.

These city chickens are free-range all the way. Often, they wander onto Hillside Drive, prompting elementary school kids to ask the perennial question, “Why does the chicken cross the road?” The answer: “Because the school doesn’t yet have a garden fence.”

Here’s what else I learned. Most of the chickens like to be held, except for Winter, who’s always in a bad mood. They call the chickens “the girls” because there aren’t any boys (two of the girls are named Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton, thanks to a study of last fall’s election). Thus, the eggs can’t become chicks because they’re not fertilized (early sex ed). One of the young chicks might grow up to be a rooster, but you can’t tell until he starts crowing and misbehaving (sometimes the male gender is surprisingly consistent across species). The eggs are great for putting in pancakes.


Who’s there?


Chicken who?

Chicken barfs all over your head.

Kindergarten humor rawks. More likely than barf is the case of Lulu the chicken dropping an egg (splat) in the school hall as Kate Fisher, chicken guru and garden teacher, was carrying her to the art room. Why was Kate taking a chicken to the art room? To have Lulu’s portrait painted, of course.

The chickens have become such an important part of the school’s culture and learning community that most of the student body recently painted portraits (and a number of abstracts) of the school chickens. The resultant works of art were sold at the school’s Spring Market. The money raised will pay for a chicken (and possibly a goat). This chicken will come from Heifer International and be given to a family in a Third World country. Heifer International’s a non-profit organization whose goal is to help end world hunger and poverty through self-reliance and sustainability.

As one student told me, when you have a chicken, you have eggs. Then you have baby chicks, and you can give a chick to your neighbors so they have eggs. It goes on and on until one chicken can feed a whole town.

Dickson has kept chickens for about three years, and now that the school can keep some of the chicks they hatch, they’re expanding the coopery. Pam Jaillet’s third-grade class designed and are building a third coop for the girls with their garden guru.

Kate says, “Measurement’s part of the North Carolina Standard Course of Study for third grade. So measure and and build we did. Got them from rudimentary pie-chart fractional math to linear fractional math, which was pretty cool.”

Math, art, charity, wood-working, biology, sustainability, chemistry, comedy, and care-taking — all are part of chicken education.

Click here to see a photo gallery of Dickson Elementary School students and some of their chickens.

Anne Fitten “Edgy Mama” Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.



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98 thoughts on “Edgy Mama: Chicken education

  1. Mysterylogger

    Somebody is grasping at straws to find something to write about.

  2. AFR

    Woo! Props to the IDES chickens – some of which are living in my backyard as I type!

    Nice article on an unorthodox classroom education activity….

  3. mysterlogger, what’s your problem, man?

    i am interested in what our schools are doing on a community level to better the education process for our children, and this certainly fits the bill.

    local matters is our slogan, after all.

  4. Mysterylogger

    Still sounds like a musing or couldnt find anything to write kind of week.

    If your that interested WLOS has never stop learning where they cover children macaroni Art.

    Im happy you enjoyed it though.

  5. John

    Are the kids taught that most farm chickens eventually get eaten? Farmers have to have an accepting mindset on the fate of most animals they raise. Not all of em produce just eggs and milk.

    Mysterylogger – go pick a fight with Entopticon in another thread. That’s easy enough. You’ve already made your point clear about your ideas of the journalistic purpose of Edgy Mama.

  6. Mysterylogger

    How about no? How about Im entitled to my opinion. Or is the MX just for people taht are like minded and bland like the rest of this city?

    Ahhh to be so open minded to refuse someones voice or opinion.

    If people don’t want to people to critique or dissagreee with you you should have thicker skin or not post for the world to see.

  7. John

    I didn’t refuse anything of yours. Feel free to keep being the trd in the punch bowl.

  8. Hi John,
    Yes, the kids are taught about the “circle of life.” They told me that if their chicks grow up to be roosters, they’re more likely to be eaten because they don’t lay and there’s only one needed per farm yard (or in the city limits, none allowed).

    I hear there’s a mobile slaughter truck out of Hendersonville. Anyone have any details on that business?

  9. Mysterylogger

    Awwwwwwwwe Typical Asheville response, don’t agree with someone hurl an insult.

    How Progressive of you. Nice to be thought of

  10. dave

    Mysterylog (aka WhoForgotToFlush?!)-

    So, you can give your snide, snotty opinion, but someone cant offer their own of you?

    Seems like quite the double standard.

  11. Cathy Williams

    Dear Edgy Mama,
    Thank you for the nod of appreciation for the work of Asheville City Chickens. Our primary goal these past twelve months was to help pave the way for more people to legally raise chickens. Now that we have been successful in achieving that goal, hallelujah, we’re beginning phase two now: Responsible Urban Chicken Ownership in Asheville. We’ve put together a social AND educational format for newbie and seasoned owners to share information and resources.

    On Thursday, May 21 at 6:00 p.m. we will hold a chicken meet-up. A meet-up is just a new fangled way of saying, “hey, we’ve got something in common….let’s join forces and create something good for us and the community! Attendance is open to anyone who wants to share the joys of having chicken and meet others.The format will be geared especially for those who want to learn more before getting hens of their own. We’ll invite guest speakers and hopefully visit other coops around town. Interested readers can learn more by googling meetup dot com and then searching “Urban Chickens in Asheville”. Thanks again for the great column and bringing our community closer by sharing the wonderful things going on for children at Issac Dickson. I have a motto, “chickens + children = love.” That would make a great bumper sticker!
    My best to you.

  12. Bill Barnwell

    Is this not rich? Animal Control threatens tickets if bird feeders are left out, because they attract bears into the city. Now City Council is allowing another bear attractant, honey combs! But we must keep Asheville on the vanguard of “progressive sustainable” communities must we not?

  13. Mysterylogger

    No Dave Im just calling it what I see it. Someone didnt like what I posted and failed at trying to run me off, I called them out on their hypocrisy and your failing at defending them.

    We are all entitled to our opinions it was the one that replied to me to Shut up and go away. Because my opinion differs if this was a fan club i could understand that. But its not its open air comments on articles written but other people don’t want to hear another opinion or side of something.

    Typical Progressive Asheville responses.

  14. John

    Free speech allows you to say what you want. My point is that your beef is with Mountain Express. They hired EM to write stuff just like this and you make it into a personal attack on her.

  15. James Fisher

    This past Saturday, Isaac Dicksen Elementary School (IDES) had an art sale. The art was all produced by the kids and the theme was……Chickens! Not sure if any of the kids used macaroni, but I do know that they raised over $900 for a variety of good causes, including Heifer International. I am very proud of those kids (including mine), that staff (including Patti Evans), the volunteers (including my wife, Kate) and Asheville for supporting. Thanks for the article, Edgy Momma, and the window into a unique and interesting educational experiment!

  16. Cathy Williams

    Mr. Barnwell.I spent five hours at the last City Council meeting where issues regarding proposed changes in the animal ordinance were discussed. I would like to respectfully point out you are incorrect in your facts concerning the city issuing citations to those who wish to feed wild birds. Citations will be issued only as a last resort if bears are a known threat in a specific area and a home owner refuses to temporarily stop feed their birds if asked. People working together WITH the city to help formulate policies that are well-researched, fair and in the best interest of community safety is more helpful than uninformed criticisms from the side line.

  17. John

    About the bear thing. If wild bird feeding draws bears that are problematic enough to have law enforcement get involved, chickens will draw the same bears. What will the chicken owners have to do if a bears shows up to eat chicken feed and chickens? A bear can get into a chicken coop like its a bag lunch.

  18. Mysterylogger everyone is entitled to an opinion, try some common decency.
    I am not a giant fan of a lot of EM articles, but many people are and so it goes.

    Seems like you are a ball huffer, no mystery there.

  19. Cathy

    Each person will have to weigh those factors when considering raising a back yard flock. I had bears in east Asheville but none in my current neighborhood, so far. One of the most important factors when considering chickens is how to keep them safe. I shut the door on my coop and lock my girls up at night. Their coop is three feet off the ground. The perimeter of my run with the coop tucked inside is enclosed on all sides with hardware cloth buried twelve inches below ground. Hopefully folks who want to learn more about predator protection will come to our monthly meetings: http://www.meetup.com/urbanchickensinasheville

  20. Mysterylogger

    I made one comment and people got bent out of shape. The problem is not with me. When I get attacked I retort, pretty simple.

    No the attacks came on those that posted with a holier then thou attitude, the same attitude that is spread when anyone disagree’s with any of the so called open minded individuals. So your saying that its open minded to attack anyone that says one thing about an article.

    Thats the great thing about the hypocrisy of Asheville, people say its so tolerant, lol. Say one thing out of line and you get attacked.

    Again someone dissagree’s with me and it resorts to Name calling. How classy.

  21. John

    Mysterylogger … I mistakenly confused you with someone on another EM post who went back and forth with EM about the purpose of her article and thought it was going to be deja vu all over again. My bad.

  22. brebro

    Anyone who thinks it is easy to come up with unique and entertaining 700 word essays each and every week should try it themselves sometime.

  23. Ken Hanke

    Anyone who thinks it is easy to come up with unique and entertaining 700 word essays each and every week should try it themselves sometime.


  24. No John, I’ve just ignored ML. I’ve realized that getting into a back and forth debate about my own work just frustrates the situation (and me).

    I don’t mind criticism of my work, provided it’s constructive. I know I can’t please all readers all the time, and yet, if you have column ideas for me, send them to me–in the comments or via e-mail. I’d love to hear them.

    Thanks to all who supported my work in this thread. As brebro and Ken know, it can be harder than it looks.

  25. Asheville Truth

    Just wrote a 700 word essay tonight in between dinner, and clean up. its not that hard if you put your mind to it, just like all things in life, especially when you have a week to write it.

    They call it a dead line for a reason.

  26. Maryanne Appel

    It is obvious from this article that there are some teachers who need a good deal more of book learning and life experiences (e.g., living outside the box) before being permitted to enter our schools’ classrooms.

    Children should be taught to be kind and to respect not only other humans, but members of other species as well. Chickens are not playthings, they are not educational tools, they are not commodities to be used, abused, killed, and eaten. Chickens are cognizant, sentient beings, and it is wrong to teach our children otherwise.

    Children should be taught, too, that eating from plants is healthful, ecologically responsible, and shows respect and concern for our own bodies, for our planet, and for all of the other beings who share this time and space with us.

  27. John

    Maryanne … those are certainly lessons that can be taught. However, humans have raised and eaten chickens and other livestock for many thousands of years and is more of the norm than not raising and eating them. Perhaps your lesson is best taught by parents and not the schools. The schools need to focus on reading/writing/writhmatic and let parents teach the life lessons.

  28. Tracy Vanity

    Educating your children on enslaving animals and using them as food machines is not teaching them anything other than to be passive sadists. Why not plant some vegetables and teach them to respect other living creatures be they human or animal?

  29. Bill Barnwell

    Miss Williams, “working” with the city is not necessary in order to have a take on a fairly straightforward issue. I am not “uninformed” just because you have a different take. I have lived in Asheville for all of my 61 years, so I am informed by local history and life experiences here. Of course, you are probably a transplant who wants to change our dear city. I aver that it is perhaps you who are uninformed, and perhaps, do not have the best interests of Asheville at heart. Just some hippy “issue of the moment”.

    The issue of city dwellers with relatively small yards keeping chickens and bees is straight forward. Common sense logic informs here. The smell of chicken droppings, the sounds of their clucking, the screeches at dawn and when their little necks are wrung for Sunday dinner, all are too much for closeby neighbors. Not to mention the bears who will be attracted to the food sources.

    I’ve got an idea. You want to return to the land and be ‘sustainable”? Move to Big Sandy and do it up right!

  30. John

    Humans have canine teeth and more significant, specialized enzymes in our stomachs to digest meat. Every civilization that can eat meat does and always has. Just like every other omnivore on the planet. Making it sound like an abomination and not the norm does not reflect how humans have developed. Laying a guilt trip on children for being an omnivore is wrong.

  31. Just Me

    I hardly think an elementary school is the equivalent of a factory farm.

  32. John

    mmissinglink – very well said. I agree that if you eat right that the vegan diet is fine. Eating meat in a balanced diet is nutritionally fine too. However, this discussion goes round and round and round with many factors influencing it when you look not only at the biological and nutritional components, but history, cultural development and human nature.

    Kids can’t grasp all that at the kindergarten/elementary school age and its almost impossible to escape the ‘right or wrong’ component of eating meat if you promote the vegan eating style. That is the guilt trip I am talking about.

    There is just not enough time in the day for the schools to teach all these different sides of life issues without ignoring reading/writing/arithmetic. Schools need to teach the basics and let these big life lessons be taught at home by the parents.

  33. shadmarsh

    regardless of whether or not you think the above piece is fluff or not, it seems to be driving traffic and comments here. Which, correct me if I am wrong, is sort of the point of a column.

    also, on a somewhat related note, you people are crazy.

  34. Piffy!

    Shad, on the other hand, is sane as a bat.

    What is the column about?

  35. brebro

    FRY day!!!

    I just got it!!!

    It sounds like the day of the week, Friday, yet it could also be seen as a day to prepare chicken for eating in the common manner of frying! Therefore, chickens would not be very fond of a day devoted solely to cooking their carcasses in hot fat at all! (Of course, they would already be dead by that point, so I would think the day they would be more likely to hate would be “chicken killing day” but that doesn’t really sound like an existing day of the week, and do chickens really possess the cognitive capacity to read calendars at all, much less understand concepts of impending mortality? Never mind, just leave it Fryday, it’s funnier, if less plausible.)

  36. Piffy!

    Having your own chickens is obviously merely a bourgeois dalliance, and anyone living in the city should obviously buy all their food from the store. Cities sole purpose is to provide income for rural farmers. If they begin producing their own food, bears are likely to begin mauling children on their way to school. Then you’ll feel bad for ever wanting a chicken, wont you?

    WONT YOU?!!

  37. Piffy!

    You are right Shad, people in cities should also buy all their children from hillbillies. Urban people can not be trusted to spawn healthy children. They should drive out to the city to babysit shoeless hillbilly children, since they are clearly over-abundant due to their parents penchant for lazyness and moonshine-induced over-procreation.

    Woman in cities are all Liberal Harlettes shunning their God-given femininity for a self-serving “career”.

  38. shadmarsh

    make sure you inspect them for tell tale signs of inbreeding tho. extra digits, is a tell-tale sign.

  39. Piffy!

    You, obviously. Your hatred of Hillbillies is palpable. Hillbillies are a known minority group, better referred to as Hillbilly-Americans, since Appalachia is actually a separate country. Your oppression of this minority is as bad as McCarthy’s commie-hunts and Hitler’s extermination of Gay Fish.

  40. Piffy!

    oh, wait. Wrong thread.

    I thought this was the one where we admitted our prejudices.

  41. brebro

    Davy Crocket was a hillbilly (born on a mountaintop, in TN) and heard HE could kick a bear’s ass (kilt him a b’ar when he was only three).

  42. shadmarsh

    How do you know I am not a member of said minority group, and thereby entitled to self-flagellation?

    Could you yourself be engaging in a bit of stereotyping, just assuming that just because I have access to ‘lectricity that I could not be a member of said group?

    also we prefer “sons of the soil” over hillbilly. thank you.

  43. Piffy!

    I consider myself a wanna-be hillbilly, shadmarsh.

    Or, as we are more commonly known, a “Willbilly”.

  44. shadmarsh

    We have seem to have done a fantastic job of hijacking this thread

  45. Piffy!

    Oh, sorry, I get it now.

    That was Southern for “time to leave”, wasn’t it, EM?

  46. No, PFKaP. I’m not a “beat around the bush” Southerner. Thought you’d know that by now. I’m all for satire, silliness, and straight-talking. Stick around all you want.

  47. Son of the Soil

    Hi Edgy Mama!

    The mobile processing truck you’re referring to is available from Foothills Family Farm, in Marion. It’s a great set-up – an easily cleaned, well designed trailer with all the necessary equipment, available for rent for a quite reasonable price.

    Don’t have their number in front of me at the moment, but it can be found in your Local Food Guide (www.buyappalachian.org).

    Thanks for what you do!

  48. Piffy!

    “”Do you think a baby could fight a chicken? “”

    Ask thunderpig. If it’s possible, I bet they run baby/chicken fights.

  49. John

    The baby is going to try to put the chicken in his mouth. Arm his mouth, what?, and the baby will win.

  50. Dread P. Roberts

    what if you tied or taped knives to the baby’s hands?

    If you tied knives to the baby’s hands, then the baby would be highly likely to injure him/herself before getting anywhere near the chicken. It would be far more effective to put a tiny leather vest, with pointy spikes protruding from the back, on the baby. Then the infant of doom could simply roll towards the soon-to-be-skewered chicken.

    If, on the other hand, I were the owner of the chicken, then I would teach my evil pet city chicken to weave about, and dodge such formidable attacks. Then I would dip my chickens beak and claws in some form of molten metal (perhaps Adamantium).

  51. shadmarsh

    What if you just taped a bomb to the baby, that was set to go off anytime it was within close proximity to the chicken? not a bomb that could hurt the baby of course because that would be crazy, but a special bomb, something along the lines of the Neutron bomb, but for chickens.

  52. John

    This is sounding more and more like a Family Guy skit. That rooster Peter battles is quite the bad?ss.

    Dread – if the rooster gets to train, so does the baby. I like the idea of the ‘Rotisserie Chicken Skewer”. Give the baby a week to sharpen his rolling skills and the rooster may be in trouble.

    Shadmarsh – a directional Neutron Bomb? Are you Dick Cheney in cognito?

  53. Dread P. Roberts

    What if you just taped a bomb to the baby

    This opens up a possibility that I had not previously taken into consideration. The opportunity to ‘kill two birds with one stone‘ (so to speak). My point is that one could conceivably kill the chicken and cook it for consumption all at the same time. However, the problem with a bomb is the awful mess left behind. That just makes for wasting a perfectly good chicken dinner. A better, more sane alternative would, of course, be to attach a flame-thrower to the baby’s back (customized to baby standards, or course).

    Again, if I were the chicken trainer in this scenario, then I would strap a small chicken bomb vest to the chicken, and teach my chicken to go all kamikaze on the baby if the baby attempted to use a flame-thrower.

  54. shadmarsh

    Good point. You could also secure the baby to some type of remote control conveyance that was also outfitted with a weapon of some sort, perhaps a flamethrower. You would thereby be able to safely maneuver the baby into a kill position. However this may open up the philosophical question as to whether or not the baby is doing the actual killing or merely participating in the event.

  55. Dread P. Roberts

    However this may open up the philosophical question as to whether or not the baby is doing the actual killing or merely participating in the event.

    Well, this could potentially eliminate any lawsuits that the baby’s owner might face. Plus, the baby can walk away with a clean conscience; it’s a win-win situation.

    I’m starting to think I should have been a kindergarten teacher. There is just so much valuable chicken education (not to mention strategic military 101) that we could offer the children of the community.

  56. John

    Alright, this is going way over the top. In order for the baby to lay claim to the killing, it would need to have assembled the neutron bomb. Just carrying it is not enough and flame throwers are too old school. The rooster would see that coming.

    There hasn’t been a baby like that since ‘Mugsy’. You remember, Mugsy tried to tangle with Bugs Bunny and pull off a string of bank robberies until Bugs finally figured it out and “spanked” the weapons out of his Bat-Diaper.

    There hasn’t been a baby like that in 60 years. Thinking another could exist is pure nonsense.

  57. bobaloo

    John is quite right. The baby must be naked and armed only with what he/she (no sense being misogynistic) was born with, just like the rooster.

  58. John

    If they’re both naked and can’t bring in any weapons, it increases the likelihood of a:

    ‘Poop Off’

    Both are highly effective. Or should I say Affective?

  59. I think it’s kind of interesting that John touched on an issue that I’d guess you folk would be all over, and nobody really jumped on it:

    There is just not enough time in the day for the schools to teach all these different sides of life issues without ignoring reading/writing/arithmetic. Schools need to teach the basics and let these big life lessons be taught at home by the parents

    There are a lot of moral/ethical dilemmas between what is taught in schools and what individual parents and families believe. Remember a few years ago when the pledge of allegiance still had “God” in it. wait a minute…
    Anyway, the point here is that we are fortunate to have public education available, and I venture to guess most of the people on this feed were educated in public school. Isn’t it refreshing that some schools are branching out and finding non-traditional ways to educate children, especially when the valuable lessons taught include character development w/r/t living things, and are taught OUTSIDE? Way cooler than bean sprouts in 1st grade for me.

    EM – I salute you for covering ID’s outside-of-the-box teaching methods, and for writing a column, that even as a non-parent, I find entertaining week after week.

    And: The baby debate? y’ll are effing crazy and I love it.

    That is all.

  60. Piffy!

    Eating chickens is murder.

    Children should be force-fed tofu and made to watch PETA films about factory farms.

  61. shadmarsh

    It’s because you have beady little eyes, and taste great breaded and deep fried.

  62. Rob Close

    w/e, i’m gonna just ignore 95% of the above posts and say how i feel: great story, great topic.

  63. Catpain Spiffo

    My question is, who just stole all the chickens from Isaac Dickson? It’s hard to think of anything quite so lame, stealing from children.

  64. tamil

    I want pdf ebook for how to manage poultry form.i will start for braylor form ,so can you give me details pls.

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