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.
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.