Have you ever heard of empty nest syndrome? About four years ago my older sister left our home on Long Island for college. Shortly after, my parents, then feeling unfulfilled, decided to buy a small flock of chickens to replace her. 

My brother and I were thrilled to have the new little critters running around. Aside from having a new source of entertainment and beautiful fresh eggs everyday, I ended up learning more than I expected from the hens. They have taught me a lot about food and the relationship that my family and I have with it.

The Eggs

egg, straw, hay, chicken
Sabrina Cohn

Stepping outside and taking an egg fresh from the hen house seems a foreign idea to most. First, let me just say there is nothing like eating an egg that was laid the same day. 

There is a huge difference in quality and flavor of fresh eggs versus store-bought. Since eggs are such a staple food around the world, you might be tempted to say eggs are eggs and that they are all the same, but I would argue otherwise. The most refreshing part for me is the beautiful variety of size, shape, and color that we get from our chickens.

The Personalities

The chickens themselves are also unique. They each have slightly different personalities and mannerisms. 

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Sabrina Cohn

Chickens are arguably the most inhumanely treated animals in the food industry. They are often crammed into small cages and are rarely allowed to roam or even go outside. The common perception of them is that they are unintelligent and silly. 

On the contrary, chickens are instinctively hunters and scavengers; they love to roam and hunt for bugs or just eat grass. My family allows our chickens to roam free around our yard during the day with no fences at all. As crazy as it sounds, they somehow know to stay on our property and avoid the street. The result of allowing them to hunt for bugs and eat grass is a beautiful dark orange yolk with great flavor.

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Sabrina Cohn

They may live pretty simple lives, but chickens are definitely not stupid. I often bring them kitchen scraps in plastic bags. Whenever they hear the sound of rustling plastic they all come running out of the bushes because they know they're in for a treat.

Chickens are also social animals. They form a clear “pecking order,” where one hen is the alpha hen that has power over the others and gets first dibs on food.

When a new chicken is introduced to the flock, she ends up at the bottom of the pecking order. She is sometimes bullied by the other hens until she shows that she can hold her own.

The Environment

Lastly, owning chickens has taught me about sustainable living. 

In addition to bugs, grass, grain, and whatever else they find, my chickens also eat most of the scraps and leftovers from our kitchen. You might ask, do we feed them chicken? The answer is no, but we almost have (by accident of course).

Since getting the chickens, my family and I have been able to minimize our food waste, either composting or giving it to the chickens. Being able to participate in this composting process is one of the most rewarding parts for me.

pizza, beer
Sabrina Cohn

I hold these hens near and dear to my heart. They have given me companionship as well as sustenance, and I am thankful for that. Writing this sounds strange in my head (I'm talking about chickens after all), but it is genuinely how I feel. Who knew that my sister leaving for college would bring five new feathered sisters into my life?

chicken, egg
Sabrina Cohn