Story Collected by Natalie Cruz
I recently came across a Facebook post from our local news media source titled ‘Chicken College’ Coming to Homewood. Intrigued, I read on about a class that pretty much teaches you all of the basics in raising and caring for chickens in your very own back yard. I jokingly yelled to my mom in the kitchen, “Mommm, let’s go to Chicken College and raise chickens in our yard! Homewood allows it!” She gave me that all too familiar look and sarcastic, “Okay mija,”response I get whenever I throw a ridiculous idea at her just to see what kind of reaction I can get out of her. I told her that we could build a coop, have it fenced in, eat eggs all of the time! She then said no. No. There would be no chickens for us. I laughed and brushed it off.
I forgot about the conversation until I had my mom fill out the Environmentally-Friendly Practices List. When we got to the Raise Chickens part, there was an immediate checkmark at the never option. I asked her about it, and it turns out, my mom and chickens have some history that has since embedded a negative view on chicken- raising for her for life.
It actually began when we lived in Guatemala. I was a baby and my mom lived with my grandma, her mother-in-law. My grandma had, from my understanding, an open room where the chickens had a coop that they could access from there and outside. This room was next to ours, and the chickens could be seen right over top of the wall that didn’t extend to the ceiling. She said they would often sleep up there. I wanted to know more about her trepidation towards chickens.
Here, she explains,
Naturally, they have chicken lice, or bird mites, and they can crawl everywhere where the chickens live. But your grandma had chickens that were located next to our room and I could find those mites in the clothes, in the kitchen, crawling on the table. They’re very tiny but I found them. I’d find them crawling on your arms and it was nasty. It’s very difficult to control where those things go, so I just assume they have them. I don’t mind the noise they [chickens] make, I love the eggs, and I like seeing them. The eggs have a stronger flavor; they taste a lot better. Like when we eathuevos tibios, boiled eggs, the flavor is five times better. It’s rich and the color of the yolk is so bright--it’s not like the white eggs here, they pale in comparison. But just because they have those bugs, I’ll never have chickens. You were a baby and you had these rashes and I didn’t know why and those bugs were probably biting you.
And with the chickens where will you put them in the winter? Inside of your house? No. In Guatemala they stay outside.
It’s stories like that that play so vividly in my imagination of a life that I so very briefly lived in a different land. My mom brings with her many different acts of sustainability from growing up in Guatemala that I also see myself doing too such as constantly turning off all lights when they’re not in use, or the TV when no one’s watching. In terms of repairing things that are broken or using them for something new, my mom explained it as, “Why do I need to buy something else when I can fix this one and with a little bit of money you can still make it work? I always saw my mom sewing and fixing things, going to take classes to keep learning. So I was always watching my mom doing new things and not being afraid that you will break it. If it’s already broken, what more can you do? Just make it better.” I proudly bare that same mentality.
Although we’ll be chicken-less in Homewood, our family practices all sorts of other sustainability habits. And I’m happy that my mom has it rooted deeply in her so that she has passed it down.