If you twisted my arm to decide which of the animals on earth are my favorite (but only if my arm were twisted, like behind my back), then I would have to go with...............................
wait for it................................
Yah. You read right. The common, backyard, related-to-dinosaurs - chicken.
Let's play fair though. Based on categories like "best pet" or "most likely to give me warm fuzzies," they wouldn't make the cut. However, in the "all around" category, chickens take the cake. Or steal the show. They are the blue ribbon winner for best animal to keep in your life.
Probably much like you, I started out ranking animals based on their cuddle-worthiness. They needed to be the kind of guys that I could toss in the car and take to a park. If they didn't chase a ball - I wasn't too interested. Yet so much of that ranking has been squashed by country living, and the reality that, at least for us, animals must justify themselves to a certain extent. It's not enough anymore to just bring fluff and adorable expressions to the table. I'm looking for give and take relationships at this point in my life. For me, it needs to be a two-way street. You want me to feed you, buddy? No problem - but what have you done for me lately?
Forgive the tough-love mentality we've adopted but, at the end the day, pets amount to dollar signs. Actually, there's less room in my life for "pets" these days as the pastures fill with food-producing animals, gardens, and fruit trees. Lately, I'm interested in bang-for-the-buck - those animals that offer a higher return on investment. And if you look at it that way, then absolutely nothing compares to the plain-jane, backyard chicken. For example, I currently have a young flock of approximately 15 pullets (teenage hens) running around the property governed by a rather snooty rooster named Pierre. Inside of the chicken tractor, a small chicken house we built years ago for the first flock, live 18 baby hens still sprouting baby fuzz.
The combined cost of these creatures and the food spent on them since birth comes in under about $200. The pullets have started laying eggs, and although I'm only getting about one per day, soon the nest boxes will be full each day. I toss out a bit of food for them each morning, but their diet consists primarily of forage and water. We receive dark orange, beautiful eggs and are a front row audience to stand-up comedy from the flock as they bicker, peck, dance, and sing. Do the math. We come out ahead every time.
Admittedly, we're the type of people who jump in with both feet - regardless of the endeavor. While I don't recommend that strategy in most situations, it does mean you don't spend your life over-thinking. And it means you might end up with some chickens in your own backyard.
Do you like eggs?? Do you have a patch of grass outside the back door? Are you the kind of person who snaps video clips of your cat chasing sticks (You amuse easily, is what I mean)? If you answered yes to two of these, and chickens don't give you the willies then - for goodness sakes - get off the computer and get thee to a feed store. Immediately!! Right now!! Why are you still reading?!??!!
It's a smaller commitment than you think, and the payoff could lead to bigger outcomes than you'd expect. But even if they just lead to homegrown, dark orange, delicious eggs - isn't that enough?