For me, the egg came first, as a matter of intrigue anyway. It was the summer of 2008 and our vacationing neighbors asked me to check in on their chickens for the week. I had absolutely no previous experience with chickens but egg collecting sounded manageable.

When I met my neighbor at her coop for my briefing, she actually reached underneath a hen to collect an egg. I certainly had NO intention of getting that personal with a chicken. I would just bide my time and wait until feathered workers were quite finished before removing eggs nests. The hens and I were going to respect the other’s personal space and we’d all get along just fine.

Lack of meaningful experience with animals can be attributed to my general apprehension surrounding my neighbor’s chickens. I was comfortable enough with small dogs to have gotten one as an adult, but she’s a Maltese, so she only barely qualifies as an animal; she’s practically human.

I managed to put my poultry apprehension aside long enough to collect some breakfast food that first day on duty. No bodily harm or permanent emotional scarring occurred to me or the birds, so I figured it’d be safe to come back the next day.

As the week wore on, I gained an increasing comfort level with the hens.  Before long, I found myself talking to them and bringing them treats. From a safe distance, I observed their quirky antics: rolling in sun-warmed sand ditches that they had dug for themselves,  running to greet me as they learned I was a reliable source of kitchen scraps, and travelling in small groups with predictable pals every day. I soon began looking forward to my daily visits to the coop and the week ended before I was ready to give up command and control of the egg supply.

The chickens had grown on me and I appreciated their efforts on behalf of our dining experience. Trips to the coop became something of a treasure hunt and the hens, amusing little actors. Upon my neighbor’s return, I shared my new found enthusiasm for spending time with her backyard pets and it wasn’t long before she began subtly encouraging me to get a few chickens for my own backyard.

The seed had been planted.