Get ready for death
(Or… raising chickens, travel brochures and assorted life skills)


It’s an interesting piece of advice, and certainly not one you would expect to hear. But in many ways, if you were considering raising chickens, it could be one of the most valuable.

Friends of ours have had chickens running around their property for years. They’ve even expanded beyond chickens into ducks and turkeys and other assorted creatures. Fascinating and fun, but be careful where you park your car if you head over to visit.

The joke is that their house is a farm… and it is a significantly older house that qualifies as a farmhouse… but my guess is all of us know a person or two with chickens running around in the yard, and many of them aren’t raising the birds on farms.

Often, I’ve been around when the couple—alone or together—gets asked about what it’s like having chickens around. And, it is not unusual at all for the conversation to move along into questions and answers about how someone might start raising chickens and what special advice should be considered. And that’s where the title of this article comes from, since it is a piece of advice I have heard offered on several occasions:

Person thinking of adding chickens to their property: “What do I need to know?”

Friend already raising chickens: “Get ready for death.”

Four words. Powerful impact.

Here stands a person asking for advice. Chances are good they’re expecting some insider tips on fairly routine matters. They asked about what might be nice to know, but likely received generic responses that would apply to more specific questions:

What are some of the best places to find chicken feed?

Are there better designs for coops and pens?

Is there a best breed for beginners?

You know the drill. And you likely would come up with the same questions. (Heck, chances are outstanding that no matter who they ask, those are the subjects being covered. Search engine time…)

Best advice for starting to raise chickens? Answers range from cleanliness to providing water, keeping expectations about egg production realistic to establishing routines.

Those are the general bullet points that come up. But other than warning about the dangers of predators, not all that much about death.

Now, yes, predators are one of the major causes of death when it comes to chickens. Fair enough. But people also raise them for food… and that does not mean exclusively for eggs. Did you think about that? And, when it comes to raising animals, people often don’t think about how to handle the realities of life. Birds die.

One thing about this prepare for death response is that I always have a similar reaction to it. (It’s pretty close to: “Damn, that’s some good advice. Direct, no nonsense, honest, chances are good no one else is going to bother to pass this along and yet it might be the most valuable of all advice.”) This swings me off onto another path, thinking about guidance and lessons and more I get from time to time, or watch shared with others, and a recognition of just how lacking it can be.

The word I would select in describing it is obvious.

It’s like planning a trip to Orlando and having people tell you that Disney World is there.

I mean—duh—everyone understands that. If you’re going to Orlando, you could say “Orlando” or “Disney” or “visiting the mouse” and people will interchange all of those terms in their minds. Disney and Orlando as terms are like Xerox and copier or Jacuzzi and hot tub… used to mean exactly the same thing.

In fact, I’d be willing to bet we could ask one hundred people, and double-digits would tell us that Disney World and Orlando are exactly the same thing. (Comfortably in the double-digits.)

Did you know that… depending on which edges of Disney property or city limits you used as markers for your journey… Disney World and the city of Orlando are more than fifteen miles apart?

Point is, obvious advice has a place. Obvious isn’t always on target.

It’s nice to know where the best feed or most competitive prices on supplies are for your flock.

But it takes more than rattling off the names of the Space Mountain, Splash Mountain and Big Thunder Mountain to pass along quality recommendations about spending time with The Mouse.

I long ago decided when writing about my travels to give up on covering it all. It doesn’t work. I can only share my experiences. I’m not going to get on every ride, eat at every restaurant, or see every attraction. It’s not happening. And the things that I might believe are brilliant could very well be things that others think are some of the stupidest ideas they’ve ever heard.

So, what can I do? Easy. Try to pass along the stuff that I found surprising… the items I might not have been prepared to handle, or would have been better equipped for had I known about them.

The next time someone asks you for advice on something, pause for a moment. Don’t tell them about houses in good school districts, cars with good gas mileage, or a sweeping overview that Savannah is a lovely town. Offer a bit more. Share your headaches. Share what you consider to be musts and must-nots.

You might be surprised to find out that you can actually help with information that matters.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at