The holidays are upon us and, as a poultry farmer, I view the upcoming festivities with a somewhat wary eye. Not because I worry about neighbors viewing my flocks as potential dinner courses, mind you. My apprehension revolves around gifts. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. I love that my friends and family go to great lengths to find the perfect present for me; it truly is the thought that counts. However, my kitchen drawers are stuffed with rooster-print dish towels, and I’ve got hen and egg egg timers crowding my windowsill. I ran out of room in my cupboard for all the chicken sugar bowls and my rooster cookie jar now occupies prime real estate on my prep counter. Don’t even ask me to count how many chicken-themed shirts I own.
Before you bring that cute hen-shaped ceramic tea pot to the cashier—before you order your favorite uncle a knit rooster hat with matching mittens—check out this list of gift suggestions that your poultry-keeping loved one would really love to have.
Yes, it’s a little big to properly wrap, but is it ever practical! Our wheelbarrow puts in plenty of miles. We use it to haul soiled coop litter to our compost heap, to cart grass clippings to the chicken runs and to ferry mulch to our gardens. In the fall, we fill our wheelbarrow with garden leftovers to deliver to each of our runs. Look for a wheelbarrow that has a flat-resistant front tire and that is rust proof.
Working in a chicken run can be messy business and, if you free-range your birds, you never know what you’re going to step on. Heavens knows how many hours I’ve spent digging embedded gunk out of running-shoe treads and sandal soles. A sturdy pair of waterproof work boots will save your loved ones’ shoes as well as the carpet and flooring inside their homes. They stand up to the toughest farm grime and easily spray clean. Look for thick-soled, knee-high boots that can handle a wide temperature range.
Gore-Tex Work Gloves
It took me exactly 11 minutes yesterday to regain the feeling in my fingers. I hadn’t planned to turn them a lovely shade of raw red, but someone went and borrowed my work gloves without telling me, and I had to remove the chunks of ice from our duck pool. I plan to buy my husband his own pair of Gore-Tex work gloves this holiday season. They are truly indispensable, regardless of whether your cold weather is 50 degrees or minus-25 degrees (ah, winters in Michigan). Regular winter gloves simply don’t provide the finger flexibility needed to work with poultry feeders or coop latches. Gardening gloves just aren’t warm or waterproof enough to handle filling fonts or hauling water in the middle of a blizzard. Look for gloves that have elasticized wrist cuffs to help keep out the cold.
Solar-Powered Motion-Sensor Lights
There undoubtedly have been times your poultry-keeping loved one has had to dash into the dark to double-check that the coop is indeed locked for the night. A motion-sensor light mounted on a coop wall or roof provides ideal illumination for these post-nightfall inspections. No more hunting for a flashlight (or flashlight batteries), no more stumbling over uneven ground. These lights also protect against predators, detecting their motion and brightly lighting up the grounds to scare them away. Bonus: The lights’ built-in solar cells means they can be used on coops that aren’t wired for electricity.
Digital Photo Frame
Have you checked your spouse’s or BFF’s smartphone lately? If they’re anything like me, a good 25 percent (OK, 50 percent) of their photos are pictures of their chickens (OK, 75 percent). Chances are, if I have to share the fourth (or 10th, or 32nd) photo on my iPhone with you, it’ll be of a chicken. We chicken fanciers can’t help ourselves. Our birds are so endearing—whether they’re dustbathing, scratching in the dirt or posing in the sunlight—that we have to keep snapping shots. A digital photo frame gives your loved ones the opportunity to openly display these moments in time for all to see. A huge plus: Digital photo frames hold plenty of pictures and can be continually updated with the latest chicken antics.