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Chickens and Childrearing

Chickens and Childrearing

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Last week I spent 24 hours with two chickens. Live chickens. You know, the ones with feathers and that squawk. You might be asking yourself, “So what’s the big deal?” Well, first of all, I don’t live on a farm. I don’t even live in a house. I live in an apartment, in the middle of the city, without a yard, balcony or patio. You get the point.

Twenty-four hours of two chickens in my apartment.

My one-year-old was petrified. My four-year-old was intrigued, and my seven-year-old had a blast, but he wouldn’t touch the chickens. They ran around my apartment for over an hour, making a mess, until I finally was able to catch them and put them back in their box.

Are you laughing yet? I wasn’tAre you laughing yet? I wasn’t. Especially when it took me three hours of mopping to clean up the mess. But now that they are gone, I have to admit it was hysterically funny.

How did I get two live chickens in my home? They arrived due to a lack of clarity, a lack of boundaries and a lack of clear goals.

My eldest told me he wanted chickens. I told him I loved the idea. I myself would like a chicken. I would also like a goat. What could be better than fresh organic eggs and milk? I spoke in a language of dreams and wishful thinking. He spoke in a language of doing: wishing and wanting are not words of fantasy, they are words of reality. Every day he mentioned that he wanted to buy chickens. “Sure, sure,” I kept telling him. I was very unclear. I didn’t realize how determined he was—and really, part of me wanted a chicken. I myself lacked clarity.

“There is a boy who lives two blocks from us who sells chickens.”

“Really?”

“His name is Zvi. I’m going to buy one.”

“Really?”

Uncertainty. Lack of clarity. Lack of clear goals.

I didn’t talk about responsibility, or go into details about what you need to take care of a chicken. I didn’t mention that just because we want something, it doesn’t mean that we can have it, or that it’s even good for us.

I learned that if a child wants something and we can’t let them have it, we can’t be vague about it, because with children there are no gray areas. Unless it’s absolutely forbidden, it’s permitted.

My son came home with two little chickens.

“I can’t believe he bought them!”

Believe it!

Right before Moshe died, G‑d showed him the entire Land of Israel. The Torah writes, “G‑d showed him the entire land: the Gilead as far as Dan; all of Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and the entire land of Judah as far as the western sea; the Negev and the Plain—the valley of Jericho, city of date palms—as far as Zoar.” (Deuteronomy 34:3)

With children there are no gray areas. Unless it’s absolutely forbidden, it’s permittedWhy would G‑d show Moshe the entire land of Israel and specify its borders, when it was decreed that Moshe would never enter Israel? Why was the Torah so careful, in an earlier chapter (Numbers 34:1–12), to list each and every one of the borders of the land of Israel? The Torah spells it us for us in clear and precise language to teach us that borders and boundaries have to be made clear. If they are not clear, then “anything goes,” and you are left with a lot of gray areas. Moshe, who was, and always will be, our greatest teacher, was shown the boundaries of the land of Israel to teach us a very important lesson when it comes to educating our children: we need to be clear, set boundaries and have clarity.

As a parent, our job is to encourage and bring out the best in our children (and in ourselves). We need to give our children the freedom to explore, discover and grow. We have to give them flexibility, and at times let them stumble and fall on their own as a part of life’s learning process. However, this all has to be done within a certain framework, because rules and boundaries protect and give security. G‑d created a beautiful world to know and explore, and He created the Torah to give us boundaries and to give us clarity.

So, back to our chickens: needless to say, they were returned. My son was disappointed at first, but I allow him to go to his friend Zvi’s every day to help feed and care for the baby chicks. He is thrilled, as am I, and all thanks to some clear boundaries.

Originally from northern California and a Stanford University graduate, Elana Mizrahi now lives in Jerusalem with her husband and children. She is a doula, massage therapist, writer, and author of Dancing Through Life, a book for Jewish women. She also teaches Jewish marriage classes for brides.
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Debi Lee california October 5, 2013

chickens and grey areas Gosh, would that I had read this years ago. My daughter is 15 with a lifetime of living in the grey areas (sigh), is it too late for me?! Reply

Susan Montreal, Canada August 22, 2012

Chickens and child-rearing Thank G-d it wasn't two goats! lol
Thanks for the laugh and the message Reply

mar fre August 21, 2012

why wasnt i told?! I could write a book on this subject now! I wasnt even brought up with a boundry, not 1 do I recall. So how da heck would I know ! Well theres my excuse~ Reply

David Mark cedarhurst, NY/USA August 20, 2012

The Chickens We have 8 chickens and live in the 5 towns. It's not that bad my wife uses he eggs to make challah it's awesome and a sustainable way of living. Reply