In this new weekly series, I'll be taking a look at one random subreddit every Wednesday. As you know, like snowflakes, each and every subreddit is weird and unique. Within Reddit, multitudes of little communities will form around the obscure and the bizarre, producing their own lore, in-jokes, and even celebrities.
Here are the rules: Each week I click random on Reddit five times. I submit those five subreddits to my VICE colleagues in an informal poll and they vote on it and Badda-boom Badda-bing, I have my topic.
Then I spend a day or two living the subreddit, loving the subreddit, becoming one with the subreddit. So, without further ado, I now present to you our first pick: r/BackYardChickens .
So… have you guys ever seen a cock pecking at goldfish?
I have, it's fucking weird.
I don't really know what I expected when r/BackYardChickens came up but it sure as hell wasn't seeing Chicken Little eating Nemo.
The r/BackyardChickens subreddit was founded five years ago as a sister page to the website BackYardChickens by users ChickenLytle and ADHD, both of whom have been inactive on the forum for a while. After proving my identity to the moderators—apparently they have a problem with trolls (who is going after the chicken people?)—they agreed to talk to me about the subreddit.
"This sub began as something aimed at people who own chickens as a hobbyist or backyard setup, rather than an actual livestock setup for commercial operations," said jrwreno, the main moderator. "There is a big difference between the care for chicken-hobbyists vs actual livestock operations."
Diving into the depth of this subreddit brings up many posts along the lines of "Can you help me identify what breed of hen I have?" or videos of chicks hatching in an incubator. I was told that the "ethos is generally about having healthy, happy birds, and avoiding the industrial chicken factories that can be pretty cruel."
There are also cock jokes, lots and lots of cock jokes. I'll do my best to restrain myself from following suit fair reader, but I can't make any promises.
The posts, at times, can seem dark and rather weird if you're a newbie to the chicken game. People talk in depth about having to kill dogs or snakes that went after their hens or cocks and, as noted above, that video of a cock eating goldfish was posted. There was also one post describing the carnage when a user came home to find that one of her chickens had killed and cannibalized another, which, if I'm speaking honestly, I'm still not really over.
"There was a large limb near the coop and it was very windy, that and predators may have been nearby, it's very likely something either reached through the fence if she were close enough," reads one of the posts. "I was just afraid she might have the taste for blood or something, she was attacking the shovel when I tried to remove the body, could have just been scared though."
Jesus H. Christ, chickens are intense.
Those types of posts are few and far between though, mainly the thread is made up of people who embrace urban farming and their cocks—some to the extreme. Selfies of people with their chickens are a popular upload, as well as tricks and tips for raising and slaughtering their lovely little birds. Logan Modine, a 37-year-old moderator on the subreddit, says that he's raised chickens for years but doesn't come close to some of the people on the subreddit.
"Some people take it to the next level and let their chickens hang out indoors with chicken diapers and other fanciful clothing," said Modine. "When you get into backyard chickening, it's best to not ask yourself 'what am I doing?' it feels right and you just do it."
If you were wondering what a chicken diaper looked like, don't worry boo, Mack's got you.
Jrwreno told me that she owns "anywhere from 30-40 chickens at one time," and "grows about 60-70 percent of all the food we need on a third of one acre."
When she started moderating the subreddit it had only 3,000 subscribers and has since grown to about 18,000 and is very active. Somewhere in between the first post and the thousandth cock joke something happened that happens in many other niche online forums—a cock-loving community was formed.
Jrwreno described the group as "a tight-knit community that enjoys sharing our successes, failures, tragedies, mysteries, and all the goofiness and hilarity that comes with being a chicken owner."
Modine echoed that sentiment.
"A lot of people on the sub keep chickens as pets and when those chickens die, often in ways traditional pets don't, we definitely let people grieve and vent with the community," said Modine. "It's sometimes tough for non chicken-enthusiasts to relate to losing a prized hen to wildlife or a neighbor's dog."
In the end, these people are happy doing what they're doing and want to let other people master cock rearing and I say wave your chicken flag proudly and let your cock crow—look, I still don't really know how chickens work.
Either way, keep on cocking on you fine chicken folk.
Lead image via Flickr user Olivier Duval
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