EPISODE 168 | Chickens and Homeschooling?! Can you seamlessly intertwine the rich tapestry of homeschooling, family heritage, and the delightful world of chickens? Dalia Monterosso's unique approach to education involves not only academic pursuits but also instilling values of responsibility and connection with nature through the care of these feathered companions. As she navigates the dual realms of chicken-keeping and homeschooling, Dalia imparts invaluable lessons to her children, cultivating a deep understanding of the cycle of life through the nurturing of backyard chickens. Join Janna as Dalia shares tips and advice with other families, encouraging them to embrace this holistic and enriching lifestyle.

ABOUT OUR GUEST | Dalia Monterroso, also known as The President of Chickenlandia, is a backyard chicken educator, entertainer, and author. When she’s not teaching in-person classes or doing seminars, you can find her on the popular YouTube Channel Welcome to Chickenlandia, her top-rated podcast Bawk Tawk, or her online course Backyard Chickens 101: A Chicken Course for Everyone. In 2023, Dalia published her first book Let’s All Keep Chickens! A Down-to-Earth Guide to Natural Practices for Healthier Birds and a Happier World (Storey Publishing). In this beginner and intermediate guide, Dalia aims to not only share the ins and outs of chicken keeping but also to bring people together through an age-old practice common to almost all of our ancestry. To learn more about Dalia’s philosophy and vision, you can watch her 2017 TEDx Talk "I Dream of Chickens," which she delivered at Western Washington University. Dalia is a dynamic and engaging speaker who believes that being among her flock has brought peace and joy into her life. She wishes to share that peace and joy with everyone she meets. 

Listen to this podcast episode

Podcast Transcript

Janna  00:04 | Welcome to Homeschool Your Way. I'm your host Janna Koch and BookSharks Community Manager. In today's episode, I am joined by Delia Monterosso. She is the president of ChickenLandia. Now, you are probably wondering like I was what in the world is ChickenLandia? You're about to find out, and you're gonna hear from their president. But not only is she the president of this land, she's also an author, she is a teacher, and she is all things chicken. I am so excited to bring her in to share her expertise and for you guys to find out how chickens and homeschooling can work together. Delia, thank you so much for being here.

Dalia  01:16 | You are so welcome. And thank you for that introduction. That's the best one I've heard so far.

Janna  01:22 | I just love it. I love you the President of your land. And I'm you know the president of my own story, but it's all in my head and yours is reality. 

Dalia  01:35 | I think they would have voted for me my chickens would have voted for me if they could if they could write. You'd like to have a democracy, but it just hasn't worked out that way. Just yeah.

Janna  01:47 | Exactly. Well, for those who are unfamiliar with your chicken land, why don't you give a brief overview of how you created it and why you created it?

Dalia  01:58 | Well, I'm a backyard chicken educator, and probably my biggest platform is my YouTube channel. It's called Welcome to ChickenLandia. And then I have my website, welcome to chicken And, believe it or not, I did not lie awake at night as a child and think to myself, I want to be a backyard chicken educator when I grow up. I was not in the cards. Um, I really thought you know, I'm going to be an actress, I'm going to be a talk show host I'm going to be I'm going to make movies. And I actually did go to Hollywood for a period of time. I worked as a personal assistant at a few different places. And I went there because I wanted to be like the next great American filmmaker. And while I was there, I met my husband and you know, reality kind of set in maybe this isn't where we want to raise a family. So we moved from Los Angeles up to Bellingham, Washington. And that's where I live right now. And I had my first child, who was about 18 months old. And, you know, I, I feel like it's really important to tell this part of the story because people don't talk about it enough. But I was suffering from a pretty intense case of postpartum depression. And I didn't know, I didn't know that that's what was happening to me. And also because of the way that I was, and I think a lot of women especially mothers can relate to what I'm about to say, but my family didn't know what was going on. My husband didn't really know the extent of what was going on, because I was so focused on just going like, okay, like that, you know, this is hard, but I just have to keep going to the point to where you're literally like running yourself into the ground, but you don't really realize it. So, I did know that I was struggling in some way. I really felt like I was mourning the loss of the dreams that I had when you know I first went to Los Angeles and the dreams I had as a child. And I didn't really know what to do with that because I loved my family. Obviously, I love my new baby. You know, I love being a mom and a wife. But I really decided you know what, I need something beyond that identity. I need something that just belongs to me that I can do that will kind of help me get through this period. So naturally, I thought I was gonna get some chickens. I totally like living in the suburbs. You know, I did not I grew up in the suburbs. I lived in Several major cities, I just did not grow up around the growing of food. That wasn't, that wasn't my experience. Now it was, of course, it's in my family, you know, and we'll get to that later. But anyway, it was like a completely new thing. And I brought these baby chicks home. And I'm telling you, it was like I was struck by lightning or, like some kind of divine intervention occurred when I was taking those baby chicks. One by one out of the, they came in and like a paper sack, I had them in a paper sack from the farm store. And I'm taking them and putting them one by one into the brooder that I had set up for them. And my heart opened in a new dream came in. And that was really the beginning of my healing. And I feel like I started to grow up, you know, I think there was still a part of me that was kind of immature, even though I was living in adult life. You know, I started to just kind of come into myself in that moment. And I became so passionate that my whole town knew me and started to know me as the chicken lady for social media and everything. And six months later, the local community college was like, Hey, can you teach a class? And I was like, you know, in my head, I'm like, Okay, I've been doing this for six months. I did not grow up with this, you know, am I worthy to do this? And I just said, Yes, I'm going to do this. And did a whole bunch of research at the end of that first class that I taught a woman came up to me. And she said I have had chickens for 30 years. And I learned so much today. And that was it was just like, Okay, this is, this is, this is the dream, you know, and then everything kind of took shape. I had like a farm store for a little while I had actually had the farm store first, but that's a whole nother story. But you know, I started my YouTube channel. And then when COVID happened, the YouTube channel really took off because so many people just needed knowledge. And then you know, the book, the course the course came first in the book and now here I am on the Homeschool Your Way podcast.

Janna  07:48 | Here you are, I have to say I think your story really does resonate with not only homeschool parents but parents in general, I think we do we're not told this part of life where you think you're doing the next thing you're supposed to be doing but we aren't, I don't know prepared for the reality of what we are giving up. When we make when we say yes to anything, we're giving something else up, and those are good trades sometimes, and sometimes they do over we have to go back and change our mind. But sometimes I feel homeschool families seek validation for their choices by pushing their children in academics or making sure that they do all the activities. And again, I think this just speaks to parents in general. But sometimes the homeschooling parent feels a little bit more because it's a little more consuming Right? Like they have their kids have to be smart because they chose to homeschool. And when you sit when you use the word grieving the loss of a dream. I think a lot of just adults probably aren't honest about that. That you know, as kids we are, we're pie in the sky. Anything's possible. Our parents told us we could do anything in this world and then read the reality of life is that you know, I'm only five, seven, and I'm not going to be a basketball player for the pro Women's League.

Dalia  09:12 | But that you found seven inches on me.

Janna  09:16 | Well, I mean, there's always there's always up there's always down, right? Yeah, but that you were able to find something to I don't want to say replace your dream. But in a way, you know, it was a swap like it was a dream that you could have alongside the dream of having a family and doing what you want. And that passion, obviously is what came through in the class that that woman who has already been doing this for 30 years could learn so much. So I'm super excited to hear about what our homeschool families can learn about chickens in your book. I love this story of how it ties in some of your family roots. So you weren't just some city folk that had an idea about chickens, you actually have this beautiful heritage connected to chickens that you kind of tapped into.

Dalia  10:10 | Yeah, well, I mean, I was I was in the suburbs, and like I said, I grew up in the city. So I had this disconnection from, my food and, from my heritage. Now, I didn't know that when I started researching chickens, I was gonna learn so much about where I came from. So that was like, that was just the magic of learning about it, which is why I'm so passionate for people to learn about chickens for people to keep chickens. Because it is literally in all of our histories. Like it's if you go almost every single culture in the world, I mean, I can't think of like, you know, maybe there's some cultures somewhere that's so remote that they don't, they don't have chickens, and they don't know what chickens are. But we all have that in our history in a pretty significant way. And it doesn't matter where we're from, we could be from, you know, we could be living smack dab in the middle of the city. And you know, we would have that you don't have to go back that many generations to find that. And then the other thing that all of us have, that many of us have, is that severance from that. And I really feel like that is like a, you know, it's like a moment of trauma, that we like collective trauma that we share. You know, if I look into my history, I can look at good because my parents are from Guatemala, there was a war that happened there a really awful civil war that lasted almost 40 years, and my parents were forced to leave their country and to come here. And when that happened, there was a severance from nature and a severance from their culture. And, of course, anyone's culture is going to be close to nature, because that's where, where, you know, humanity naturally exists. So when I learned about that, I read, I felt a connection with humanity. And I'm always talking about like, chickens are humankind's, most amazing common denominator. And it's because they are like, if, if you could look, it could be chickens, it could be something else. But if you can look at something that we have in common, and learn about that, you're just automatically going to be more empathetic, more compassionate against, you know, towards your, your fellow human. And that's really important to me. And ultimately, like in a homeschooling situation, or any kind of schooling, or even just parenting, like that, are we, you know, how do you want your children to, to walk through the world? What do you want? What's the main thing that you want to teach them? When do they go out into the world? You know, to me, it would be, you know, love each other. So that's how deep it gets for me. I can take this chicken, chicken thing as deep as you want.

Janna  13:13 | Well, I do think that our society has done itself a disservice through the compartmentalizing that we have found ourselves in this day and age, I asked my husband not that long ago, where does your food come from? And he looked at me and he said, it comes from you. I thought, wow, that's the very wrong answer. And from that day forward, he goes to the grocery store with me. And so we had talked before and I would love to kind of delve into, like how you see, taking care of chickens for children, how that really translates into raising responsible adults?

Dalia  13:53 | Well, you know, there's the whole thing where if you don't take care of the chickens, then they don't do very well. You know? They're adorable and cute, but they're also vulnerable. Like, when you first get them, you have that experience with baby chicks. It's such a wonderful experience. But there's also this feeling of vulnerability because they're so small, and they need a lot of care during that time. And it's a wonderful time for you to teach your kids. Hey, you know, you're, you're big, and they're little because, you know, little kids, they want to hold a baby chick and, you know, oh, they're like, squeezing is like, Okay, right now we're gonna learn how to gently hold this baby chick in her hand. And that's like the first, the first lesson one of the first lessons that you can teach them and to be responsible because it's a huge responsibility. You're, you're this big human and you're holding this little baby chick. You are big and they're little human. So we have to be gentle. And then that is going to carry through the whole experience like You, you understand that these chickens are here, you know, they're, they're laying eggs, we eat the eggs, they're performing a service for us, but we're also serving them. It's it's an exchange, you know, it's it's this really beautiful symbiotic relationship that we have. That's Millennials old. So, um, you know, I mean, I think just everyday upkeep and when chickens when chickens when they when kids are very small, you keep their chores, very simple. And you make sure that they're not, you know because little kids put their hands in their mouths and stuff. And so you have to be mindful of that. And I don't think you should be hyper-vigilant. I think, you know, sometimes people are like, Oh, my gosh, you know, all the germs.

Janna  15:50 | Salmonella, right? I mean, that is the first thing people will say like, yes, yes, I don't want to start salmonella.

Dalia  15:57 | But like I just said, you know, humans have been keeping chickens for 1000s of years, and we've somehow survived. Just wash your hands, you know, don't, don't be worried, keep the coop relatively clean and wash your hands. And with little kids, they can do things like collecting eggs. You know, filling up the food bowl, giving the chickens treats very simple things that they can do, and then come inside, wash their hands. And then as they get older, there are other things, you know, they can help with cleaning the coop. If there's some kind of like an egg, if you're selling eggs, they can help with that process. I mean, there's like, every, you know, I think of all the subjects you could teach in, in homeschool, and there is a way in all of them, to somehow tie chickens in with it. To make it fun, and to learn that way math, science, biology, economics, you know, all of it. So, I think it is, you know, like any caring for any animal is going to help you to build character in is going to give you responsibility, because it is a big responsibility. And it doesn't matter how you feel or what the weather is like outside. The chickens have to get fed, you know, you have to let them out. You have to deal with them. So that's how I think it can help to build some good habits and some responsibility with your kids and with adults too. Because I still moan and groan I have to go outside and it's snowing.

Janna  17:44 | Yeah, some of us don't ever outgrow that Dalia.

Dalia  17:46 | Yeah.

Janna  17:49 | I do really enjoy that. There are so many things that you can learn through having chickens. And when you said the symbiotic relationship, I was like, well, that's science right there. As you know, I'm no scientist, but then I know that's a scientific word. And there are so many ways that we really encourage families to learn just naturally. So this is a great natural learning tool to get families not only working together, especially if they're new to homeschooling, I think wow, what I mean, granted, there's a lot on your plate to begin with. But it's something simple that even in your book, you talk about chicken math, I mean, you can start small, and it usually doesn't stay small. But for some people, depending on your area and laws, it has to stay small. But I think there's been such a movement to get children outside to get families doing activities together in nature to really ground people. And I think this is such a beautiful way for families to be able to do that. Or find someone in your neighborhood or close by that has chickens and just kind of start going over there and seeing how it works. Before you know you you dive in the deep end but it is a really great way to kind of check a lot of boxes when you are raising just children in general but then homeschooling on top of it.

Dalia  19:58 | Yes, and I will say, I think the number one, the number one thing that I hope homeschooling families will take from this, and I'm just going to disclose it, you know, I'm kind of a homeschool, flunk I'm afraid of failure. I don't know how to say it. But I did homeschool my son, my oldest, actually, it was kind of a thing where it kind of came out of some trauma like he really had a serious issue with the school that he was in. And so it was this thing where we had to pull him out of school really fast, we didn't have a lot of options. And so we went right into homeschooling from that experience. So I think that's, that's kind of a tough experience to kind of come out of in here, you're trying to do this thing. And, you know, hindsight is 2020. How I wish I had known then what I know now, because I would have used and I had chickens at that point, I would have used them to help to teach my son because my son and I have a lot we're we're very much alike in some ways. We're both very headstrong, and I had this feeling of just like, he just can't learn from me, and I just can't teach him. Like, I felt like that. If I had to do it over again when we got to those moments, I would just say, let's go outside, let's go to the chickens, you know, it's just such a good way if even if that's the only way you use it in your curriculum, to kind of reset and take some moments outside, get some fresh air and then come back in having just like, renewed yourself a little bit. So that's one tip that I really feel like giving to people like if there's anything that you take away from this, that's the one thing that I'd love for you to take away because it's not easy like I've been there, I've done it, I know, I know the challenges. And I wish that I would have really just kind of come out I had a very rigid way that I thought it was supposed to go. And I wish I would have thought those outside of those parameters. Because, you know, if you look at it home school, just like structured schooling is relatively new. And parents have been teaching their children since the beginning of parents and children. And so it's the most natural thing you could do. And they would just, you know, children would learn from living life. And so if you have the things in your life that you can use to teach your children, one of those things could be chicken keeping. And it's fun to


Janna  23:04 | It's a great opportunity for families who are maybe looking for something different, something new, I have talked to several families over just the last couple of months, who are kind of contemplating this idea of homeschooling, and my gosh, what would it look like and we are so programmed to have a picture like tell me what it's going to look like, tell me how it's going to be and I'm sure you get this, you know, with chickens too. It's like kids, I can't, I can't tell you what your day is going to look like sure kids are different than my kids and you know, your chickens are going to be different than the chickens I have in your situation is going to be different. But just like having chickens anyone really can do it and you really drive that home in your book, which I loved that anyone anywhere, it is almost possible for anyone to be able to do this at this point in our country, which I think is amazing. But it's the same thing with homeschooling, it's like I don't know what it's gonna look like for you. But having these other options outside of the core curriculum, I think is so important because it really does help create learning in real life. So yes, all of those things are very important and we need to teach those to our kids but now we can apply them, and having chickens as one of you know, we just talked about like all the great ways that you can apply the different subjects while you're doing the chickens and so for parents who have had absolutely no exposure to chickens in any way outside of getting some eggs at the store and doing it that way. What a great way for them to take this course and have them kind of get their feet wet and go okay well maybe we can do and then and then kind of knowing what is necessary and and what are the the bells and whistles then don't get caught up in and all of that. But here's the basics that you need and you know really talking with their children and as a family coming to this decision like is this something that we want to incorporate into our learning, and, and then you know, all the benefits that come with it.

Dalia  25:04 | Yeah, I mean, one thing that's really important to me is that I want everybody to be able to have chickens. And you know, if you look through history, the poorest people in the world have always been able to have chickens like to this day, when you see when you find the poorest people in the world, you will find their chickens running around with them. And so I do want to keep that's why it's called, it's called backyard chickens, one on one and chicken course for everyone, because I want everybody to be able to have this experience. Even if you're in the city, just, if there's a will, there's a way I want people to be able to have this experience. So I do talk about of course, like, if you want to get all the fun chicken things like I mean, you can spend some money on your chickens, if you really want to do it is, it's out there, you can buy it.

Janna  25:58 | I think they have automatic doors now for chickens. I mean, there's, there's some fancy stuff out there,

Dalia  26:05 | There is some very fancy stuff. And it's fun. That's, that's fine. That's fine, if that's how you want to do it. But I also want to give people options. And more more. So I talked about that in my book, but like, okay, how can we, how can you have some options to do this, even if your budget is tight, and I'm just always working on gathering information? So chicken keeping is really for everybody. And there is even like if you if you go to the course page, there's even like a payment plan. If you can't afford the full tuition from the beginning, you can pay over a three-month period to keep it affordable, hopefully for you. So yeah, that's fine.

Janna  26:51 | I mean, chickens are definitely for everyone. It is kind of funny how our society is cyclical in that, that the very things that kind of like, oh, you know, as we kind of change in our society, and we cleaned ourselves up, in a sense, right? The Industrial Revolution and, and we got away from everybody having their own gardens, their own animals, that then it was like, oh, only the poor people actually grow their own stuff. And now it's like, oh, my gosh, this idea of actually only people with, you know, extra money can have a garden or, or have chickens. And it's funny how we just keep these crazy cycles going that it really just that they're all none of it is truth. But yet we just accept it like, oh, okay, yeah, that's gardening is expensive. Like, I think chickens are outside of our reach.

Dalia  27:46 | Again, it's just these roadblocks that we put in front of people. And like us, like you're describing, it's so interesting, because, you know, at one point we could look at our society and see that people would say, Oh, well, if you get chickens, the property values are going to go down. Because only poor people have chickens. It's like this class, you could see the class divide and the that, that kind of thought process of just like, you know, chickens are dirty, and people that have chickens are dirty and poor and all this. And then you kind of see things shift a little bit. And there's this idea of just like, oh, well, if you're gonna have chickens, you better have a $10,000 coop, you know, you better, you better only feed them chicken feed that is very expensive, and you better not give them kitchen scraps, because that's not good for them. And it's like all these things that make it exclusive. And that's very frustrating to me, I want everybody to be able to have this experience. You know, we talked about how it's so important to have that connection with nature. And what that actually means for you as a human being, you know, you begin to look at other people differently, you begin to have more compassion, more empathy for other people. And so, it is vital for people to be able to have this experience and you know, it's our right to me as human beings, even if you're in the city, even if you're living in an apartment complex. You know, I feel like it's time for us to find a way to make this experience available to everybody. I'm working on it.

Janna  29:30 | Well, I think you're doing a great job I also think you did a great job in your book. Really pointing out realistic downfalls. I mean, there's there's positives and negatives to everything right? Your passion and your excitement are definitely tangible. But I loved in your book, how you were very realistic, like starting small. It can be this.  Here are just some of the things that can happen. I mean, even the best chicken and owners have chickens that, you know, die for, for a number of reasons. And so I liked the very realistic aspect of you're educating us in, in all things chicken.

Dalia  30:14 | Yeah, I mean, I don't, want I never, it's never my intention like to scare people like, Oh, this is really hard, you know, I'm always gonna say, this should be the most natural thing you ever did because we have been doing this for a long time, you know, this is in us it's part of the human experience. But at the same time, I want to be honest about some of the issues that can happen. And so many of the issues that happen are beyond our control. You know, like, for instance, really the the main breeds that people buy, especially when they're first starting out are these production breeds that are bred in a hatchery and they are bred to lay a crazy amount of eggs, like if you go to to the jungles of Asia, and you go find a red jungle fowl, which is like the original chicken, they're not going to be laying 250 eggs a year, like that's just not, you know, we've, we've created these animals to, to produce this way. And there's an exchange for that. And unfortunately, we've exchanged their level of resilience for the amount of eggs that they can lay. And always it's, how many eggs can they lay in the first year or two of life because most chickens don't live past the second year, at most. After all, most chickens are in a factory farm setting. So you know, keeping that in mind, we have chickens, and if they get sick, a lot of it is reproductive issues, or caused by that overactive reproductive system. And they need a very high level of nutrition in order to keep that going. So you know, I always tell people, the quality of their life is what matters the most, you know, you've given them this wonderful experience where they got to scratch the earth, they got to feel the air, you know, fresh air on their, on their skin, and on their feathers, they got to see the sky. And most chickens don't get that. So to you know, to always remember that because I do get a lot of people that are like, Oh, my chicken died all of a sudden or my chicken got sick. And what did I do wrong? And for the most part, it's nothing. You did nothing wrong. It's just that they're not bred for resilience.

Janna  32:44 | Yeah. And again, I think a lot of other societies have a better grasp on the circle of life than we Americans, unfortunately. And what a beautiful opportunity to kind of bring that back for our families for our next generation to say, You know what, like, this is part of life, and we don't have to be afraid of it. And it does make us sad, but there's a purpose. And so it's the circle, and now we've just closed a circle, and we get to another one that will open. And so I think that it is another just really important lesson that I don't think was taught very well, to me, especially in my years of public school. I don't know if it was the time I went to school or what but I know that just as a society, we kind of gotten away from that, and having chickens and having animals definitely help bring that back to the surface for people because we are not eternal. In our fleet of vessels.

Dalia  33:38 | Yes, yes. Yeah, I mean, my kids have seen have seen that. And it is my you know, I don't blame parents for wanting to shelter your kids from that, because nobody wants to see their kid in pain. But I didn't. My parents, like they didn't super shelter me from it, like, you know, we had cats and the cats would die. But I didn't like to see death in front of me. You know, I didn't I didn't really see that transition really until my dad passed away. And so it was shocking. And I think that it's good for for children to have that exposure to the cycle of life, because it's really, like, it's a preparation that they can handle. You know, it's like at a level they can handle. You know, oh, the baby chick died, you know, and it's very sad. And that's really their first understanding and of that process and then and then grieving and in getting over it and then spring happens and then baby chicks happened again, you know, spring is always around the corner. So, yeah, it's a beautiful experience that I do think is important. Uh, Um, for anybody for adult, a lot of adults, you know, they get to be adults and they have their first chickens. And they're learning some really, some really they're having some tough experiences. But it's so it's just, I mean, it's so gratifying. You know, to me, it's always been worth it. And, of course, the joy is more. There's more joy than sorrow.

Janna  35:26 | For sure knows, as well. Before we go, do you have a homeschool hack or a life hack? A chicken hack that you can share with our listeners?

Dalia  35:38 | Hmm. Well, I think my main my main hack, my main homeschool hack is if you're frustrated, go deal with the chickens. Like

Janna  35:49 | I love it. I love it.

Dalia  35:52 | If you're cranky, go hold a baby chick. It's impossible to it's impossible to stay cranky. If you're holding a baby chick, hopefully. Um, and then for chickens, gosh, you know, get you know how chickens roost, they were you know, you have the roosting bars and the chickens around the roost. If you can put like a tray underneath that a poop tray underneath that to catch all the poop. You are going to be golden. That's like half the battle.

Janna  36:24 | That's most of the work right there.

Dalia  36:28 | And then you just take that tray and put it into the compost bin.

Janna  36:33 | Yeah, well, that is a good one for sure. So for those of you who are interested her book is Let's All Keep Chickens. We'll put the link in the show notes that you can find not only on her website but our Amazon link as well. Thank you so much for coming on today to grace us with your knowledge of chickens and making it more accessible to those of us who have absolutely no idea what we're doing.

Dalia  36:57 | You are so welcome and it was an absolute pleasure.

Janna  37:01 | Thank you, guys. Until next time, bye-bye.