Goodbye, Chickens

Keeping chickens is practically a real-foodie-requirement in these parts. As a permaculture enthusiast and avid gardener I’d always wanted chickens, so when I finally had the right yard and got around to converting part of our garage to a coop, we brought home a dozen or so.

Fresh, homegrown eggs

Fresh, homegrown eggs

We loved so many things about having our own chickens. Being able to control what feed they got became important when we realized I did best with eggs from soy and corn-free hens. Most of our kitchen scraps and yard debris went to our hens, definitely a higher use than just turning to compost. We even made money to cover our costs by selling eggs. Best of all, the chickens were adorable, sweet, and fun to watch and play with.

Another benefit to keeping chickens was that the kids got perspective on the cycle of life, and some idea of the work that goes into raising animals. They know where their food comes from!

Over the years, we’ve had our challenges… illegal city roosters, hens that stopped laying, sickness, and predators became a problem from time to time. We cut down our flock a bit, and no longer met our own egg needs and certainly didn’t have surplus to sell. Finally, the rats moved in. Despite trapping, “barnyard” cats, and moving the hens to another part of the yard with a new coop, the rats continued to be a problem. But overall, chickens have been very easy to keep.

After TinyHands started her new job and everything changed for us, we had a couple miscommunications about who was doing what. It wasn’t long until I went out in the morning and found that two of our flock had been killed. They hadn’t been put in properly for the night! Then, just a couple weeks ago, it happened again. We were down 3 more birds, to just one lonely Rhode Island Red.

Hens in the old chicken yard

Hens in the old chicken yard

Chickens live in flocks and need company. So we had to decide: Do we keep her and rebuild our flock, or do we let her go and take one set of chores off the list? Less work won. It was either chicken soup for dinner, or pass her onto another home. For now, she’s been spared. A friend took her on and she’s happily adjusted to her new flock.

I still believe that to have a healthy, functioning food garden, animals are an important part of the system. We still have rabbits (and their poo!), but they don’t eat up all our kitchen scraps! The challenges we had were not insurmountable. But right now, we are at our limit. TinyHands’s schedule is demanding, and I have a lot of new responsibilities I haven’t adjusted to completely.

So I’m giving myself a break, and saying goodbye to the chickens for now. We’ve got great local farmers we can count on, and I’m very grateful not to have to do it all myself.

What real-food compromises have you made?

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5 comments to Goodbye, Chickens

  • I can relate with our dairy goats. After I started on GAPS and we trialed no dairy for a few weeks and then tried to reintroduce with allergic reactions it was apparent we would no be able to use the milk, for who knows how long? Still, I kept up with milking for a very long time – I’m thinking at least 16 months after we stopped drinking the milk. It was very hard to do but such a relief to be able to stop those 4am milking sessions. I’m sure you will have chickens again someday, but it is good to take a break.

  • We let our chickens go to another family when we moved back into town. It’s harder to rent in town with a lot of animals. We found homes for our rabbits, chickens, cats, and dogs. I really miss the eggs and the wonderful way the birds ate all our unusable scraps. But, we’re now located where we need to be, and I really don’t miss cleaning cages or coops. Looking for more ways to grow food that won’t impact the yard now.

  • This weekend, I’m giving my good friend my last remaining chicken. Predators wiped us out. We’ll start over again in the Spring. I’m sad, but I’m also happy to have a brief break.

  • Yay for relying on your community and not doing it all!
    Thanks Mama!

  • We had just got our chickens to start laying when we had to say goodbye. My husband started working for an egg farm, and it became a “conflict of interest”. I was sad. they were a fun project. We will be sure to find some other fun projects to take the place of the chickens.We do get eggs as part of the job, but they are not near as good as homegrown healthy eggs. I suppose we should be grateful for a good job.

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