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.
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 Kelsy 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.
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. Kelsy’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?