There is actually quite a sort answer to it: it is an expression of where I am at in the process or becoming aware and feeling.
When people are ready for something, they are ready, or predisposed, or interested, or resonating, – then and not before. The interest for a certain way to feed yourself has gotta come from your smarts, your caring, your own nature and awakening to a new level of sentience. I was talking to some people this afternoon in March of 2015 – telling them that I don’t really know how to get people interested, magnetized or fired up about the chickens, the garden and, of course, the wonderful eggs that become available for our bodies nourishment.
However, I did ask myself: why am I doing this ….this “chickens in the garden thing” – other than that I love it – still love it after 4 years of often hard work, or “work getting a little old” and sometimes heart breaking times. I love birds in general, be around birds, listen to birds, observe birds, love seeing them foraging all over the garden, love listening to their sounds, love seeing them so healthy and well. …but I could have been a bird watcher then.
I presently “keep chickens” for the sake of the animals who provide us with a precious food, eggs – as long as we eat eggs and just about all our guests eat eggs … so for animal welfare reasons one could say, with the added benefit of deep litter compost, but there is more to it.
I have a vision and a dream within this dream we live in, a belief if you will: by keeping these healthy chickens, allowing them a chicken-worthy life free ranging in a garden, scratching for bugs, with a safe spot to roost and lay their eggs, by doing that – a template is fortified, a way of life is given strength….a way of life in which animals who are living with humans for whatever reasons, are treated with respect, are cared for, seen and loved – a quantum entanglement with this, rather than some other worlds. There is beauty and communion and magic and health and grace and flow …..
The is a way of life where animals are recognized, through their intimate observation and care, from eggs to old age, as expressions of the life force and consciousness that runs through all things.
One can hear the vegans already (nvm what happens in the harvesting of vegan foods etc) about it being unethical to “keep” any animals for any type of food or human “use” purpose. I am not going there – however, even in free range flock who gets to live out their lives, there are 2 issues that will not go away:
The rooster issue:
When allowing a hen to hatch a clutch of eggs, over time, roughly 50% will be male. What will you do with them? There are space, flock health and financial issues. Currently, the rooster issue gets handled like this: when a broody gets a clutch of eggs, I tell the “to be chicks” what life they will have, and if they are roosters…that for now, once their mother is done with them and they are about 3-6 months old, most of them will go to the feed store, where some get adopted for flocks, some get taken and raised to be eaten. They know what life conditions await them….and I tell them…don’t hatch of that is not ok with you ..because I simply cannot keep you all. And – once I started this – plenty of them have not hatched. The mind wants to find some other explanations…like heat, age of the hens or some other such reason…but really, the question already is on the horizon: is there, or rather, where and when is there a point when I either will not longer “keep” any chickens, or…start “culling” killing – the surplus roosters for food?
The old hen issue:
A hens get older, they lay fewer and fewer eggs…ok, but towards the very end, before they get some kind of infection or tumor – would it be better to “harvest” them? In a couple of years, a decision will need to be made….but it does raise this issue: to kill or not to kill while they are old but still healthy? ( harvesting, sending to freezer camp, culling – as just other words for killing in most cases). And how is it best done, with the least amount of stress to them?
Yes, the eggs are more tasty as well as nutritious from chickens that are free ranged in a huge garden-pasture. In addition, they are fed soy free organic feed. But for me, the improved freshness and general egg quality are secondary. Seeing these hens out foraging is beautiful to me. I feels like the right thing to do. And I don’t force-molt them or use lights in the winter to make them lay more eggs, and if they go broody, they get some eggs to sit on.
Yes, those kinds of eggs DO cost more than the mass produced eggs from the battery hens, cage free or no not….and after keeping chickens for a couple of years, I know why. In fact, I am spending some of my life savings on it. …and I do know – living with integrity is not compatible with doing things as usual. These days, if it is cheap, especially very cheap, be it food or clothing or anything, it is based on abuse, either of animals or humans, including children, or the environment. If people had to pay what it actually costs, they …ok, most, simply would not…or, certain items would be special occasion foods.
I no longer wish to contribute to commercial animal keeping because of the atrocities and violence and destruction done to the animals and the environment. In the case of where my eggs are coming from, that is possible….and meat and fish I no longer eat.
It is the principle, the integrity that matters to me: once you know, once you feel, once you really see what is done to animals raised for human consumption – maybe you too don’t want to keep supporting a system what is so so incredibly abusive…..and luckily, you don’t have to either…but it’ll cost ya. There is no free lunch here either.
One could argue: in eating commercial eggs consciously, one honors the life of those hens…..sure – and, you are still supporting the system. I am not saying don’t do it like that…but this is a post of why I am doing this chicken keeping thing.
If medically you don’t need to eat meat, why do you?
I would love to do art – but it is not more important to me than working on a chicken garden. I would love to have this very beautiful aesthetically pleasing chicken coop – rather than the DIY-reuse- every-bit-of-wood-you-can-find-put-together … rustic at best chicken house….maybe some day.
I do like my DIY feed storage though, even if it is rustic, here a picture with it almost done.
There are plans of doing some paintings for the coop, but the list of things to do that are basic necessity is still way too long…but never is this out of my mind: how I can I make this not only healthy and functional, but beautiful and cost effective too – and without killing animals before they have lived out their lives?
It is still a work and experiment in progress, and I am not growing much chicken food at the land yet, for a little more self sufficiency and cost saving, still working on the coops.
If I personally were capable of living off water and the energy of the sun directly, I would. Principally, it ought to be possible.
In the meantime – to all work buddies out there, does anyone wish to support this chicken garden project by sponsoring a chicken? 🙂 – hen OR rooster? Here is just one of them, a young girl not yet laying – as her sponsor, you’d get to name her 🙂 – and when you visit, you be sure to get garden eggs, even in winter, even if it means i don’t eat eggs that day….and no worries, many more chickens are available for sponsorship!
This one here gave me a heartache the other day by not showing up at roost-time…vanished without a trace, I looked everywhere…but then, there she was the next morning…I still have no idea what happened…and obviously I didn’t look “everywhere” 🙂
Update – see here, about 1 year later: a little more clarity in the dark side of backyard chicken-keeping