Natural Chicken Keeping – an Oxymoron?

Didn’t I just say on the previous page that I am a firm believer in Natural Chicken Keeping? Ha – So I am gonna do something that google supposedly punishes – I copied my post on Quan Yin Gardens about natural chicken keeping over to here … just because……  Warning to the unsuspecting, it is one of the “rant” blogs and while there is a lot of truth in it  – it might offend your sensibilities. If you would like a different version – then this page is a good one   Why Natural Chicken Keeping is an oxymoron – and still a good thing to do.   So there go my thoughts on Natural Chicken Keeping.

Natural chicken keeping has at it’s heart the intent and practice of keeping chickens in a way that is as natural to them as possible.

This usually means plenty of space and access to free foraging most of the day, pesticide and GMO free foods, no antibiotics or immunisations. Given good nutrition and being allowed to do what they need to do – chickens tend to be very healthy.

So then I got chickens as a straight run – keeping them all “natural” as per above and they have been VERY healthy so far. However, out of 53 chickens, 32 were male ….the first run being 17 males and 9 females – that is not 50/50 ….and the person who said they would take my males backed out – and I needed to do some managing of that situation – and learned a lot about roosters and chicken flock dynamic…and what natural really means.

It certainly is more natural to have roosters in your flock than not. This is simply an observation – about how well they get along in general and the contentment of the flock.
I found out when trying to re-home roosters, that there are unwanted roosters everywhere.
I also did some research because I wondered – what the heck to chickens do “in the wild” surely there are as many males as females – and there is no such a thing as 1 rooster for every 8-10 females. And sure enough, they arrange themselves in pairs or small groups, sometimes a few roos stay together, some are solo.

The more i got to know the roosters, the more I questioned the “wisdoms” taken for granted in the chicken keeping world – like all roosters tend to fight, you can’t have more that 2 and then you need 8-12 hens for each of them.

When they all grow up together – given enough space and at least and even number of males and females – you can have as many roosters as you want. Does breed matter – yes it does – but it basically translates into: some need more space than others.

And they all, roosters and hens, are very content together – unless the hens are totally overrun by roos. The guys keep each other in check and off the females – on the other hand, sometimes they stand in line for mating. Again – you need the space.

Natural does not mean: kill 90 % of the males – most suffocating as baby chicks – others eaten for meat.
Talking about natural chicken keeping after you killed most of the males is – closing your eyes to a part of it….but since this is in part another “rant” -> it is hypocritical.
Calling yourself a chicken lover after you killed the males for your convenience – is equally hypocritical.
“Oh I love chickens” (nvm those that got sacrificed so I can have the ones I love…..)

Not saying it is good or bad or that not everyone is doing the best they can – but it IS hypocritical.

So let’s face it: it is all relative and you are keeping chickens for your own purposes, be it eggs, meat, business or pleasure. Being a truly “natural” chicken keeper is in a way an oxymoron, because there are no safe coops in the wild, no predator protection. Of course, without those, our chickens would not really make it it many part of the country at all. Natural and Keeping is the oxymoron. The only truly natural way is: in nature – not kept at all.

So, that being out of the way, we can keep chickens as natural as possible. …. except for the roosters part. Who wants to feed them? Who wants to take care of them? Their noise can be a problem even where there is no limit in agricultural areas. They are not economical, they can fight – but that includes fighting predators. They are quite watchful.
Because of inbreeding and breeding for fighting, there appears to be a lot of rooster to rooster aggression – and they will fight and will kill each other…..though in my research on the original chickens …death seemed to hardly ever occur.

Of course, many breeds have had their broodiness bred out of them …so we can have eggs all year, in fact, how natural is THAT? And, how natural is it to take away the babies of those birds – so I guess the egg laying backyard flocks are by themselves a step removed from natural.

And what about those pet chickens in your flock? In a healthy natural flock – nature takes care of the small and weak and deformed and those who can’t keep up. A lot of the more sentimental chicken keepers tend to those especially. I see it in myself: there is this runt in my second straight run…half the size of anyone else …bottom of the pecking order and sometimes i think one day they are gonna kill her (they never bothered her till the end) – and I try to give her the best and most nutritious tit-bits – how healthy and natural is THAT for the flock as a whole? – Pet chicken keeping is not natural chicken keeping.

Culling in nature, whether by predators or from their own kind always leads to the best and healthiest flock as a whole. Culling is a necessity of truly natural chicken keeping.

In conclusion:

The backyard chickens we have are no longer natural.

Natural chicken keeping goes deeper than free range and abstinence from GMO and antibiotics.

Natural chicken keeping does NOT require to kill most of the roosters. Monitoring rooster numbers is only necessary if you keep too many birds for the space you have.

Culling of the weak and sick is part of good natural chicken keeping (unless you have predators doing it for you), given the same healthy living condition for all members of the flock.

No matter how I look at it though – don’t want to do the killing – not directly or indirectly, not for space, sex, meat or to pacify some neighbors – and not because some chick is a runt.

So I am unfit to be a chicken keeper – “natural” or otherwise. I might be able to grow into a chicken rescuer – but the vet requirements will probably prohibit that too.

In “natural chicken keeping”, and in contrast to the abominations happening in the commercial poultry industry, we strive to be as close as possible to allow the chickens we DO in fact keep around our house and yard their natural expressions and foods, ….but as a whole, natural – is is not. So I will keep the chickens I already have in such a way that allows for their “chickenness” their nature room to be. …together as a flock, foraging, scratching pecking …and coming for treats ….:)

So after all that, if you are interested in keeping the chickens you have as natural as you can – I have found this site here very good -> Natural Chicken Keeping  which appears to have been inspired by Beekissed on backyard, at least a lot of the info can also be found there on her thread. But this blog format makes it all very accessible and there are a number of new contributors.

We do the best we can. And if your hens and roos don’t live in pairs …then there is such a thing as too many roosters, who would have to be moved to live elsewhere, without females  – just to protect the backs of those girls. After all, Natural is NOT making eggs all year long which a roo seems to want to fertilize. Those bareback hens from treading – not natural – and – keep them all as natural as possible for their sake 🙂