Thursday, April 26, 2012

Poultry in Motion - Hollywood Hens

Poultry In Motion - Hollywood Hens

Feeding a chicken.

(Photo from 

Recognizing that the process of getting our hens down to Philippa early Sunday morning would require some 'clandestine' activity' on my part, for many reasons, I was starting to reconsider the transfer of our hens from our Cooperative Chicken Coop to their busy showboating. Not to mention the fact that these hens were none to pleased to be cooped up in this dog sized crate. They are accustom to coming and going as they please at our farm. They are on their own schedule. They have their own routines. And we, for our own selfish pleasure, have disrupted their lives. That being said, they did get plenty of 'treats', even if they were manhandled, or should I say, kid-handled, for a few days. See below for all the pictures.

Can you imagine the life of these hens in the CAFO (Concentrated Animal Factory Operation)

Ethically, that is why I cannot support this industry, egg and dairy, or meat production in North America. Thank goodness we have someone like Jamie Waldron around to get our meat from. And the eggs come from our hens. I'm allergic to milk, I wonder why, since they spray the poor dairy cows with pesticides until they go blind. Probably could poor the milk on my gravel driveway and kill grass!

Soon I will have Quail eggs too! I've been raising these little cuties since they were born. Boy, are they hungry chicks! They eat as much as one of my chickens! It seems as though they have a never ending hunger! And they grow really fast!

Quail - 2 Weeks Old

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Film Screening this Sunday: Mad City Chickens

Please join us Sunday night at 7pm at the Artspeak Gallery for a special screening of the movie, Mad City Chickens, which we are presenting in collaboration with the Arts Council ~ Windsor & Region.

The gallery is situated at 1942 Wyandotte Street East, which is at Devonshire.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Waste Management: the case for urban farming

Farmers have always produced for consumers living in cities, but it wasn't until the last 40 or 50 years  that city dwellers became greatly detached from the countryside that sustains them. 

With consumers on one side, and producers on another side entirely, the big problem that emerged is waste management.

Consumers tend to purchase produce that is specially packaged to reduce the risk of damage and contamination en route to the city, and it may have been treated with chemically-derived pesticides and fertilizers.  Meanwhile farmers have to contend with the build-up of large concentrations of animal waste.  Because these two groups have little direct contact with each other, many of us are oblivious to the scale of the waste and pollution this generates.  We do, however, recognize that waste management is a costly problem, and our taxes go towards paying large sums to corporations that deal with both kinds of waste for us.

I'm realistic enough to know that megacities are going to be with us for a long time to come, and the solution does not lie in reversing the mass migration from farms to the city.

Rather, we need to figure out how to reduce the build-up of waste in the first place.

A family with a vegetable garden and several chickens can, almost effortlessly, cut down significantly on their waste, compared to a family that uses its garden for ornamental purposes and relies on grocery stores for all its food needs.  Let's call them Family A and Family B:
Family A feeds food scraps to the chickens, which in turn generate high quality manure.  They also like to forage in the lawn, pecking out grubs and other pests.  The vegetables growing in the garden are organic and don't need any chemicals for fertilizers or pest control.  They also don't need packaging, because produce is picked when it is ready to be eaten, and no fossil fuels are used to transport them from the ground to the table.

Family B needs a car to purchase their food, which is typically trucked in from far away.  The vegetables will have been sprayed but because they come from far away, it's hard to tell what long-term dangers might lurk inside their skin.  Meanwhile, their lawn is kept beautifully green and luscious with regular application of fertilizer, again, purchased from the store.  The packaging from their food, and the scraps they don't eat, are disposed of in their weekly garbage, and their city trucks it away to a landfill every week.
This is one of the reasons I believe so strongly in urban chickens.  To me, they symbolize the way to the solution.  These hardy creatures eat our consumer waste, turning it into a valuable commodity instead.  They are the link that completes the cycle.

Because most families wouldn't own more than 3 or 4 backyard chickens, they never generate enough manure to pose any kind of toxic hazard, though this is very much the case on large industrial farms.

Of course it isn't realistic for all of us to live like Family A all the time, especially when we live in climates that make it difficult to eat seasonally all year round.  However, it's not at all hard to make some significant changes to our lives.  It's certainly feasible for some of us to do it.  And so, it's frustrating to me when our by-laws force me to live in a way that I feel to be environmentally irresponsible and most definitely unsustainable.

I also find it frustrating when our societal and cultural norms tolerate vegetable gardens (albeit neatly to the side of the house where they are largely out of sight), but refuse to accept backyard chickens.  The vast majority of us are not strict vegetarians, so why not produce both vegetables and eggs?  Besides, gardens grow much better when they have chickens helping them along on the fertilizer and pest control side of things.

And when people suggest that "if you want chickens so badly, then go live on a farm", I really think they have no inkling of the extent of the waste management problems that exist precisely because of the separation of farmers and consumers.

The cost of keeping chickens

It might seem like a rustic setup that we have with our chicken collective, but behind the scenes, we keep a tight set of records - with a background in cost accounting and financial analysis, I am making good use of my skills.

You might also be interested in some of our top-level stats.

We started our collective in May 2011 with 24 young layers.  We had 36 hens at the end of the year.  There were 11 member families, and between us, we collected 4,591 eggs.  The cost was $1.46/dozen in feed costs, and we also put in an additional $50 per family to cover the capital costs.

This put the total average cost per dozen eggs including the cost of capital a nice round $2.50.

Compare that to $6 a dozen for organic grocery store eggs, which don't even come from chickens that ever go outside.

We started 2012 with 36 hens, though one of them developed a painful leg soon after.  Although it wasn't broken, it wouldn't heal either.  Mrs. Limpy started to dwindle, and died after a couple of weeks.  We'll never know exactly what happened.

The remaining 35 hens have faithfully produced 2,534 eggs for us - as of yesterday afternoon, when I gathered 29.  This works out at an average yield of 27 free range eggs per member family, per week.  It happens to be approximately the same number of eggs you could expect from a backyard coop with 4 layers.

The costs are also pretty similar to last year.  Each returning member family put in $20 for capital improvements for the year.  The premium layer feed we give our birds put us back an average of $1.51 per dozen eggs collected, though it should be somewhat less after factoring in the feed supply that hasn't yet been eaten, a couple of days' worth.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Our Pat on the Back

Do you remember our Coop Co-op won $500 from the City of Windsor last year?  Well, take a look at this short slideshow to see what we did with the money.

2011 WECEC Pat on the Back