Apr 1, 2014

The Natural Way, Backyard Chickens

Welcome to the fifth installment of The Natural Way, a series in which we are showcasing individuals and companies that are making a difference in their community by doing things "the natural way" with a focus on sustainability.

Take a look at the first part in the series - we talked with Lauren Nitschke of Nitschke Natural Beef about ranching and the importance of knowing your farmers.

In the second installment, we talked with Catalina, director of Art of Peace Montessori about "non-traditional" early childhood education and the importance of teaching children about sustainability and the environment.
In part three, we talked with Mike Randall, founder of All Who Are Thirsty.  Mike and his team help to bring clean drinking water around the globe in a sustainable manner.
Part four, we talked with Andrea Bithell, Garden Lady of Oak Cliff Organics.

Today, we are hearing from Sunday, Backyard Chicken enthusiast (and too humble to call herself an expert, even though she is!).  Sunday runs a group on facebook which discusses Urban Homesteading and Self-Sustainability, as well as Backyard Chickens.  This is how I met her and I am so very glad to introduce her to you today!

Q:  Hi, Sunday!  Can you introduce yourself?  Tell us a little about who you are.

Well, I like to consider myself a Renaissance Woman, but in all actuality, I'm just a gal with a bunch of hobbies.  I'm a reproductive scientist by training, ran an infertility program for 15 years, artist, farmer wanna-be, and single mom to 3 incredible kids.  I love the creative aspect of science and nature!

 Q:  You haven't always been involved in raising backyard chickens, what did you do before you dove into this lifestyle?
Moving toward a more simple lifestyle has been a journey for me.  About 8 years ago I recognized the attachment that people had to "things" and the realization that we've given up so much for the sake of convenience.  That's not a path I wanted to travel.  We started small at first - giving up television, making better choices with the food we ate.  But I came to enjoy the work that went into providing a more wholesome lifestyle for my kids - the time it took to make homemade bread or planting garden seeds with my children.  It was love that went into all of that. So, it wasn't so much "diving" into the project, but slowly slipping my feet in.

Q:  Can you tell us a little about WHY you decided to make this leap?

For me, having chickens was a sign that I had "made it in life" - that things had finally started settling down to the point where I could enjoy taking on the project of raising chickens.   I longed for beautiful, fresh eggs and realized that if I kept saying "One day I'll have chickens..." that time would continue to slip by.  We decided to hatch our chickens so that the kids could experience the entire process.  It was such a marvel to them.

Q:  What is the difference between the white eggs you buy at the grocery store and the eggs your chickens lay?

There is nothing that can compare to the taste of a farm fresh egg (or backyard chicken egg).  My hens are spoiled with a diet of oatmeal, left-over veggies, scrambled eggs, and good quality feed.  They also get to free-range, eating wild grains and insects, providing them with a well-rounded diet.  Backyard and farm hens also generally have easy access to fresh air and sunlight.   

Typical grocery store eggs come from caged hens fed a diet of commercial poultry food, with little or no access to any additional nutrients, fresh air or sunlight.   

The most obvious difference can be seen when a grocery egg and farm egg are cracked side-by-side:  a grocery egg yolk will typically be pale yellow and a farm egg will be dark yellow to orange, depending on the diet.

Q:  Why is this important? 

I'd much rather know what's going into my food! 

Q:  What is the hardest part about what you do?

The hardest thing about raising chickens has been losing them to predators.  Much of the loss has happened while they were free-ranging, taken by coyotes and hawks in broad daylight.  However, I had raccoons get into the coop a couple of times with devastating results.  When you raise them up from chicks, spoil them, talk to them, pet them, they become like any other pet.

Q:  What is the best part about what you do?

Aside from having beautiful, fresh eggs, I love the community of people that have come together in our area because of chickens and wanting a sustainable lifestyle for their families.  Some of us live in the city, some in the country, some in between, but with a common thread of wanting a better way of living. 

Q:  Can you explain a little about how you participate in sustainability?

We recycle as much as possible, built a compost bin out of pallets (great place for chicken poo!), garden, and hoping to start bee-keeping.  I treat each moment as a teachable moment for my children, showing them how we have to be good stewards of what we have.  It is important that they not lose sight of the simple way of doing things - canning, baking, gardening - so that they will always be able to provide for themselves if need be.
Q:  Do you have any advice for our readers who might be considering raising their own chickens?  

Chickens are addictive.  You'll start out with 2-3, see chicks at the feed store, and soon have a flock of 15.  So, it is important to plan accordingly.   Some general advice:   (1) Buy/build a coop slightly larger than what you think you'll need.  (2).  Be sure your flock is protected from predators.  In the city, this may mean cats or dogs.  In more rural areas, it will be raccoons, coyotes, hawks, owls, etc.  (3).  If you are introducing new chickens to an existing flock, buy from a reputable seller and QUARANTINE.  Respiratory illnesses (and others) can take out your entire flock.  Generally not a good idea to buy at a flea market.  

Q:  Any other things you want to add?

Chicken math is real - you'll gain more than you ever thought and lose along the way.  But all-in-all, the chicken experience has been nothing but awesome!

Thanks so much, Sunday! I love those teachable moments for our kiddos!  I am seriously looking forward to joining you in being a Chicken raising family :)

Next week, same time, same place - more on living life The Natural Way!  Stay tuned! 

No comments :