Playing Chicken

In the past few years I have become obsessed with real food. Gone are the days of Flakey’s and Jolt. I am now a hip mama shopping at farmers markets and making as much as I can from scratch. I am fascinated by growing food, even though I am just learning to garden (unless you count potted herbs). I was really excited when I found Path to Freedom and I even blogged about it. I also found an awesome bed and breakfast in Kitchener that grows their own food and has their own hens.
Finally, we have reached THE POINT of this post. There are a lot of awesome people in Kingston trying to legalize backyard hens. It seems that it is really going to happen, and because that is so exciting and important to me, I want to make sure that it does. So, if you are in Kingston, go to the meetings, sign the petitions etc. And if you are not, then at least read THIS…unless you’re chicken…brooock brooack.
And just in case you are too lazy (or busy or what ever) to go to the link, here’s some of it:
Benefits of Backyard Hens

Affordable Food:

The cost eggs for backyard hens are between $1-$3/dozen depending on the season and the amount of kitchen scraps supplementing purchased feed. Cost also depends on if the feed is organic, and upon the size and breed hen. A final variable is what type of bedding is used and how it is procured (straw, wood shavings, etc). (info sourced from forums on backyardchickens.com, accessed April 9th, 2010)

According to a 2005 study of grade 5 students in Nova Scotia, 73.7% of the children did not meet the minimum recommendations of Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating for meat and alternatives (eggs) (redorbit.com/news/health/152025/dietary_intake_and_risk_factors_for_poor_diet_quality_among/ accessed April 9, 2010).

Accessible Food:

True free range eggs are only available at the farm gate of a farmer whose operation you can see. If people want to buy farm fresh free range eggs, they need a car, and will have to pay at least $4/dozen. Those who keep hens in backyards can easily be car-free and receive delivery of bags of feed. Carless people can buy free range eggs at upmarket stores for $4-$6/dozen, but are they really free range? According to the Chicken Farmers of Canada, “The term has not been legally defined in either Canada or the U.S” (www.chicken.ca/DefaultSite/index.aspx?ArticleID=3434&lang=en-CA April 9th, 2010).

Reduced Solid Waste:

Those who wish to can enhance their food-waste-food cycle at home. Composted hen manure provides an excellent source of garden fertilizer: higher in N-P-K, phosphorus, and calcium than any other animal (Rodale Guide to Composting).

There is no hard data on how much of an impact allowing backyard hens would have on Kingston’s solid waste volume: we expect a small but measurable (on a household level) reduction in waste. Mouscron, a small city in Belgium has twice distributed laying hens to willing residents, as part of a multi-faceted campaign to reduce waste (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8539877.stm, accessed April 9th 2010).

A Community-Building Food Source:

There are a variety of ways in which hens build community. In almost all cities that allow hens, there are henning societies that provide knowledge-sharing venues on-line and in groups. They often form buying clubs to secure better pricing and delivery arrangements. Like dog-owners, henners like to get together and talk shop.

Education:

Children will see where their food comes from and have the chance to eat healthy, ethical food.

A Sustainable pet:

Many owners report taking delight in the behavior and character of their hens. Most continue to care for them when they stop laying after around five years (they might still live another two years). Eight hens would weigh about half of a Labrador retriever, the most popular pet in North America. Eight hens would produce about 240g/day of feces, all of which can be used to make excellent fertilizer (http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract;jsessionid=3F5C48821BFEF99A572D92B6FD803481.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=606984 accessed April 9th, 2010). A typical dog produces about 340g/day of feces that must be landfilled (ftp://ftp-fc.sc.egov.usda.gov/AK/…/dogwastecomposting2.pdf accessed April 9th, 2010).

Humane Food:

Backyard hens allow people to detach from the industrial-egg machine. It is not feasible for most to go to a farm in the countryside each week, and the claims that free-range supermarket eggs come from hens with good lives are overstated. They are not in cages, but still live 20,000 to a barn, and though there is an open door in their barn, they never go outside.

An April 7, 2010 video from the Humane Society of the US which depicts the typical treatment of conventionally raised egg laying hens : youtube.com/watch?v=59f3xeUgChc

Canada has 25 million hens are kept in battery cages: http://www.humanefood.ca/battery.html

Food of High Quality:

There can be no substitute for a fresh egg that comes from a healthy hen eating a variety of green leafy matter. The yolks are bright yellow/orange and are much better for cooking and baking.

Healthy Food:

Eggs are a good source of dietary protein (Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating). There is a small but building body of evidence showing that pastured free-range hens that eat a variety of leafy greens (ie grass and carrot tops) are more healthy than barn-raised free-range eggs organic or otherwise. Aside from being free of pesticides and antibiotics, pastured poultry eggs have:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

(motherearthnews.com/Relish/Pastured-Eggs-Vitamin-D-Content.aspxa accessed April 9, 2010).
Animal Rescue

Unlike other pets, which can be bought on impulse because they look cute and are kept indoors, hens require significant input of time and money before they can be brought home. Coops cost upwards of $500 and must be delivered, and home construction is more time-consuming and can not likely be done for less than $200. Furthermore, hens are usually ordered, also requiring forethought.

We are taking steps to ensure that anyone who hens will be prepared and informed of best management practices. Based on this and the experiences of other communities, there seems no reason to anticipate a problem of abandoned hens.

Already there are henners in Kingston raising hens rescued from slaughter at local egg farms. We expect that there would be willing adopters for any hens that are abandoned.

Local veterinarians have expressed a capability to offer full service to hens: treatment, euthanizing, disposal.

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2 Comments

Filed under environmental news, gardening

2 responses to “Playing Chicken

  1. Pingback: Heritage Hollow » What’s With The Green Eggs?

  2. Pingback: What’s With The Green Eggs?! | The Hungry Hollow

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