“It’s the stupid foodies.”
These day the “foodie” trend is toward growing your own food, making your own soaps, and even keeping your own chickens.
Organic Farming’s article “5 Reasons to Raise Chickens” says:
Even if you live in the city, once you realize the myriad benefits a small flock of three or more hens can provide, you’ll start thinking of your non-chicken-keeping neighbors as the strange ones. “Most people are going to get chickens because they love eggs, but then they’re going to find out how useful they are in other ways,” says Patrician Foreman.
The benefits of raising your own chickens include: they eat insects, they eat table scraps, soil health (fertilizer?), saving “heritage breeds” from extinction, and they increase the”love” hormone oxytocin that you’ll release.
None of those seem very compelling to me. But if you’re a foodie intent on raising your own farm animals, your reasons are probably not my reasons anyway. Nonetheless, foodies bringing chickens into the city has been, quite frankly, a disaster.
Despite visions of quaint coops, happy birds and cheap eggs, the growing trend of raising backyard chickens in urban settings is backfiring, critics say, as disillusioned city dwellers dump unwanted fowl on animal shelters and sanctuaries. (Source: NBC)
Turns out, raising chickens isn’t as easy as a couple minutes a day, and the benefits probably aren’t all that great or long lasting either.
Hundreds of chickens, sometimes dozens at a time, are being abandoned each year at the nation’s shelters from California to New York as some hipster farmers discover that hens lay eggs for two years, but can live for a good decade longer, and that actually raising the birds can be noisy, messy, labor-intensive and expensive.
Yeah, that’s the problem. Chickens are living breathing things. They require care. And lots of it.
People entranced by a “misplaced rural nostalgia” are buying chickens from the same hatcheries that supply the nation’s largest poultry producers and rearing them without proper space, food or veterinary care, she said.
The most commonly available hens have been bred to be good egg layers. At the same time, backyard farmers often use enhanced feed, light or other tools to prompt hens to lay constantly. After keeping up that pace for 18 months to two years, however, hens often develop reproductive problems including oviduct diseases that can kill them, veterinarians say. However, healthy hens can live for years longer, up to a decade after they stop laying.
In addition to the noise, many urban farmers are surprised that chickens attract pests like rats, and predators including foxes, raccoons, hawks, and even neighborhood dogs.Because chickens are notoriously hard to sex, some backyard farmers wind up with roosters, which are often culled and killed because they can be noisy, aggressive and illegal, and, of course, they don’t lay eggs at all.
When they get sick or hurt, they need care that can run into the hundreds of dollars, boosting the price of that home-grown egg far beyond even the most expensive grocery store brand.
Britton Clouse, who runs a chicken rescue home said: “People don’t know what they’re doing. And you’ve got this whole culture of people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing teaching every other idiot out there.”
Farming looks romantic, it looks easy, and it looks like fun. But there is a reason we call it our JOB. Or, even better, a LIFESTYLE. We do this 24/7. We have the experience, tools, resources, and knowledge to properly care for our animals and make sure they are happy, healthy, and productive.
Instead of getting your own chickens, how about you volunteer to help with chores on the farm for a few days instead?
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Hi there! Found your blog from the Forbes article on organic practices. I'm a fairly on-the-fence person when it comes to organic vs non-organic and I have a few questions for you.Have you ever seen or heard of the movie Food Inc? I mean, I realize it is a sensationalist movie but at the same time those farms and living conditions must exist somewhere, wherelse would they get the footage? What do you make of it, especially compared to the farming practices your family personally follows?Also, when it comes to meats, you've mentioned not using antibiotics unless the animals are sick…but how often are they sick? Also, what do you think about the quality of flavor in grass-fed beef vs grain-fed? Also, just curious what your thoughts are on buying local, if possible. I tend to be more focused on buying locally than I am about organic. My reasoning is that it stimulates the local economy – where it directly benefits the community in which I live – and less or no fuel wasted to get from the farm to my table. Is this a reasonable way of thinking, in your opinion?Thanks!PS: A search function would be a nice addition to your blog!
Heather, First of all, thank you so much for your questions and interest! I'm glad to see that you're taking the time to learn about the issues and do some research (including talking to some farmers!) before making decisions. First, I have not watched that movie (I'm not sure my blood pressure can handle it). However, I would caution on any type of documentary being a source of information, especially a sensational one. Footage can certainly be invented if the need arises. I have read articles about Food, Inc. though and suggest you check this out: http://americanagriwomen.org/files/response%20to%…. Beyond that, if you have any specific questions on any of the issues in the movie, I'd be happy to talk about what I think and the personal experiences I've had on the farm. Grass-fed or grain-fed? Lots of people are making claims in favor of grass-fed. However, according to a study from Utah State University, grain-fed has quite a few advantages (including taste, cost, tenderness). You can read that here: http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/publi…. I think like most things, if someone is telling you that a particular way of producing something makes it loads better, you might want to be skeptical. As to how often the farm animals get sick — probably about as often as any other animal gets sick; right? I suggest this website as a resource for this issue: http://www.fooddialogues.com/foodsource/antibioti…. My family had a farm market for 26 years, so I'm definitely a fan of buying local when it is available! Besides stimulating the local economy, the produce just tastes loads better! That being said, the environmental impact is probably nullified. Local is only good to an extent — I still like having (somewhat) fresh fruits and veggies in the winter. I have a video here: https://www.thefarmersdaughterusa.com/2013/05/infa…. So eat fresh and local when you can and don't feel bad about eating things from different parts of the world in the off season.I will definitely look into a search feature, which is a great idea. In the meantime, check on the "labels" on the right hand side of the page. Just click on one of them to see the articles about that topic. You can also see my "original" articles here: https://www.thefarmersdaughterusa.com/p/quick-link…. (But I do need to do some updating, admittedly.) Please let me know if you have any more thoughts or questions and I will answer it or look into it! Thanks!
Thanks for your response! I'll look into those links you provided. As far as the grain vs grass, my reason for asking is that I like to get my beef from the local University Ag School meat market (they slaughter their old teaching animals for a small profit). The prices are good and the meat has always been wonderful, despite being from older animals. Their main selling point that they advertise (beyond price) is being pasture raised/grass fed = tastier. And I'll continue to try to buy local but I do indeed still buy some items that aren't capable of being grown locally. My biggest annoyance, though, is living in Florida and seeing oranges (or any citrus for that matter) from across the country. Like, really? Is that necessary? I live next to an orange grove, for pete's sake.Anyway, thanks again for your reply!