A better life for egg-layers and the humans who love them
By Ari Levaux
The age-old debate over which came first seems close to being resolved in favor of the chicken. After years of hens being treated as little more than egg-dispensers, concern is rising for the well-being of the layers themselves. Meanwhile, the practice of personal flock-keeping is on the upswing. Across the country, and in many parts of the world, chicken-first approaches are supplanting the simple quest to create the cheapest eggs possible.
When news broke on July 7 that United Egg Producers had struck a deal with longtime nemesis the Humane Society of the United States, a lot of people had to check and make sure they weren't reading The Onion by mistake. The surprise announcement drew gasps of "stunning," "historic" and "landmark" from observers in the food and agriculture community. The often bitter antagonists appear to have buried the hatchet, at least temporarily, and not up each other's bottoms. Gary Truitt, in Hoosier Ag Today, wrote: "Unprecedented does not do the situation justice."
Ever considered keeping your own chickens? When you raise your own eggs and meat, you know how the animal was treated and if its diet was jacked up on antibiotics. Get inspired at the fourth annual Chicken Coop Tour on June 11 and 12. Travel to a variety of experienced chicken keepers' backyards (some of which also have goats and ducks) and glean tips on rearing livestock. A few of the stops may even have homegrown fruits and vegetables for sale. A map and more details of the tour are posted on albuquerquecooptour.com.
I’m tagging along with Michael Foltz and Marissa Evans visiting feed suppliers in the North and South Valleys. Today’s the day to populate the backyard coop Foltz has been building for the past few months using mostly recycled wood and fittings. It’s a cozy roost to house seven or eight birds, with a run protected by chicken wire. A nice little goat-fence-style gate opens into the small enclosure.
When the roosters get tough, the tough make coq au vin
By Ari LeVaux
Coq au vin, literally “rooster in wine,” is a recipe that can be simple or complex. My version is geared toward those starting with a big, tough old rooster in the yard, but it works with any chicken. An old hen would also do the trick, but I don't kill my hens. So that leaves the roosters, the meaner the better.
Searching for the best crops to plant with garlic, Ari LeVaux developed a technique called "tossing seeds randomly." He put all the seeds he didn't get around to planting last year into a jar, shook it up and threw them by handfuls. This experiment produced the "garlic patch friends" and a springtime strategy for maximum yields.
Corinne Tippett never cared one way or the other about chickens. She harbored no childhood dreams of becoming a farmer, an egg seller or a butcher. But one day in 2004, without much planning, the Northern New Mexico resident found herself with a roost full of more than 100 birds—chicken, ducks, geese, quail, pheasants and a myriad of other tiny, feathered hatchlings.
My hens wanted to be moms. I did my best to be a dad.
By Ari LeVaux
Two of our hens recently got broody. While the other two kept up their standard schedules of scratching around, chasing bugs and rolling in the dust, Black ’n Blue, a sweet little Bantam, and Annabelle, a tough orange Buff Orpington, stopped laying eggs and glued themselves to their nesting box. Once in a while Baldy or Chicken Hawk came in to lay an egg and forfeit her creation to the broody girls, who used their beaks and claws to roll the new egg onto their pile. They shared this pile, sitting side by side, sometimes with their wings wrapped around each other. They wouldn't leave the nest to eat or drink, so I put food and water dishes next to the nesting box.
Q: I’m interested in raising hens for the eggs, but we have a tiny backyard. Does two or three sound like a good number? Also, will the eggs hatch if we let them? And what’s the best way to procure chickens?
Food prices have skyrocketed. Polar bears are doing the breaststroke. Though things aren't looking great for our planet or our economy, something good, it seems, has come from the precarious position we've found ourselves in.