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    Silver

    How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Respect the Chicken


    September 15th, 2010

    Comments (24)
    Read by 185 people

    The following article has been reprinted with permission from Thomas Luongo. Visit Thomas Luongo’s Face Book Page


    My wife and I have an excellent division of labor, as I’m sure most successful couples do. I’m obsessed with money and politics, she in improving our diet and health. She’s the problem-solver while I think up the problems to be solved. If I’m forward-looking then she’s goal-oriented.

    So, when I turned to her during the fall of 2007 and said that I thought things were beginning to unravel and it may be time to start stockpiling food she took care of it; reorganizing the house for storage, stepping up her plans for our garden and dusting off her canning equipment.

    And, when a few months later I asked her to come up with ways of trimming our budget she responded by saying, “We could put in chickens. Eggs are a big portion of our food budget.” After I picked my phone back up I stammered out a, “We can?” I’d only ever heard my wife talk about chickens in two contexts previously. The first was, “Mmmm, tasty!” and the second was, “I hate friggin’ chickens!” She grew up on a farm and was flogged by hens as a kid. I wasn’t.

    Today on any given day we have between 75 and 100 chickens, depending on hatch rates.

    Since that conversation, I’ve come to realize how important the chicken is to our civilization. It may be the most important animal that we have “domesticated.” To those that know chickens I’m sure this will seem obvious, but, to me it was a revelation. I’d always taken the chicken for granted. Now I believe that anyone serious about “surviving” the crash had better have at a minimum a small flock of chickens to ease the transition.

    Unlike us carnivores, they are naturally omnivorous, greedily chasing bugs as well as picking at grass and, if you let them, your garden. They are little garbage disposals with legs that you can feed nearly every food scrap you generate and recycle back into high-quality food for you and your family. The only things my chickens won’t eat are celery and onion skins, because even a chicken knows that eating celery is like Keynesian stimulus, a waste of time and energy, costing more to consume than the act will generate.

    While their digestive tracks are grossly inefficient and chicken feed is expensive, they will produce eggs of similar quality at a far-lower price. With even just a small amount of free ranging, you will produce eggs far superior in quality to anything at the supermarket, regardless of price. Fully free-ranged eggs are like a gift from on high. Moreover, they produce a high-nitrogen fertilizer as a by-product that is essential for a successful vegetable garden.

    The egg is one of the world’s most perfect foods, combining easily digested proteins with a mix of saturated fats, beta-carotene and cholesterol that are all essential for proper energy production at the cellular level. Your mitochondria will thank you for every free-range egg you consume. Like global warming, the lipid hypothesis is one of the most idiotic things ever promulgated by one human towards another. If you want to survive the crash, begin divesting yourself of its consequences immediately.

    Keeping chickens is relatively easy; just ask the people at Backyardchickens.com if you aren’t sure. Build them a small enclosure with a bar to roost on and a box to lay in and they will take care of the rest. I do suggest an enclosed yard or ‘chicken run’ for most places as well as designing a coop that is easy to clean out twice a year. For suburban or urban operations, check your local ordinances to find out how many hens you can keep. You may be surprised. Your grass clippings are excellent chicken food if you can’t free-range them.

    Some breeds are better foragers than others, while some are more consistent layers and some are both. There is a chicken breed to meet your needs, believe me. For all-around good laying hens that you won’t mistake for pets I cannot recommend the so-called “sex-linked” crosses, the Black Star and the Red Star, highly enough.

    On top of our laying hens, my wife has a small breeding program as well. She produces Delawares, a rare breed but an excellent dual-purpose bird producing both meat and eggs. They are easy to handle, tame and almost friendly, while the roosters are relatively calm, well, for roosters.

    As I mentioned, their digestive tracts are inefficient so while feeding them your scraps is a good start to recycling your waste food, there exists an even better system that nature provides if you are open to it. For those living in growing zone 7 or higher the black soldier fly’s life-cycle should become part of yours. They will lay their eggs above a mass of rotting material for the larva to fall into and eat. When they mature, they will seek to climb out of the muck they’ve produced to pupate. With a properly designed composter they will self-harvest into a catch-bin, leaving behind a liquid fertilizer that is simply amazing for your garden. The captured grubs are excellent chicken food, better than the table scraps were in the first place. They can be dried and held as winter stores for your chickens.

    Traditional composting methods are slow and inefficient, producing variable quality humic acid. In addition, one can only compost vegetable material so as to not attract flies. The black-soldier fly larva produces a natural anti-biotic, which repels flies, and they will eat nearly anything that isn’t wood. That means you can compost your rotten dairy and meats along with your fruits and vegetables. Moreover, they will do this overnight. The hardest part is keeping them fed. You can even compost your chicken manure.

    The effect of having chickens extends beyond the practicality of what they can produce. A full-blown chicken operation like the one we now have is also an opportunity for education. We have become adamant about our daughter understanding where her food comes from and what her relation to it is. She knows that the young roosters will be slaughtered at some point and become her dinner. She once asked me why the chickens had to die and I told her that like all of our animals we are responsible for them. We brought them into this world for a purpose so they are our responsibility. If we do not have the stomach to kill them then why did we raise them in the first place? Little chicks may be cute and fun to play with but they grow up to be roosters who are neither.

    So, I keep my hatchet sharp.

    I’ve learned a lot about what I’m capable of. And, I know now that I’m capable of killing something that has done me no harm. Slaughtering day is not happy fun time at my home. However, the task is done quickly and respectfully.

    Our chickens have formed the backbone of our preparation strategy, helping to make more efficient our entire lifestyle, not to be “green” but out of simple economic necessity, which in effect is “green.” They provide a means to lower our cash flow for food as well as hedging against a disruption of the food supply chain. If things go that badly we will have food to trade, doing our part to ensure that the local economy does not completely seize up. This is the model for everything we’re doing. Everything must serve a present need as well as potentially serve many possible futures.

    Recently, we have finished building a paddock and pasture for a small herd of goats. My land is perfect for them, a mixture of pasture and north Florida hardwood forest. We bought myotonics, the fainting goats, because they are a perfect fit for us (docile, smallish meat goats) and the breeder we found was local and well-respected. I’ve always wanted goats and finally have them. They will clear my land, provide me with food and lower my property taxes.

    To me, the history of humanity can be summed up thusly. There once was a group of people living peacefully until some jackass decided that because he controlled a resource he had leverage over them and thought it a good idea to enslave them to his control. That attempt to control can be rendered moot by vacating that place, which some members of the group did. However, they can only do so if they have the means to sustain themselves. Well, to me, the chicken and the goat represent the two animals that give you the best chance at survival on your own. Both can turn low-quality land into high-quality food and other resources. Both can work with a nomadic group. Cows can’t do that, neither can sheep. Horses provide work and transport once you have become established in a place. They all need high-quality land to survive, no less thrive. But, the chicken and the goat, well, to me, they just scream liberty in a way that few others can1. The Free State Project missed the boat on their choice of mascot. My choice to raise these animals is on the one hand accidental (the chicken) and on the other planned (the goat) but both represent the life I want as well as the world I want to live in. They form the foundation while the others provide the super-structure.

    But you may say, now there are no new places to “run away” to. The jackasses seem to have everything under their control. Standing and fighting is the State’s method to affect change and that results in you becoming them in the end. So, that option is out. Therefore, it is only by withdrawing your support first intellectually, then removing yourself from their control physically, bit by bit, that you can create the reality you want. In that sense, the chicken and the goat still perform the same function, only the context is different. Each decision along that path is another brick removed from their wall.

    Like refusing to vote, buying a gun or home-schooling your children, if you want a world of peace and prosperity then practicing peaceful methods is the example to set. For me it only makes sense that it starts with your food.

    Ta,

    1. (reference) namely the pig. I prefer goats to pigs.

    This article was originally published at LewRockwell.com and has been reprinted with permission from the author.

    Copyright © 2010 Thomas Luongo

    More from Thomas Luongo: A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Apocalypse

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    Date: September 15th, 2010
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    24 Comments...

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    1. wooba says:

      He’s living the dream there by the sounds of it hey, more power to him. I assume that weapon he bought is military issue and capable of rapid fire. He’ll probably need such in the future, to protect all that food. Mmmmm, eggs, chicken!

    2. TnAndy says:

      Kinda sounds like our place.  Don’t raise that many chickens ( 16 right now ), but they give us 10-12 eggs/day regular.  Get two piglets every summer from neighbor, clean up garden leftovers,  slaughter late fall, and Dexter cows rather than goats. And two ponds full of catfish.

    3. if you are looking for more detailed information on USDA plant hardiness zones, there is an interactive USDA plant hardiness zone map at http://www.plantmaps.com/usda_hardiness_zone_map.php which will allow you to locate your USDA zone based on zipcode or city.

    4. Out of the mouths of babes….

      DARWIN LYRICS by Low Anthem
                        Charlie Darwin
      Set the sails I feel the winds a’stirring
      Toward the bright horizon set the way
      Cast your reckless dreams upon our Mayflower
      Haven from the world and her decay
      And who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin
      Fighting for a system built to fail
      Spooning water from their broken vessels
      As far as I can see there is no land
      Oh my god, the waters all around us
      Oh my god, it’s all around
      And who could heed the words of Charlie Darwin
      The lords of war just profit from decay
      And trade their children’s promise for the jingle
      The way we trade our hard earned time for pay
      Oh my god, the waters cold and shapeless
      Oh my god, it’s all around
      Oh my god, life is cold and formless
      Oh my god, it’s all around

    5. Johansyd says:

      Comments….. Great Article.  We have chickens, turkeys, and goats.  We’re now looking into rabbits – higher protein/pound; the continued pulling away from the “system” creates increased peace of mind.  Getting rid of cable/satellite (get an antenna if TV is a must) and other useless entities does the same.  Thanks again, great article…

    6. Sam says:

      Comments…..That”s the life, lived it once up till the age of 11 in the mid 70’s, sure miss it, plan to go back to it soon. Milk and eggs are no doubt my favorite, goat milk especially, you want to talk about a overdose of real calcium and the whitest teeth ever.
       Eggs are a true natural multi vitamins, just think of how it transforms into feathers, bone,skin, blood, etc. a complette being in that little shell.
      Good for him and everybody else who is content with the simple things in life where health and happiness are truly found.

    7. lostinmissouri says:

      Chickens and goats.  That’s the key.   Don’t forget to brush up on your cheese making skills…..goat cheese…yummmm!  Plus, cheese is another food that can store for indefinite time,  without refrigeration.

    8. Comments…..Had chickens, goats and rabbits 15 years back.  Had to go back to work when hubby got sick and didn’t have the time to care for the animals. 

      I have missed them a lot.  I retire in a year or 2 and will be going back to raising our own meat.  May be a while longer before I am set up for goats again.

      But the last few years I have been expanding on my garden area and planting more perenial foods that come back year after year.

      Sure was a good article to read.

    9. personofnocolor says:

      Our 18 pullets are almost 60 months and just starting to produce eggs. The country store nearby has offered to buy our eggs, but it looks like we’ll be able to sell them all directly. We plan to get more chicks next spring.

      We’ve had our Jersey milk cow for three months and are getting another milk cow and two calves to raise for beef in October. My wife sells milk and yogurt, and makes butter and ice cream (which we keep for ourselves 🙂 .  I’m still finishing the barn, fences, etc. The ‘farm’ start-up and operating costs are deductible from income tax paid on IRA withdrawals.

      We’re just former computer/office/corporate types. Anyone can do this with effort and determination.

    10. personofnocolor says:

      oops. Our pullets are 6 months, not 60.

    11. Farmers Daughter says:

      FEI:  We have chickens to and eat their eggs.  Once in awhile we run out of eggs and buy store bought.  We always throw the left over shells of eggs back to the chickens and they eat them.  Its egg shell calcium.  What we have noticed is… the dogs, cats, or chickens will not eat the store bought eggs or shells.  Weird.

    12. stan says:

      Don’t forget Possums.    Chickens are great but  don’t forget possum. 

    13. Dennis says:

      Thanks for posting this Mac.  Not only pleasant reading but did you notice how everyone is contributing as opposed to arguing.  We need more of this and less politics.
      Our local problem with growing chickens is that the area has a good population of coyotes and foxes.  They like the chickens and eggs also.  Several friends have given up trying to out fox them.

    14. Johansyd says:

      Comments…..Hi Dennis,   We lost our entire flock a few years back to  predators.  Now we – make sure the chickens are locked up tight every night in the hen house, put 4 ft chicken fencing along the top of the 6 foot high chain link, cleared most brush from around the chicken house itself, and collect the eggs every morning and night.  Hope this helps.  Have a Great Day…

    15. TnAndy says:

      Same here Dennis.  Built a “bomb proof” chicken lot attached to the chicken house.  Used cattle panels ( heavy wire, 16’x54″tall ), and buried them 8″ in the ground to keep anything from digging under, then lined that with 2×2″ chicken wire inside the cattle panels and on up to top of 6′ posts, then strung deer fencing ( plastic 2×4″ rectangle mesh ) over the top of the yard to prevent hawks from flying in.  Yard is 16×24′.  Also lock then in the chicken house every night….house is tight…windows have 1/2″ hardware cloth screening stapled to outside.  Zero loss, and the lot is in a relatively wooded area….lot of predators.

    16. GoneWithTheWind says:

      I contest the whole “free range” thingy.  First of all eggs, regular old supermarket eggs, are the perfect protein against which all other proteins are compared.  Free range doesn’t result in a “super protein”!!!  I have an 87 year old relative who I love dearly who only buys brown eggs.  Of course I keep my mouth shut because who would argue with a little old lady.  But, give me a break!  A frigging brown egg is no different inside then a white egg and a friggin free range chicken is no different then a frigging chicken eating chicken feed.   

    17. Loved the article and I agree with all but the not voting bit. If you don’t vote you don’t have the right to complain if things are not going well. You have an obligation to yourself, your kids and this country to vote. Stand up and be counted. Vote. Vote.
      And this time PLEASE listen to what the candidates say and how they say it and what the don’t say, and ask questions! Make them earn your vote before and afterwards.

    18. To Gonewiththwind: Laboratory testing has shown that there can be  a slightly higher protein content in free range eggs but the real advantage is that they contain more nutrients than confinement eggs from chickens fed a bagged food. The difference is in the variety of the free range chicken diet. 
      You can get a similar product from keeping your city chickens in a long run and providing large quantities of  kitchen scraps and pulled garden weeds. The greater variety of diet is the key. And it helps when you pull “those nasty dandelions” that they now provide free high quality chicken food. (Be sure to pull weeds from lawn that has NOT recieved weed killer or weed supressant. ) For a confined run, try deep bedding.This is better for the chickens feet and they love to dig in it. And you can move  it into the compost pile a couple times a year. Your garden will really love the stuff.

    19. GoneWithTheWind says:

      Bull!  People and groups with an agenda will stop at nothing to “prove” their particular bias is right.  If you really believe that some lab test “proved” that free range eggs have a teensy weensy more protein then regular eggs then be my guest and buy those eggs.  But; “please” stop making these wild ass claims.  An egg is an egg.  Some are bigger, some are brown, some even have slightly different coloration in the yolk, but there is zero evidence that one is better for you then the other.  It is simply unscientific food bias.   I have a great idea.  Why not feed the chickens echinacea and then the eggs would cure colds as well as be “slightly” higher in protein!

    20. Tom L says:

      Thank you all for the great comments on the article. 

      to GWTW: The difference between store bought eggs and backyard eggs is substantial.  Can I quantify it?  No.  but, the firmness and texture of the white is excellent and the yolks are a deep, rich orange color indicating a higher concentration of beta carotene and omega-3 fatty acids.  Moreover, they taste better and everything you make with them tastes better.

      So, if you can produce a better egg for less money why wouldn’t you?  I have nothing against the poultry factories, they provide a great service to the market, but they don’t provide the only solution either.

      Ta,

    21. Tom Luongo says:

      @C:  I respectfully disagree with your position on voting.  Voting is an act of violence at a fundamental level.  Some of us have chosen to not vote because that would be sanctioning the political system as capable of solving the problems we see as having been caused by the political system in the first place.  More of the disease is not the cure.

      I have every right to complain b/c I am a sovereign actor whose life is not dependent on my government.  My rights are.   Gov’t does not secure them for me, it is the biggest abrogator of them. I say this as a veteran of political action at the local and state level.  I will applaud changes to the political system, but I will not partake of it.

      I will only vote for Ron Paul, as he consistently proves the exception to the rule that the worst get on top.

      Ta,

    22. GoneWithTheWind says:

      To Tom L.   I won’t contest your personal observation.  I am not opposed to having chickens and enjoying their eggs.  If the zoning laws allowed it I would have some chickens.  My only disagreement is with the idea that all modern farming and husbandry methodolgy is somehow suspect and “toxic” for your health.  I grow my own tomatoes and as you know home grown tomatoes taste better then store bought tomatoes.  The thing is I know that this is NOT because of a corporate conspiracy to poison me with GMO tomatoes or some other crazy anti-organic reason.  They are just tomatoes, just as chicken is just chicken and eggs are just eggs. 

    23. Tom L says:

      @GWTW:  Fair Enough.  I have little patience for the conspiracy angle on food as well, except that Gov’t subsidy has unleashed powerful economic forces which has altered the food landscape and tilted the playing field towards the larger producers.  People may overstate the effects and/or machinations of companies like Monsanto but that doesn’t mean they aren’t or won’t try to shut out competition in the market… the history is clear that that’s exactly what they do.  

      I have no doubt that chicken growers know exactly how to produce the best egg they can at the price point they know to be profitable. 

      But, to say that an egg is an egg is not true.  Different breeds of chickens produce eggs with subtlely different flavors and composition based on how the animal is programmed to grow.  A Silkie is not a Jersey Giant is not a Cornish/Rock cross. 

      There are fundamental differences in quality and taste of all food based on the environment the food was grown in.   Do you not believe there is a difference between wild game and feed lot raised meats?   If you don’t then I submit you do not know what you are talking about and are simply over-reacting to the extreme portion of the community. 

      Ta,

    24. GoneWithTheWind says:

      There may be a subtle difference between eggs of different chicken breeds but I suspect my blue collar palate cannot detect it.  I have eaten and hunted most wild game including caribou (which is practically inedible it is so bad).  I far prefer beef (feed lot raised beef) over wild game and my favorite cut is chuck.  I love pork, all kinds, chops, bacon, hams, everything.  And Chicken is a joy in that I can make three meals from one chicken (for two people) and I could do this in 12 different ways so that it would never seem monotonous.  I love fish and even enjoy farm raised salmon but I do usually spend the extra money each spring to buy Copper River Salmon for it’s great taste.   In brief I think that the large range of meat (wild and farm raised) and the wide range of personal tastes makes it impossible to get agreement on something this personal.

     
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