(Eggs after the Fall of the Industrial Age)
There is talk amongst certain groups of animal breeders that the smaller, low to the ground, wider framed cows and sheep are the best converters of pasture to milk and meat, rather than the holsteins and the huge framed tall animals of modern breeding, that potentially require far higher inputs and make less profit anyway.
We have certainly seen that with our Dexter cattle.
I’m wondering what information we can all pull together about chickens. Chickens require a lot of protein to produce a lot of eggs or meat. Seeing that industrial farming of both animals and grains is a major part of what is degenerating the earth at this point, I’ve opted out of buying industrial grains for chicken feed, that means both organic and non organic grain.
I’m lucky, I have a son who is a butcher… our chickens thrive on meat scraps from the mincing machine etc. Since they have been eating meat scraps as their only added food apart from 24/7 free range in the forest garden they have laid more eggs, and maintained their health significantly better than on grains. I realise though that not everybody has a son who is a butcher.
What are our alternatives? Let’s look into both genetics and environment.
We currently have the choice of buying relatively modern industrial breeds of chickens, or the earlier pre industrial breeds, called ‘heritage’ breeds. It seems obvious and very clear that the latest industrial breeds need industrial food and living conditions, after all they have been bred for that.
It also seems as though the heritage breeds vary far more in terms of the conditions they enjoy because they have come from or evolved in very different ecological niches. I’ve had quite a lot of experience with chicken breeds over the years, and can see that the heavier breeds prefer the winter and lay better in cool seasons, the light breeds prefer warmer seasons and lay well over the summer rather than winter. Some breeds (usually the light breeds) forage better, some are good mothers and some terrible. Some easy to manage, some harder.
In and around all of that I have seen people let their original flocks go wild and evolve into something quite different.. Into birds that are able to forage for themselves totally, evade hawkes very carefully, and I have seen Bantams that lay less eggs than the best chickens, but a lot more than some, and mature faster (eggs and meat sooner) than most chickens on less food than a heritage chicken…
We have Brown Leghorns and in many ways they are amazing, but watching my Bantams I’m wondering about the potential there is in all of this. I’m keen to hear from all of you who have an idea of what birds and eggs might look like after the age of industrial grains.
If you have experience with chickens of any kind or Bantams that lay well, mature early, and don’t seem to require a lot of feeding, or even none, other than a healthy ecosystem, please leave your comments in this post. I know chickens do not need feeding at all to survive in many situations, but I’m looking for a bird that can survive and lay moderately well without being fed industrial food.
What do you know? Who are your favourites, and why?….
Secondly lets look at environment
I’m realising on a deeper and deeper level all the time that raising carbon levels in our soil (humus) is what brings the endo and ecto mycorrhizal fungi and soil life to burgeon… So the more we can chop and drop and put Ramial wood chip on the ground, or leave dead trees around in our forest gardens, (so long as calcium levels are high enough – needs to be 2000kgs per hectare of available calcium), we will create super active mycorrhizal populations which encourage and support the growth above ground, which leads to high insect populations, (so long as our plants/trees are left to flower and not constantly eaten off short like we do in industrial farming) which in turn encourages bird populations to explode, and depending on the situation possibly even other animal species.
To do this we plant trees who bring minerals from deep down up into their leaves, which are dropped to the ground in Autumn. So long as you have a rough ground surface i.e. long grass or places to hold the leaves in until they start decomposing, building humus and releasing nutrients to the feeder roots of the trees and plants, this will increase insect and fungal populations. And so we end up with the picture of a super alive system, where the humus, the tree roots, the fungi, the cycling minerals, and the insects and birds are all present, connected and working together to regenerate the land and all the other elements that make up this biological system of infinite connections we call Life.
Ultimately the chicken food comes from the insects, the seeds and the greens in the environment that they can scratch around in… and that life is supported by the phosphate amongst other things that are returned to the top soil mantle by the insect and bird manure. It is this phosphate that catalyses the photosynthesis process in our plant leaves, that creates Nutrient Dense Food and builds soil. Each element in this system is supporting all the others.
In nature the numbers of birds and insects go up and down based on the seasons and the annual cycles, and the food available at any one time for any element. If there is a shortage or excess of food then we have population crashes or reversely explosions. In this case, if our birds are chickens it will be critical for us to ensure there are not more birds than a specific area can support, or they could create a desert!
Alternatively we could have the chickens following the dairy cows… the insects are in the cow pats…. but I know most people who have chickens following cows are still feeding them prodigious amounts of industrial grain, so it’s watch this space too. It might just be a matter of way less chickens and eggs that then become something sacred and highly valued.
Everything is connected, we are all part of one whole, our goal must be to create regeneration of all life, and in turn accept the eggs that come from the right chickens in the right environment, no more no less… That may mean a new food culture is formed…We may only have eggs when the insect populations are high… Spring and Autumn… possibly Summer if you have a soldier fly farm.
Back to genetics.. if this is our dream then what would this chicken breed look and be like? Any ideas? All are welcome… We need to get outside the square.