You think you’re doing the right thing, and then you find out that it was all a lie…. Then you try something else out, only to find out that that wasn’t what you thought it was either! It’s all marketing, and it’s a nightmare. I’m talking about food, products, anything that they use to pull the wool over our eyes, in the name of the economy. But food is a big one, and everyone has jumped on the Eco-Band-Wagon. How do you find the motivation to keep trying to buy the more ethical foods, when you keep finding out they’re not really that ethical afterall?
So many people are surprised when I tell them that “Free Range” isn’t all that it seems. It is in some cases, but in others, it’s just a big loop hole. There may be an outdoor area, but the chickens don’t necessarily get to go in it. And, “Barn hens” have no more space then battery hens, but they are drugged and have their beaks clipped, so they don’t peck each other. Yes, battery cages have recently been massively improved, but they are still creatures in cages. (A good book on the subject is “Eating Animals” by Jonathan, Safran Foer) My solution is to keep my own hens.
I picked up my 6 choocks from the British Hen Welfare Trust last week. The BHWT maintains relationships with large scale battery and barn farmers, and adopts the hens when they are past their prime, and the farms will otherwise send them off for slaughter. When they get a batch of hens in, they call everyone (like me) on their waiting list, and I ask a friend to help me pick them up in exchange for jam, chutney, and a future box of eggs.
So now I have 6 semi-bald, ex-barn chooks. I am in love with them, and i’m not at all embrassed to admit it! They have gone from being terrified and barely leaving their house, to running around after me, in just a few days. It is a beautiful thing to see these creatures, who have had such a horrific start to life, discovering grass and dandelions, and worms and bugs, and foraging around in the bushes and under the trees. I sit in the garden, singing John Denver songs and playing guitar, and they come over to see me and show me some appreciation. They are my biggest fans! One of my ladies, (Mary Poppins) is like a naughty little child. I put my daughter to bed at 7.30, and then I go to put the chooks to bed. They are all in their house like good little girls, except Mary Poppins. She doesn’t mind me picking her up, and I put her into a nesting box, and it’s as if she just wants to have one last cuddle before bed. Her behaviour is quite similar to my daughter actually…
I’m feeding the chooks Ex-Bat pellets, which I will ween them off gradually, and i’m making relationships with a number of shops in town, to adopt all of their out of date food. I also have a whole bunch of neighbours who know what kitchen scraps they should and shouldn’t chuck over the fence. I’m not worried about them being effected by the arsenic in my soil, because I will be feeding them so much from elsewhere, but that’s a whole other topic that I could rant about for too long. I’ll do an arsenic update another time!
Lesson for the week: Chicken poo is huge! It’s like a small dog poo. This is not something I had expected. It’s a good surprise though – I need as much new, uncontaminated soil as I can get, so I am collecting it to fertilize my plants, which I am now growing in pots, bags, and an old bath tub a neighbour gave me.
So my chooks are eating all of my neighbours and my kitchen waste, and producing really really happy eggs, and clean, uncontaminated compost for my garden. They give my daughter and I so much pleasure, and I hope we do the same for them. They deserve it. So maybe you can understand, why I truely love them so much. They are part of the ecosystem of my home.