About this blog

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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Chickens

Many of our friends, when we talk to them about our self-sufficiency project, seem to expect/want/insist that we keep chickens. We're not sure why this is. It's as if the concept self-sufficient includes chicken-keeping as a defining feature and the idea of doing one without the other is incomprehensible.


Chicken pic borrowed from Lousia

So do we want to keep chickens? Well, no. The conversation with enthusiastic friends goes like this, You must keep chickens. But we don't eat very many eggs. You can find lots of uses for eggs if you put your mind to it. Let's just follow the logic there. Our hypothetical chickens are producing more eggs than we want, so we have to find new ways of using the eggs. Remind me why we're getting the chickens, again?

Another line is, “Eggs are very useful for trading.” At this point I explain that my aim is to provide for our own needs, not to be a farmer. For some people swapping eggs for other goods is so different from selling them that this distinction is difficult to get across. Maybe bartering is also an essential part of their self-sufficiency concept.

Friends who keep a few chickens themselves can be very enthusiastic about how much fun they are to have around. I've no doubt this is true, but this is very much treating the birds as pets. I don't have a problem with this, but we have one cat, who causes quite enough trouble on her own, and we can't afford to keep any more pets.

Economically, there's no case for keeping chickens for the eggs. They need housing, fencing in and feeding, all of which costs money. If we got quite a few birds, we might sell enough eggs to cover the costs, but that would be farming which, as I've already mentioned, is not really what this is all about.

There's also the question of what happens when they get old and stop laying. From a farming point of view, the sensible thing to do would be to kill them for meat (though the meat from such birds isn't terribly good) but I'm sure if I kept chickens they'd be pets by that time, and I just couldn't bring myself to kill them, so they'd continue their lives as pets, needing feeding and looking after, not producing any eggs at all.

I can see good reasons for other people to keep chickens, as pets and for extremely fresh eggs, but not for us. Ian doesn't even like eggs.

2 comments:

  1. Well, chooks have other byproducts as well as eggs. Their poo is a wonderful addition to your compost heap and will help feed the garden. And they're very good pest control - you can run them under fruit trees and bushes in the winter time to grub and munch all the overwintering baddies. And you can feed slugs to them. If you keep them for these purposes then you don't need to cull them when they get old - in fact, for you, less egg-laying could be seen as a bonus. A trio of bantams would provide these functions, without needing much space.

    Whatever you decide about the chickens, good luck with your project.

    Carrie :-)

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  2. Hello Carrie,
    Yes, I've heard about all those benefits, too. I've also heard they scratch up all your precious young seedlings, given half a chance ;-)
    We met up with a group of friends in November, one of whom has chickens. She brought a basket full of eggs for us all. The fact that she had so many spare was the deciding factor for me - we really don't need that many eggs!
    Thanks for your comment :-)
    Rachel

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