One of the ways that I am boosting sustainability at home is by keeping a flock of rescue chickens.
We could, of course, purchase eggs from one of our wonderful local farm shops or suppliers. (There are several great options in our area.) But we are lucky enough to have space for 15 hens or so, and the hens don’t just provide eggs. They also help us in other ways, and are important to my own home-growing efforts.
For one thing – they provide a bountiful source of nutrients to feed the soil and plants.
They also help us to keep pest numbers down as we garden organically.
Keeping chickens is not for everyone. Of course, keeping them does take work. And they are not appropriate for every setting. But if you do have the space, keeping chickens is something I would definitely recommend.
Here are some sustainability tips for those considering keeping them at home:
- Consider getting rescue hens rather than buying some.
We have rescued our girls through the British Hen Welfare Trust, and Wing and a Prayer Hen Rescue over the past five years. Rehoming is not taking place right now due to Coronavirus. But these organisations are options to consider once things improve once more. Think about saving some lives as well as getting some hens to help you on your property.
Chickens on factory farms are culled when no longer commercially productive. But these poor hens can be given a new lease of life, often make a recovery, and usually still give you some eggs. It is amazing how quickly these caged creatures remember ‘how to be chickens’ when given space to range and forage in a garden.
Factory farming should not exist at all. But while it does, we should do what we can to save lives.
If considering keeping chickens where you live, you should of course first think about the basics, including (but not limited to):
- Where they will live.
- What they will eat.
- Providing a source of water.
Sustainable Solutions for Each of the Above
- Consider making your own coop rather than buying one. You could make your own coop from a range of reclaimed materials – from scrap timber, to straw bales. Chicken owners have come up with a huge range of innovative, sustainable and low cost solutions.
You could also do as we did and repurpose a shed (or another existing structure) to create a chicken coop, rather than buying one new.
For chicken bedding, consider using wood shavings from fuel wood sawn on your property, or pruned material processed through a wood chipper if the shavings are sufficiently small. You might also consider using pine needles, shedded dry leaves, or straw rather than buying a commercial product.
- If you have space on your property, growing your own feed for your chickens would be the ideal solution. Most of us, however, will not have space to grow grains. So make sure you buy a sustainable feed, free from harmful crops that were not organically grown.
You can make your own feed using different sustainably grown grains. There are a number of DIY recipes online which share appropriate combinations for optimal chicken nutrition. Of course, this can be much more expensive than buying a typical commercial feed.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to supplement this diet and reduce the amount of feed you need to buy.
- Allow hens to free-range and forage for their own food as much as possible.
- Feed chickens scraps from your vegetable garden/ kitchen.
- Give chickens weeds pulled from your garden.
- Pick pests off crops and feed them to your hens.
- Take up vermicomposting and feed excess worms to your girls.
- Consider breeding mealworms for your chickens.
- Collect duckweed from a pond, dry it, and feed it for a protein rich dietary addition.
When choosing a chicken feeder, opt for a metal or ceramic option, rather than a plastic product.
The same goes for the chicken waterer you choose.
These sustainable solutions are just a few tips for those who are considering keeping chickens and want to do it in as eco-friendly a way as possible.
Need more chicken keeping tips? Please don’t hesitate to get in touch.