A phrase I have read on numerous forums regarding chickens goes as follows, “If I had known how easy and fun it was to keep chickens, I would have done it years ago.”
This is spot on. Chickens, especially a small flock of hens only, are clean, quiet, cheap, productive and a load of fun to have around. Today I’d like to discuss where they fit into my self-sustainability plans.
This has been a long and really interesting journey and probably started with my first interest in Aquaponics almost 5 years ago. I found the concept of a closed-loop food production system intriguing but questioned the blinkered approach of the purists in this industry. Aquaponics, despite being a really cool way to produce food still seemed overly reliant on technology, power and it was also expensive to build and maintain. Also, over time, minute nutrient deficiencies developed and had to be supplemented by artificial inputs.
At this time I really started researching a more holistic approach to home food production and delved into composting, mulching, permaculture, worms, food forests and heirloom seeds. It was only after my chickens had joined the mix that I started getting a really comfortable feeling that, at last, my system was complete.
It was not the first time that I had incorporated chickens. A client, for whom I built a commercial system, suspended his chickens directly over his Tilapia ponds, a practice I subsequently strongly disagreed with. Keeping my own chickens now has enforced this view even more. Not only was it extremely unhealthy and potentially fatal, but also particularly cruel to the chickens, even if they only spent short periods of time over the tanks.
Here is a short description, in point form, of what I believe is an extremely productive, environmentally friendly, sustainable method of producing food on a micro to commercial scale.
- Extensive soil preparation and conditioning.
- Zero Till thereafter.
- Extra deep mulching.
- Composting, with and without worms.
- Design using permaculture principles.
- Chicken kept for litter (mulching), eggs and meat.
- Aquaponic system used to produce fish and supply nutrients for seedlings and out-of-season vegetables in a greenhouse.
- Use of heirloom seeds only.
- Zero pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
- Companion planting.
I don’t think I have all the answers, but nature itself is teaching me some valuable lessons. When you do something right, you are rewarded with a cheap, bountiful harvest. When you fight against nature, your results are disappointing and expensive.