Posts Tagged ‘vegetarians’

You Know The Drill . . .

Friday, April 15th, 2016

Too Many Homeworks! So no new podcast this week. Just wait until summer when I’m taking three classes!

In the meantime, here’s a lovely short film about two boys raising a couple of chickens in Belfast during The Troubles. (There’s a bit of salty language, but it’s in an Irish accent, therefore charming.)

Chickens – Nature’s Compost Piles

Friday, May 24th, 2013

(Broadcast 5/24/2013)

Now that Spring is here, everything has begun to bloom. If you have allergies, you probably noticed this already. My wife and I usually get excited when the weather finally gets nice, go outside, and get so thoroughly attacked by mosquitoes that we wonder why we ever leave the house. But with a little homemade insect repellent (witch hazel and lemon eucalyptus oil) it gets better, and so I can sit outside and take in all of Nature’s glory. For better or for worse, Nature’s glory contains weeds. It used to be that I would just mow them, or ignore them altogether. I don’t take pride in having a pristine lawn, and mowing the lawn actually tends to fill me with existential dread. Oddly enough, weeding doesn’t bother me as much. I actually kind of like it, even though it’s very time consuming. I’ve heard that the hand motions used in weeding are hard wired to some sort of evolutionary rewards center, which is why gardening is so enjoyable. It gets us in touch with our inner chimp. Just keep the dung throwing to a minimum, please.

Did somebody say "dung throwing?"

Did somebody say “dung throwing?”

Aside from any sorts of feelings of getting back in touch with our primacy, weeding is also a good way to supplement your chickens’ diet. We actually get so many weeds that we even have too many for the chickens. Luckily, we also have a compost heap for the overload. I found when they were baby chicks that they loved dandelion greens, but those seem to be pretty popular across many species, save for the homo perfectlawnicus. I’d pull them out, rip them into tiny pieces, and watch those goobers go nuts for greens. It also helps give them variety in their diet, which improves egg flavor. Everyone wins. I’ve read that if you pick the weeds and give them to the chickens, rather than letting the chickens pick the weeds on their own, there is some risk of the weed getting stuck in the chickens’ crops. The crop is where they store their food right after eating, before it heads to the stomach. If things aren’t torn into pieces, there may be a bit of a digestive traffic jam. Like people, you need to take sensible bites. What I usually do is either toss a pile into the run, where they rip them to shreds in a frenzy, or I poke them through the hardware cloth, and again, in the competition for the weeds, they rip them into smaller chunks. The chickens don’t seem so interested in eating the weeds on their own, so I have to do the work of pulling them out, and then do what I can to insure clear crops.

Lawn perfectionists quake with fear.

Lawn perfectionists quake with fear.

Weeds aren’t the only plants chickens like to eat. I have heard chickens referred to as “living compost piles,” as they’ll eat all sorts of vegetable scraps. I prefer to call them “Nature’s compost piles,” since that doesn’t really make any sense, and that’s how I roll. But when the farmer’s markets start opening and I find myself buying more kale than I can handle, it’s nice to know I can give the extra to the chickens as a treat. We’re growing our own kale this year, so I suspect even more excess than usual may find its way into the run. Most vegetable scraps can be fed to chickens as long as they’re raw and oil free. There are a few that are off-limits, so it’s not a bad idea to check online to be sure something is o.k. before tossing it into chicken town. Green potato peels can be bad, as well as the leaves of tomato plants. The list goes on, so be safe, rather than sorry. (Here’s a good list of acceptable treats and things to avoid.)

toxic symbol

Be sure not to poison your birds by accident.

I would be remiss in my duties if I didn’t tell you the one crop chickens excel at eating. As you know, every summer our nation squirms in the grip of what has come to be known as “The Zucchini Problem.” Our gardens, homes, and workplaces sag under the weight of this most prolific of green beasts, and friendships can be strained by being overly generous in an attempt to be free of the surplus. My friends, the chicken is here to help. Last summer, my coworker brought in a crop of zucchinis that were the size of human legs. I brought one home out of politeness, but had absolutely no idea what I would do with it, save for possibly beating an intruder to death. I thought to myself, “well, maybe I’ll cut a hunk off and give it to the chickens.” You may have heard stories about piranhas skeletonizing a cow in seconds. I can assure you that in this part of the world, the chicken is the piranha and the zucchini is the cow. Chickens will skeletonize a zucchini in record time, and act as though they want more, even if it was a small green blimp like the one I had. We do need to be cautious of overfeeding, so let’s not go nuts with our extra veggies. Think of them as treats, and we’re all set. But woe be to the inexperienced zucchini who innocently wanders into the chicken run.

The real green monster

The real green monster


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The Question Everyone Asks

Friday, March 1st, 2013

(Broadcast 3/1/2013)

There is a certain question that people will ask when they find out I have chickens. Well, actually, there are two. The first is usually, “Can I have some eggs?” Depending on who asks, the answer is sometimes yes, but I don’t give these out to just anyone. The other question is usually something along the lines of, “Who’s going to kill them?” This is a pretty terrible question, for a number of reasons. If you’ve listened to me talk about chickens before, I think you’re aware of the lengths I have gone to to keep my birds alive. I hope you at least aren’t going to ask me this, but let’s explore this question.

An obvious answer would be that if I kill them, then I don’t have any eggs. The main thing everyone gets excited about is the eggs. No chickens, no eggs. I get a lot of my food from the grocery store. Would I blow up the grocery store? No. Maybe that’s an extreme analogy, but you need to think about the supply chain here. Say I did want to kill and eat the chickens. (I assume they think I am going to kill them to eat them, or else I need to worry about the people I come into contact with). I can get one or two meals out of one chicken, and then I need a new chicken. Or I can keep getting eggs every day for years, and eat those. I’ve got a pretty good deal going where for very little money I get about a half dozen eggs a day. The cost of eggs vs. the cost of chicken feed is not even a question. Eggs are not cheap, and the ones that want you to think they treat the chickens well are even more expensive. I know my chickens are treated well. And maybe I wouldn’t be buying several dozen eggs a week, but when I have them, I don’t need to eat them. I once saw a post on the internet that said, “Never underestimate what you can trade eggs for.” Sometimes it’s just good will, sometimes it’s something more tangible, but eggs, especially home raised eggs, have a definite value.

I'm rich!

I’m rich!

A larger aspect to why this question upsets me is that I am a vegetarian, and try not to kill anything. We even have a catch and release policy towards bugs in our house. (The mosquitoes the size of small bats that inhabit our area are the notable exceptions). My reasons for this decision are complicated and personal, but a big part of it has to do with not wanting animals to die on my behalf. I don’t wear a scarlet letter V on my shirt, and I generally keep my beliefs to myself, so people probably have no reason to suspect I don’t eat meat. It still seems an invasive thing to ask.

A face only a mother could eat.

A face only a mother could eat.

Taking this line of questioning a little further, someone even once asked me if I’m going to kill them once they stop laying eggs. I think this person must be the type who on the first date talks about what it’s going to be like after the two of you are married. Hold on a minute! You only just found out I have chickens, and now you’re already years in the future speculating about their fertility and what it means to me? Let’s back up a bit. If we look at this solely in terms of what the job of these chickens is, I’ll remind you that we got them to eat the ticks in the yard. That is their first purpose. Eggs are a nice perk, but even after they stop laying, they will still be be able to wander around eating ticks. I’m not going to fire someone because they used to make coffee in the morning when they got into the office, but then stopped. And if we killed everything that outlived its usefulness, we’d have no Congress. (*rim shot*) But these chickens are also our pets, and we don’t kill our pets. The cats haven’t caught a single mouse, but we allow them to live, the least we can do is extend that lax attitude towards job performance to the chickens.

Itchy yet?

Itchy yet?

I actually think some of it may have to do with people just not having much exposure to chickens outside of the grocery store or drive-thru. You don’t think of chickens as a pet-style animal until you meet them and see that they have as distinct personalities as any cat or dog. And it’s true, chickens are generally thought of as a food animal, so I get the reasoning, even if I don’t like it. But please people, we’re trying to have a society here. Let’s have a little tact. The answer is no one is going to kill them. And since you asked, no, you can’t have any eggs.


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