The Web Cam Doesn’t Lie

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There are a lot of reasons I decided to both become a vegetarian and then to raise chickens. First and foremost, it was about animal cruelty.  What a lot of people don’t realize is that chickens by far live the most tortured lives on factory farms.

There is a better way.  I believe that if more people were allowed into factory farms, to SEE the reality of the horrific conditions, this kind of cruelty would end.

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An Expert’s Blog

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Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of  the HSUS says it best,” Our diet matters. We vote for or against cruelty, and for or against food safety, with our own food choices every day.”  Read his perspective on the latest egg recall.

It’s a weighty matter!

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Who among us has not tried to lose weight at some point in their life? There is the high protein diet, the low fat diet, the cabbage diet, the beet diet…the list goes on. It often seems that unless you are on the high protein diet, eggs are out of the picture. However, research suggests that eating eggs can actually contribute significantly to weight loss efforts. According to a study from the Rochester Centre for Obesity in America, eating eggs for breakfast could help to limit your calorie intake throughout the rest of the day, by more than 400 calories!

If that’s not enough to get you crackin,’ look closely at what a single egg contributes to daily nutrition:

Nutrient Name %DV Nutrient Name %DV
Calories 4% Proteins 13%
Fat 8% Cholesterol 70%
Vitamin A 5% Vitamin D 4%
Vitamin E 2% Thiamin 2%
Riboflavin 14% Folate 6%
Vitamin B6 4% Vitamin B12 11%
Pantothenic Acid 7% Manganese 1%
Calcium 3% Iron 5%
Magnesium 2% Phosphorus 10%
Potassium 2% Sodium 3%
Zinc 4% Copper 3%
Selenium 23% Fiber 0%

 

So trade in your bagel for a couple of eggs!

The Second Time’s a Charm

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After signing up to receive emails from the Oakhurst Community Garden, I received an invitation to attend the Chicken Symposium in Decatur, Georgia in February this year. Six sessions of information on how to raise chickens, egg production, composting information, how to build the perfect coop and more were offered. Most importantly, it would be a chance to ask some lingering questions and spend some time with a few live chickens.

The surprisingly large number of people that attended the symposium looked much like your average city dweller. No one was in overalls (except one of the instructors) or farm boots or smelled like manure. In fact, most of the instructors had “regular” jobs and didn’t live on a farm. These people were interested in growing fresh food without hormones, antibiotics or other nasty chemicals, while at the same time respecting animals and preserving the earth. Brilliant!

During registration, I wrote my name on a slip of paper and dropped it into a bowl.

There are a huge number of absolutely beautiful breeds of chickens in existence.  Some have feathered feet, some have feathered heads that look like dusters, some are small enough to keep in large indoor aquariums! A variety of breeds were presented in this session of the symposium, but my preference in breed was still very basic: friendly, hardy, egg layer.

Chicken Coop building ranges from a trash can turned upside down to a full blown poultry Taj Mahal! Chickens need protection, a place above ground to roost, and food and water. Lots of ideas on what my coop would look like swirled through my head as I listened to the instructor talk about building his own coop. One thing was sure: A good portion of the coop would be created from recycled or found materials in the basement leftover from renovating my antique house.

Maintenance of chickens is fairly minimal. As a chicken owner, you must gather eggs daily. Cleaning can be done periodically depending on how the coop is built, and the time it takes to feed and water is dependent on the types of containers purchased or built. It seemed about 5-10 minutes a day would be spent caring for the chickens and longer periods of time, but far less frequent, cleaning out the coop.

3-Day old Baby ChickAll the information gained at the symposium was extremely useful. However, I was still not ready to move forward. My mother was going through cancer treatments. Would I have time to do this?

At the end of the Chicken Symposium, an instructor drew names out of that bowl and, for the second time, I won something related to raising chickens! It wasn’t a bag of chicken feed this time…it was six three day old chicks. The decision was made!

Raising Chickens Can Increase Email Volume!

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On Monday I was VERY popular! About a dozen emails from friends who wanted to share the Egg Recall story arried in my inbox. (550 MILLION eggs have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella.  Read the official FDA press release.) In the beginning, some of these friends rolled their eyes at the idea of backyard chickens. Some just accepted it as another animal adventure with the city chick. Without a doubt, at this moment in salmonella history, ALL are now very interested in my fabulously fresh and delicious eggs!

Raise your own chickens for the freshest eggs!So what happened to cause this egg problem? While the answer can be found in many lengthy books on factory farming, in short, 90 percent of our eggs come from factory farms where hens are shoved into a cage with no more room than sheet of paper, their beaks cut off, living in their own manure and are pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. Top that off with a side of ineffective and inefficient government regulation.  Bottom line: sick and tortured chickens = bad eggs and bad meat….not to mention bad karma and ethical and environmental concerns. But I’ll get off my soap box…

It seems that lately our food supply has been in question on a regular basis. What’s a person to do?  One (that being me) would like to think that going vegetarian would be the answer.  But even our mass produced veggies are covered in muck or chemicals.

Since this blog is about the delightful chickens in my backyard, my recommendation would be to raise your own chickens for eggs.  You then know what goes in them, how they’re treated and how tasty, and more importantly SAFE, their eggs are!  Sadly, everyone can’t have chickens.  So here is a really great article about how to buy “healthy” eggs.  If you can’t buy eggs from a neighbor or local organic farmer, at a minimum you will have a basic education on what’s available at your local supermarket.

Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies

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Lots of egg whites are handy for this recipe. One gram of protein in each cookie!

Ingredients

3 egg whites
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C).

Combine egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla. Beat until the whites form soft peaks. Slowly add sugar; beat until stiff peaks form, and mixture becomes glossy. Fold in cocoa and chocolate chips.

Drop mixture by teaspoonfuls on to a greased cookie sheet. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes.

Nutritional Information

Servings Per Recipe: 18, Amount Per Serving  Calories: 47 | Total Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 0 mg

I NEVER Win Anything

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My first class on Raising Chickens at Oakhurst Garden took place in the Fall of 2009. Andrew Wordes, who has made a name for himself fighting city council to keep his pet chickens in Roswell Georgia, taught the class. He explained the difference in chicken breeds, how to hatch them from eggs, raise them from various stages of life and spoke of all the benefits of having chickens. He spoke about their housing and feeding needs and what was required on a daily basis to keep a flock of chickens happy. I was touched by this man. He truly loved his birds!

Notice that blue bag of Layena chicken feed I would win shortly after Andrew taught us about chicken health and happiness!

Two pretty important questions needed to be asked. How long do the chickens lay eggs? And how long do they live after they stop laying? As a vegetarian, I could not kill these animals, so how long they would be pets only was important. It turns out chickens can live for QUITE a while – ten, fifteen, even twenty years in optimal circumstances. Hmmmm, that’s a big commitment! The proud owner of five rescues, two cats and three dogs, commitment wasn’t a problem for me thus far. But chickens are not dogs or cats. Would they respond to humans in the same way? It was something to consider.

As the class was ending, Andrew directed us all to look at the number written at the top of the handout we received when we arrived at the Garden. A little girl was asked to pull a number out of a hat, and it was lucky number seven. Guess who won a bag of Chicken Layer feed? While I was pretty excited, as I NEVER win anything, Oakhurst Garden received a donated bag of chicken food that day!

Immediately after the class, I purchased the book Chicks in The City. Still very much intrigued by the idea of raising chickens, this book would guide my decision one way or the other…

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Check out pictures from Oakhurst Garden!

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