Wednesday, June 15, 2011

my weeding partners (pastured chickens)

The chicks are almost to the age where they can be let out on pasture with the big guys, but not quite. We had a trial run for about 40 minutes and one of the barred rocks was carried off by a hawk. Until we are able to buy a rolling hen-house for trips to the back field, I've devised a contraption to let the chicks graze with me while I'm in the garden. It's a dog crate with the pan at the bottom removed. The weave of the wire is very open and allows grass, weeds, and bugs to come through. As I move through the garden, I move them down the rows with me. The little guys love it! When I'm in the run I set down the crate, open the door and yell, "geeeeet in the craaaate" like a hog caller (it's very funny to hear our youngest try this)they all run in ready to be carried off to the field.

This is our baby turkey; he stays close to my ankles so he's allowed to leave the cage.

Why go through all the trouble? Because we want to get these birds on pasture as soon as possible.

Pastured eggs have • 1⁄3 less cholesterol• 1⁄4 less saturated fat• 2⁄3 more vitamin A• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids• 3 times more vitamin E• 7 times more beta carotene You can read more here

If you're eating eggs that were produced in a factory farm, not only are you supporting tortuous conditions for the hens, but you're not providing yourself, or your family, with the wealth of nutrients nature intended.

Depending on where you live it might take a little time to research who is providing pastured eggs in your area, but it's worth it. Maybe you can care for your own hens? Let your search for good food weave its way into your life. I can't think of many things more important than being an active participant in procuring your own food.

I like the way Farm Forward puts it, "...each one of us is a farmer 'by proxy'* helping to shape the world we live in through the food choices we make." The extra time and money involved in finding foods that reduce animal suffering, decreases the negative effects of farming on the environment, and increase our personal health is actually a good barometer for how much of these animal products we should be eating. There's no doubt the amount needs to be decreased. I like to think of the fair exchange of money between myself and the farmer, or my sweat caring for the animals, as a reminder that these are precious foods. Government subsidies have warped our perception of what should be on a plate every night and what it should cost to get it there. Maybe it's going to be a little less animal product, but you're going to feel good about what's there.

So yes, at first carting juvenile birds around to graze in the sunshine may sound silly, but then you start thinking about it...

*"The idea of “farming by proxy” comes from writer and farmer Wendell Berry, who uses it throughout his writings on rural life, agriculture, and conservation".

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