Indeed, before Darwin and the HMS Beagle set out to piss-off the Christian Orthodoxy, chicken breeds were being con-cockled en-masse in eastern Asian and being passed around like currency, which, they effectively were.
One could not design a more perfect animal to relegate to eternal consumption. They require 1/10th of the input for the same amount of beef, and they lay a perfectly sized, complete protein source once per day.
Here’s a chickens 101 to set yourself up:
Step 1 – The Coop:
Chickens require approximately 3 square feet of space per bird, to be able to get themselves off the ground to “roost” (sleep for the night). The coup needs to have a woodchip, straw, or sand floor to absorb droppings.
Despite being jungle birds, chickens’ feathers come in thick enough to let them survive the winter. However their coop must be well ventilated to allow for the release the moisture from the chickens’ breath and droppings, or else the dew collects on their combs and causes frostbite.
The term “pecking order” is no euphemism. Each flock has a head bird which will peck on its sub-dominant bird. This pecking will happen without significant stress and can be increased when the birds are agitated. Pecking is considered cannibalistic behaviour. This is the primary reason for the cage setups one sees in large-scale chicken farms.
Coops also need to take into account the reality of predators on the island – coyotes, fox, hawks, mink, martin, owls, and rats will be lined up at the gates to eat your birds before you do.
Step 2 – Keep Chickens Alive:
Each breed of fowl has a laying cycle. Every 26 hours, a properly fed and unstressed chicken will lay an egg. Unless a rooster fertilizes the hen before laying, and the egg is carefully incubated, it will not begin to mature into a chick. This laying period will also drop off after the chicken reaches 3 years of age. You need to collect these eggs as they are laid or they may be trampled, eaten by other hens, or freeze.
Chickens will eat basically everything you throw at them, however, several plant species are toxic to them – read up first. Their poop is activated nitrogen rich, making excellent compost.
To ensure your chickens don’t become deficient in calcium (required to make the eggshells) you will need to supplement their diet, but you can grind up old eggshells and feed them right back to the chickens. In fact, you can feed the chickens old dead chickens, feathers, and cooked eggs.
The birds require little more than 5 minutes of work a day.
Step 3- Don’t Get Them Taken Away:
In order to legally own said chickens, you must adhere to your town’s bylaws. Many larger towns do not allow chicken ownership.
Most common chicken prejudice is bullshit – they don’t really smell, they won’t wander without a rooster around, are they’re very timid and quite quiet. However, if your neighbours aren’t on board with your sustainability fantasy, your birds may be taken. A CBS woman recently lost her fight with the town to keep a chicken in her backyard. Failure to comply can result in a $1,000 fine or three months in prison.
So read up – owning the wrong bird could wind you up in a cage.