The Chicken: Gatekeeper To Sustainability

I was a kid when my chicken fascination started, I always dreamed of living on a working farm, but since that wasn’t an option, raising chickens would have to temporarily quench my thirst for farm life.  From a very early age I started to keep a hatchery magazine by my bed and I would circle all of my favorite breeds. My family were very supportive in this endeavor, my brother helped me make a coop and my mother helped me orchestrate a rescue attempt where we secured 7 roosters from a farm that was up going up for sale. As a little girl I didn’t really care about the eggs... hence the seven roosters, I was just happy I could have my own farm animals.

Today I am free to let my chicken obsession go uninhibited by the barriers of adolescence.  I have all sorts of different breeds and sizes, from Bantam Cochins to the beautiful and hearty Silver Laced Wynadotte’s. To be completely honest with you, there is actually an incubator set up in my bedroom and you can hear the baby chicks chirping through the baby monitor. I don’t have the baby monitor for the chicks... I do have a baby.  What does all of this chicken weirdness have to do with sustainability and making the world a better place?  Well, I think chickens are sort of the gateway to self-sustained living for so many people.  When I was a little girl I didn’t think of my chickens as feathery keys to becoming more green, I just loved chickens. But, when I look back at my progression into learning more about sustainability it was my initial interest in chickens that paved the way.


  I recently read an article that called the chicken the ‘Buy Local’ mascot, what a gain for the chicken! The chicken who gets used and abused in the big business model is put as the mascot for the buy local/small farm folks.  Once I started really diving into the sustainability movement I ran across the Salatin family.  These folks have set the groundwork for alternative farming by producing the Polyface Model, “the farm of many faces.” One of their guiding principles is respecting the individuality of the animal: “Plants and animals should be provided a habitat that allows them to express their physiological distinctiveness. Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig is a foundation for societal health.”  How can we be healthy and happy people if we don’t allow our food to be healthy and happy? 


Recently I butchered three 6 month old roosters that hatched in the spring.  They were three happy roosters who enjoyed exploring our four acres.  Everyday they ran around searching for delicious morsels and sometimes were treated with kitchen scraps.  I had never butchered anything in my life. Up until pretty recently I would have died at the idea of butchering my own chickens, however I had no problem eating mass produced chicken and other meats.  But after reading enough books and watching a few documentaries I realized I needed to stop my own contribution to what I believed to be unethical. I guess the bottom line is that if you disagree with today's food industry then don’t support it, and I truly believe more and more people are choosing alternative ways. So me choosing to serve the three happy roosters for dinner is better than buying a big fat sad chicken that probably never saw the sun. 

To sum it up, my childhood chicken obsession started my family on this path of sustainability, but my eagerness to lead a more wholesome and meaningful life is what has propelled us to continue to make a concerted effort to understand the journey our food takes to get from the pasture to the table.