Chicken Fun!

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There were two fatalities in our family this morning. The second and third this week. My father was sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee this morning as I stumbled in. When he told me the news, I asked what he did with the bodies? He said that he buried them... in the compost. Poor chickens.

Last week we got our first ever shipment of chicks. Two different types, fifty meat birds and eight laying hens. They came in a box, chirping away. The little yellow balls of down slept in the basement for the first seven days. We formed a pen out of cardboard and filled it with wood chips. The smell got to be so atrocious that cleaning was a constant chore.

The idea of a chicken farm came from many ‘bad’ influences. It was first fostered by my best friend’s stepfather. He lives on Salt Spring Island and has a wonderful farm, growing everything from squash to cedar trees to, yes, chickens. He first convinced my father that tree farms are the second best money making endeavor after the stock market. Then, after my mother and I shut down that idea, the chicken farm idea was born.

The idea was formed, and the protesting had only just begun. We tried everything to convince my father not to wish for chickens. We would have farmers over for dinner, hoping that the experienced eye would help the amateur see. This only seemed to make things worse. One farmer ended up ordering the chicks for us. I guess you could say that idea backfired.

When I learned that I had been accepted to a summer leadership program, I decided to jump on the band wagon. We turned just about any roofed building on our property into a chicken shed, and decorated with laying shelves and chicken wire galore. Our wood shed, our horse shelter, our storage shed and our basement all belong to the chickens now. We even built an additional shed and chicken run for the laying hens to spend the winter in.

Why shouldn’t we raise chickens? How hard can it be? It is in most of our blood! My grandfather was raised on a chicken farm in the prairies. His family would receive five hundred chicks in the spring every year and, because there was no electricity on the farm, they would leave them in the family room for the first fourteen days under the wood stove. Then they would move out to the chicken shed where they would stay until the warm weather, when they would go outside until the fall. Once they reached their prime my grand father and his family would sort the males our for slaughter and keep the females as laying hens to provide fresh eggs all winter long.

I see our endeavor as a simple contribution to a constantly improving environmental community. Gardening is becoming more and more popular in town and all throughout the valley. Simply stop by the Art Station and see the marvelous exhibit on the many local gardening legends. The community garden is a marvelous plan and with its central location, raised beds and involved participants, it makes gardening a pleasure rather than a chore. The majority of local businesses are taking steps to decrease their carbon footprint by buying local products to support their ventures. We even have an active local project called Advocates for Local Living (http://www.allfernie.ca/) that not only focuses on an environmentally conscious community but a thriving local economy. I am proud to be part of a community that is crossing all sorts of roads and I know that together we can make it to the other side!

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