16 June 2009

Chickens and food security

I just finished listening to a new audio book - One Second After, a story about what could happen if the United States was hit by an electro magnetic pulse weapon (a nuclear strike designed to knock out sensitive electronics). Communication goes out, vehicles that have electronic starters and components stop working, the power grid goes down. Fixing it takes months or years, not days.

Suddenly, people are not able to just go to the store to get what they need.

The book is a really interesting look at what could happen in a prolonged outage of 'normal services' - there are interesting characters and they find themselves in a difficult situation. The story has a fairly heavy focus on weaponry, but then, it is an American story after all, so that's understandable.

Still, one thing I noticed was that in this story, nobody had any chickens.

Chickens have to be one of the easiest routes to food security I can think of. If a household had say, one or two hens per person, and a rooster, that'd be a guaranteed supply of protein no matter how the rest of the world might go kablooie. Our chickens fend for themselves quite nicely most of the summer, eating bugs and weeds and such, and a little bit of grain or food scraps thrown their way rounds things out for them. A broody hen will give you chicks, some of which are bound to be roosters and therefore stew meat. With a very small investment of feed, you can ensure you've got eggs all year. If grain isn't available, well, chickens are omnivores - they'll eat mice (it's disgusting to watch, I admit), bits of dry bread, the crumbs from your dinner plate, and weeds you can gather in summer and hang to dry for a winter treat.

More and more cities are allowing urban chickens - no roosters, but a few hens can really make a big contribution to your household and with very little effort on your part.

Do you have a chicken in your yard? :)


  1. Anonymous8:25 am

    I see Vancouver allows them and now Toronto is considering allowing urban chickens...They are trying to draft a policy that states just how many you can have and how they have to be contained. I think they are saying no roosters. Too much noise?

  2. Interesting timing in your post! Toronto is having that exact debate. There are some people downtown that have chickens but they are currently illegal - but towns like Niagara Falls have them. So perhaps the city councilors of Toronto need to read that book too!

  3. Yah, roosters are very noisy - the storybooks say they crow in the morning but in reality they crow all day, whenever they feel like it! We had one that crowed in the night ... but he's found his way to the frying pan. :)

    Hens, though, are nice & quiet. They make little happy clucking noises, and they're certainly quieter than a yappy dog ... and you get eggs! One of those chain link dog run type enclosures with a covered spot like a doghouse (for bad weather, night time, and egg laying) is really all they need.

    Edmonton is having a similar conversation now too, I think - you can only keep poultry within city limits if you get permission from the guy in charge of animal welfare or something like that. There's a big discussion right now about 'food security for the city' - there was talk of rezoning some really excellent agricultural land just north of town into housing. Someone pointed out that if the trucks weren't able to come from 'far away' with food, we'd be very sorry to pave that over! Some of the councillors admitted they'd never thought of a scenario like that ... maybe at the next meeting to discuss the proposals someone should hand out copies of One Second After to the council members!


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