Oh the chicken, the flightless bird that outnumbers humankind almost threefold: figures as of 2005 estimate that there are roughly 20 billion chickens worldwide! First domesticated 8,000 years ago in Southeast Asia from the red jungle fowl (Gallus gallus) and the grey jungle fowl (G. sonneratii) chickens undoubtedly are one of the most important domesticated animals to humankind. Not only do chickens provide eggs, a superfood packed with nutrients and protein (important for anyone living a vegetarian or reduced meat lifestyle), they also can be great co-gardeners! With literally hundreds of chicken species across the world suited for specific habitats and egg production, it can be overwhelming for the amateur chicken keeper/gardener to decide if chickens are the right choice. I would like to explain why keeping chickens is beneficial, what kinds of ordinances exist in Albuquerque regarding chickens, and my own experience preparing my dual purpose garden-chicken coop.
Some of you might be asking yourselves at this point: why do I need chickens? I can just go to the store and buy as many eggs as I want,right? And wouldn’t chickens destroy my garden, mocking me with their flightless mischief? While these are all valid questions that I have also asked myself, the benefits chickens have on their environment and your garden are simply amazing. For one, chickens love to eat insects that could pose a threat to your garden. Let me tell you they will literally eat ANYTHING, which means they poop a lot! While that might initially gross you out, don’t fear! Chicken poop is one of nature’s best sources of nitrogen, which is essential to growing vegetables. Coupled with composted kitchen scraps you can easily build fertile and organic soil.
Having your own chickens gives you food security: when the zombie apocalypse breaks out I predict it will be difficult to walk to the corner to buy eggs, but if you’ve got chickens you don’t have to worry! On a more serious note however, knowing where your eggs come from and the condition of the chickens laying them can protect you from large scale food system epidemics stemming from conventional egg production. Many who have researched conventional food production or who have seen Food Inc. know that often times the eggs or meat of sick chickens can be sent to market. Not only that, but you can feel good knowing that you have happy chickens that see the light of day and that you are on the road to becoming more self-sufficient. Last but not least, having eggs in your own backyard eliminates the packaging and carbon emissions associated with store-bought eggs that often travel more than 1300 miles before they reach your plate.
Now that you’re convinced how awesome it is to keep chickens, here is some information regarding keeping chickens in Albuquerque. The basics that you need to know are that it is legal to have chickens in town and that there are many stores that sell them. I won’t go into specifics but with the two links above you will be able to find out all you need.
So now that you’re armed with the right info you need to get started, I will briefly share the last few weeks’ experience I’ve had getting my own garden-coop going. Before I even thought about chicks, I had to get started on making sure I had a safe place to raise a flock. My first task was to repair the old chicken coop that had been collapsing in my backyard. I made sure there was no room in the mesh for predators to enter and set up a heat lamp in the spot I planned to have my chicks. I also built a fence around the coop so that my chickens will be able to get fresh air (and so my goats won’t destroy the garden I’m planning there). Since this is all still a work in progress the fence has not quite been finished.
After the initial prepping I bought my three chicks, Daisy, La Llorrona, and Blair from Miller’s Feed and Supply, which I chose because of its proximity to my house in Corrales. I also bought a bag of non-medicated/additive free chick feed and a simple water container that won’t fall over. After several weeks I bought two more chicks (names are still in the air) and it has gotten warm enough to turn off the heat lamp. Now that the chicks have started to get feathers and explore the coop, I’m looking forward to watching them grow and begin to lay eggs. So that’s pretty much it. I hope this inspired you to start a flock of your own, because if I can do it so can you!
Posted by Justin