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SUSTAINABILITY Joy of keeping chickens

Outdoor Living
Keeping your eggs close to home


Growing your own
Chris Brown


IF youa keep poultry you will have to go out and get eggs, with a few possible exceptions, every day. You take out food to the birds and then return to the house with some eggs: a fair exchange, for eggs are wonderful food, packed with protein and vigour. This journey should be as safe and pleasant as can be made possible.
I learnt from Johnny, a roofer from Port Glasgow, never to go up or down a ladder empty handed, as there is always something that needs to go up or down, and the same principle applies to the egg voyage, so the outward bound journey should take suitable kitchen scraps. This is the very best destination for left over food, to feed chickens, which stops this valuable resource from going to landfill.
The link between the food chain and waste disposal has been broken for far too long already and food waste that goes to landfill creates, and wastes, methane gas as it decomposes. Scientists are talking through their own methane makers when blaming cows farting as the main culprit for rising methane levels because when foodstuffs are mixed with other ‘rubbish’ and put into landfill large amounts of this gas are formed. It shouldn’t be happening, and a waste food strategy is long overdue.
Taking hens and ducks their dinner, which in my set-up, takes place as close to dusk as possible. The best bit is going outside in all weathers under a Mayo sky, watching the birds tucking in to their feed. It is a trusty task to undertake and made more enjoyable if another adult and child comes along to keep you company as you serve the birds their meal. The engaging company of a child makes some fun of things. It’s good for children to see the birds and as they watch, all are fascinated by the sounds and smells and look of the ‘chucks’ and ‘quacks.’ It’s a real development of their young senses, and it leaves an impression in a young mind in a way that a little screen in the headset of a car or in a bedroom, can never do.
Towns and cities consume vast amounts of eggs, and as moving stuff around becomes ever move expensive, eggs and egg products shouldn’t travel far. You’d imagine by now we would be seeing signs of neighbourhood food growing programmes; but we aren’t.  City farms, community polytunnels and greenhouses, market gardens, pig houses, compost making and other valuable projects should at least be being researched but there seems little or no sign of this happening. Certainly things to do with local food production have been very slow to get started. And we are going to need them.
In my mind any new housing project should at the very least have a communal poultry shed to go along with it, to serve those wanting to live in those houses and as well have the capability of producing eggs for nearby houses that haven’t the opportunity to construct a hen shed.
Poultry sheds, ideally built from blocks, powered by solar energy and fed by rainwater, could add considerable amounts of food produced and consumed locally, and is perhaps the most straightforward starting point. It would be, in theory at least, the ideal way forward if matters to do with local food production are being taken seriously, but, in my opinion, they aren’t. In recent years Ireland has been importing ready-peeled eggs in buckets from the continent, from birds kept in terrible, cramped conditions. We should improve the welfare of both birds and ourselves, and harvest eggs closer to home.

Next time Food Security

Chris Brown runs Brown’s Farm, a small farm in Louisburgh. He is an advocate of sustainable, natural farming methods and buying local.