So now what? Give up my dream of alternative barnyard companionship and a readily available protein source? Of course not! The answer lies, my friends, in our favorite fowly friend: the chicken. Ah, gallus domesticus. How have you gotten such a bad rap? A quick thesaurus search brings up synonyms to your given name like ‘cowardly’, and ‘scared’. Not to mention the foul use of the venerable fowl terms cock and chick. But I digress. It seems, chickens, your time has come.
The recent increased attention to the importance of eating locally has paved the way for you, fowly friends. You see, unlike cows, you can live in the city. And not just one of you – but a few of you. Which is important, because as we all know, chickens are community-minded birds and live together as a flock. The urban chicken movement is growing, and the more I read about it, the more I’m on board.
There are numerous health, environmental, and humanitarian reasons for raising your own chickens, including less food miles, assurances of no hormones or antibiotics, and decent living conditions for the chickens.
I also think having backyard chickens can really serve to create a sense of community. Too often we’re unaware of where our food comes from. Growing up in the suburbs (see previous post on suburbia for a scathing critique), I’m ashamed to say I had no knowledge of where my food actually came from beyond the doors of the local Safeway. Growing your own vegetables and fruits is one way to get in touch with the land, but keeping animals, including chickens, is an important means of feeling like you’re really a part of your greater community, with a sense of responsibility and humility to the land and the creatures on it. One of my favorite quotes states, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect” (Chief Seattle). Allowing a greater connection between the sources of our sustenance and ourselves can only bind us closer within this web we are all a part of.
In mid-January, Vancouver’s food policy council (an independent body that advises city councillors on food and agricultural issues) voted to formally float the issue of allowing Vancouver residents to keep chickens. For more information on this, check out: http://ffcf.bc.ca/NewSiteFiles/programs/farm-city/urban-chickens.html. And hey, next time you’re enjoying a (hopefully free-range) chicken dinner, I encourage you to think about where it came from.