A Chicken Named Dog

Adventures with a Flock Family

Month: February 2013

The magnificent chicken

After a weekend of sadness (Goat, a large Auracana hen, succumbed to illness–RIP Goat), I thought it would be nice to celebrate the diversity and beauty of the chicken.  These photographs come from the work of Tamara Staples, whose two books of chicken glamour shots is certainly worth a look.







Avoiding “Killer Compost”

Real Compost

Real Compost (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As previously noted, we go to significant lengths to obtain organic straw and haw.  There are three very good reasons (two of which are ultimately part of the same reason):

  1. Non-organic straw and hay have been directly linked to allergic burns and rashes on our skin
  2. Our chickens and ducks eat the straw and hay, and we eat their eggs
  3. The straw and hay become compostable matter which goes directly into our garden–and we eat the garden products

So, whether the straw and hay intersects with our skin or other organs, what we introduce to the garden becomes a part of us.

So, we hook up the trailer and drive the 25 minutes to into the hinterland to a farm committed to organic growing.  His straw and hay is a bit more expensive, but thus far we have had no allergic burns, and we are optimistic that our compost will be “clean” as well.

MotherEarthNews.com has an update to an earlier story about “killer compost”–compost that once put in the garden or around plants, proves toxic to those plants.  The story, “Killer Compost Update: Herbicide Damage Still a Major Problem,” details how “persistent herbicides” refuse to break down, traveling from ground, through animal, through compost to the end-user, killing the very plants that the compost was supposed to nourish.  Persistent indeed.

The article outlines some very specific persistent herbicides found in toxic compost in Vermont last year (2012): picloram, clopyralid.  Since these are regulated and controlled, the researchers asked the Vermont Agency of Agriculture who was using these chemicals.  No one, legally, was using them for the prior two years.

Digging deeper, the researchers isolated the source not to the compost, but to the feed given to the horses from which the compost was made.  The herbicide had made it through the cutting of the field (which was the initial source of the spray), through the industrial feed/food manufacturing process, through the horses’ digestive system and through the composting process.  That includes cutting, processing, digesting and composting (which involves heat), and the persistent virulence of the product remained intact to the point of killing (it is a herbicide after all) the plants on the receiving end of the compost.

We will continue to make our own compost, with our own birds (they are fed organic feed) and unsprayed straw and hay.  We may not be completely clean (overspray from neighboring farmers may result in incidental cross-contamination–but hopefully in minute parts/(m)(b)illion), but I trust our birds to peck, scratch and lay cleanly.  And, as spring nears, their bedding will become a positive addition to our tomatoes, squash and sunflowers.

If, after reading the article linked above, you wish to act, I encourage you to follow the articles prompt and write to the following:

This has to stop. Clearly, EPA labeling requirements and state regulations aren’t working. Recycling organic wastes to maintain soil fertility is essential if we want a sustainable food-production system. Picloram, clopyralid, aminocyclopyrachlor and all similar chemicals should be banned, period.

To express your view on the use of these persistent pesticides, we suggest you send your comments to Richard Keigwin, director of the EPA’s Special Review and Reregistration Division, at keigwin.richard@epa.gov.

Chickens love running water in the cold weather

I have previously wondered how hardy our “cold hardy” chickens are during this colder-than normal winter.  One of the methods that we are experimenting with this year is continued running water.  Well, the real reason the water is running is that we did not have the

Artesian Well in Winter

Artesian Well in Winter (Photo credit: Tom Gill.)

foresight/resources/time to dig the electric water pump below the frost line, so we have had to scramble to erect a shelter (think pallet walls with a tarp, lean-to roof–Rachel calls it a manger) to provide some measure of protection from the elements and to trap the little heat from the heat lamps.  We have also had the pump running since November–not the most economical fix, and a spring/summer project to be sure.

Since we have the pump running, we have two open lines of continuous water, one hose going to the Drake House and one stretched the length of the garden to our older bird community (see the page “what the flock?“).  The drakes love the water, dropping down from above into their small, rubber bath (I think it is actually a small horse trough) allowing them to take a dip at any time with fresh water.  In fact I was worried about having water available to them through the winter cold, but since the water out of the well is around 40-something degrees, it is actually warmer than the ambient air, and certainly warmer than the frozen ground.  So I have found them standing in the overflow water that streams out of their coop.  I think their feet like the warmth.

With the other hose, we have used the running water to melt the snow pack in the dog run (we have a “dog run” for the chickens because of other peoples’ dogs–6×8 cyclone fence panels shaped in a sort of hexagon) which allows the hens access to unfrozen dirt.  We have also noticed that they too like to stand in the running water.

So, if you chickens get cold feet, just run a hose.  🙂

Tonight’s low will be 9 degrees Fahrenheit.

Burger King Is Selling Horse Meat Instead of Pure Beef

People have often asked me why I am so diligent with my chickens, why I care so much about what I eat or my family eats, why I even worry about things like our food supply.  In our very uncertain world, there is much to be uneasy about, but I feel that when possible, our food should not be listed in that anxiety quadrant.  Enter the new flap about Burger King in the UK, the fact that Burger King is selling horse meat as part of its hamburger patty:

Burger King has faced allegations of orchestrating a cover-up of its links to the horsemeat scandal in order to give it time to find an alternative supplier.

It is currently shipping in tens of thousands of burgers from suppliers in Germany and Italy in order to meet demand at its UK outlets.

It is known that the management at Silvercrest has been using a series of non-approved ingredients in their burgers for a range of household name brands.

These included meat off-cuts, including horse, that were imported in large frozen blocks from Poland.

The contamination has been going on since at least last May and potentially for up to one year, according to evidence presented to MPs earlier this week.

Tonight Burger King abandoned its earlier denials, saying: ‘Four samples recently taken from the Silvercrest plant have shown the presence of very small trace levels of equine DNA.

 One might wonder whether it really matters what type of ruminant we are consuming when eating hamburgers, because hamburgers aren’t really made with pork after all, but usually beef.  I think the crux of the issue is that people don’t know what they are eating, and that bothers them.  I like to know what I am eating. I like to know what my family is eating and where it has come from. I want to know that my food doesn’t have extra chemicals, or maybe pink slime, that McDonald’s used to use.
CafeMom spoke with a McDonald’s representative about pink slime:

For starters, that pink slime photo we’ve all seen online is a fake. “It is actually a meat production plant in China that we don’t even use,” Jan said. She also said that ‘pink slime’ has never been used in McDonalds’ chicken nuggets.

“Our chicken nugget is a piece of chicken,” she told me. “It’s a whole muscle chicken. I’ve been to the plant. I’ve gone all the way from ‘the chicken’ to ‘eating the nugget’ process and there’s nothing added to it. There’s the breading, of course. The chicken is formed, cut, and then it goes through the breading process and then a freezing process. There is nothing ever added.

Pink slime (which is technically called ‘boneless lean beef trimmings’) has been used in burgers by fast food restaurants and in hot dogs, but early this year, many major chains including McDonalds, Taco Bell, Kroger, and Burger King, announced they would no longer carry products that use BLBTYou can read more about the facts vs. fiction regarding pink slime on Snopes.com.

Aside from kind of gagging to myself at “whole muscle chicken” pieces deep fried or breaded, which I wouldn’t eat regardless of whether or not we kept chickens, there is an huge uncertainty about what is in our nation’s food supply.  Keeping chickens, for us, is a way to reclaim that certainty about what we eat, what we feed our families, and being able to be sure our bit of consumption avoids factory farms, or unintentionally eating horses, or unintentionally consuming ammonia, which is part of the pink slime derivative.

Are there others out there like us, who really have taken up chickens so that they know what they eat, what they feed their family?  If so, we would love to hear from you. What else do you do to find out about where your food comes from?

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