Thursday, August 2, 2012

Chicken Envy

I read this article about raising pigs in The Washington Post.  I was struck by this sentence:  "Four years ago, when my husband and I began trying to hunt, gather and grow as much of our own food as possible, we instituted a barnyard rule of one new species per year. Year one, naturally, was chickens — everyone’s introductory livestock. The next year was turkeys. Year three, buoyed by our success with chickens and turkeys, we made an exception and got both ducks and bees."

This year, they're trying pigs, and the article gives fascinating insight into what it takes to get the property ready for pigs.  Even if our neighborhood was zoned for pigs, I don't think I'll be getting one any time soon.  It sounds much too complicated, especially coming up with fencing that's durable.

Now I know that it's possible to keep a pig in one's backyard.  When we lived in Goose Creek, South Carolina, in a not-so-rural neighborhood, we had a neighbor with a pig.  They thought it was a Vietnamese Potbelly Pig--remember when those were all the rage for pets?  Well, they had actually bought something else.  The pig got bigger and bigger, and then the neighbor had a big barbecue, and we noticed that the pig was gone.

I've lately been fascinated with chickens.   Actually, I've been fascinated by chickens on and off through my whole life.  It didn't occur to me that suburban folks could have chickens until my friend who lives in Charlotte, NC got some.  And she got some bees, too, but those also seem too complicated for my current life.

But chickens . . . hmmm.  I've been reading blogs like this one by Ashley English and books like Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that make me want to have a patch of land that would sustain me.  I've always assumed that it wouldn't be the South Florida patch of land that I own now.  In the not-too-distant past (in geologic time), my yard was under the ocean.  It's still more sand than anything else, even after almost 14 years of trying to build the soil.  Sigh.

But chickens would love my yard.  They'd have snails and worms and all sorts of bugs.  We don't have much in the way of traditional chicken predators--do we?  And I know that our neighborhood can sustain chickens; I've heard them crowing at dawn as I've done my morning walk.

I have a friend who yearns for goats, but I worry about their reputed meanness and their destructive nature.  Turkeys and ducks could fly away.  But chickens might be possible.  Would I need to arrange for their care when we travel?  That could be a dealbreaker, at least for now.

During our walk this morning, my spouse and I talked about possible global economic collapse--yes, that's the kind of cheery discussion we often have.  We've paid off our debts. We wonder about investments.  He wants to learn to can.  I think about chickens.  How does one know how to plan for the future in times like these?

It lately occurs to me that I'm dreaming too small.  I assume that I need acres of land in a lush spot to be able to do what Ashley English and Barbara Kingsolver are doing.  But most people don't live in those circumstances.  Maybe there's a market for someone like me to show how it can be done.  Live on less than 1/8 of an acre?  You can still own chickens.  No room in your freezer?  You can still preserve food for later.  Sand instead of soil?  You could still grow some vegetables.

I'd follow such a blog and buy the books.  I bet there are others.

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