by Patricia Foreman

[This is the first in a series of chicken care articles by guest author Patricia Foreman.]

In 1917, a few years before the Great Depression, Murray McMurray expanded his poultry hobby and love for chickens to found The McMurray Hatchery. His full-time job was helping with the family bank. As the recession accelerated toward the Great Depression money became tighter and jobs dried up. More and more people were getting chickens to use for their food supply, and as barter.

Then, in 1929 the Great Depression hit hard, complete with a run on banks. The McMurray family-owned bank was forced to close. But where one door had closed another opened. The demand for chickens boosted the fledgling Murray McMurray Hatcheries with poultry sales and the opportunity to be a successful and profitable company. Today, the Murray McMurray Hatchery is the largest rare-breeds hatchery in the world.

Fast forward about 90 years to today, and we find ourselves in another Great Recession. Folks are, once again, finding money tight and jobs scarce. Interest in local foods is ever-cresting and the chicken has re-emerged as the mascot of local food supply.

Today urban gardening and agriculture is on the verge of a giant leap forward, ushering in a new — and necessary — era of home and local food production. In order to do this, we need a new vision for the future. Part of this vision is expressed in what we are calling: The Chicken Have-More Plan.

What does the Chicken Have-More Plan mean? It means that by keeping small, family flocks of chickens, and by employing their various skill sets, that all of us can enjoy the benefits of being a little more self-sufficient. And this is self-sufficiency from our backyards to our national boundaries. Below are a few key components of the Chicken Have-More Plan.

1. Promoting and Enhancing Backyard Agriculture

Chickens are important to urban agriculture because of their innate behaviors that can be employed as skill sets (see the attached PDF diagram). Some of these skill-sets include producing nitrogen-loaded manure for fertilizer and creating compost. Other skill sets include being non-toxic, mobile bi-ped herbiciders and pesticiderers. And of course, they also provide eggs and meat that only travel a short distance to your kitchen table.

2. Diverting Food and Yard “Waste” Away from Landfills

Chickens eat food scraps and can help transform yard “wastes” into the organic assets of compost and topsoil. About 25% of all municipal trash collection is biomass. Employing chickens to bio-recycle some of this “waste” can save BIG TIME tax payer dollars from NOT having to be spend funds on trash collection, transportation, transferring, and tipping fees at landfills.

3. Decrease Oil Consumption and Lower Carbon Footprints

Commercial food systems cannot produce or function without oil. A whopping 17% of America’s oil is used in agricultural and, about 25% of this oil is used for fertilizer. Chickens can help America kick the oil habit by decreasing the amount of oil products used in feeding ourselves.

4. National Defense

Whoever controls your food supply controls you. Food supply, or lack of it, has created and destroyed civilizations since time began. Locally produced food helps to guarantee a continuous local food supply and this helps keep America strong and safe.

5. Emergency Preparedness

In times of disasters food can become a matter of life or death. Keeping a family flock of chickens means that — if grocery store shelves are bare — you can still have omelets, and even a chicken dinner if all the food supply lines are destroyed or disrupted.

There is a new book in McMurray book store: City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Creators, Biomass Recyclers and Local Food Suppliers.

City Chicks ushers in a new paradigm of how to use chickens in a variety of roles that help decrease carbon footprints, save tax payer dollars, support local food supply production and enhance national defense and emergency preparedness.

And all this is done in a way that is biologically sustainable, economically equitable, and serves us, our communities, our Earth and the future generations of all beings. City Chicks provides a how-to, hands-on, dirt-under-the-finger-nails, full-nest vision of a complete Chicken Have-More Plan for our times.

We’ll explore more about the Chicken Have-More Plan and chicken skill sets in future blogs.

May the flock be with YOU!

Patricia Foreman