let’s talk chicken

So, some of you know that the other day I had a chicken walk into my house. My living room, to be exact. I asked him to leave. Yesterday, I had two walk through the front door as I was unloading groceries. Me thinks they’re getting a bit too comfortable around TexasNorth.

Having chickens for the past 2+ years has been an unexpected super-fun journey. They’re awesome. We certainly didn’t plan to have chickens, but they’re here to stay now.

Our chickens are free range. This, at TexasNorth, means they are cage-free and wander outside in the pasture from dawn until dusk. At dusk, they roost in the chicken coop and I shut their doors to protect them from things that go bump in the night. This also means, at TexasNorth, that the chickens have their beaks and un-clipped wings. It also means, at TexasNorth, that they are fed a mash supplement to assist with calcium levels (which is needed for the eggs’ shells). I’m not convinced this is necessary yet, but I’m also not convinced it’s not. For now, it’s available to them. It’s also fun for Rylie to throw at them, and that makes it worth it.

I say ‘at TexasNorth’ because not all free-range, organic, cage-free products are created equal. The hobby farmer is not the norm these days, though he is enjoying some awesome popularity again. With the decrease of family farming, bigger farms have taken up the production slack… often resulting in huge specialty farms. Pig farms. Or chicken farms. Or vegetable farms. Or onion farms. And with big farming often comes the inability to control everything the way they’d/we’d like it… because they have to keep the trucks rolling. It’s not their fault. It’s a combination of problems. Space, time, interest, money… they’re all problems. And every farm deals with them differently.

Many of you have a healthy understanding of where your food comes from and its contents. You care. You pay attention to studies and surveys. You enjoy baskets from your local farmer’s market. I love it. I just want to encourage you, above all else, to know your farmer. Honestly. That person behind the market stall is the most important thing you can know about your food. Labels like organic and fair and free are a suggestion of direction, not a guarantee of quality. Wait. Am I talking about polictics here? Hmmmm.

I’ll say right here and now that my possibly non-organic eggs are better than any supermarket’s of equal comparison. I love my chickens. I think they’re hilarious. I like them so much I’m willing to scoop out their stinky coop mulch every couple months to keep it smelling nice (and my flowers blooming lover-ly). I’d be willing to bet they’re happy here. They lay some seriously good, seriously neon-orange-yolked eggs. It will be the same with our cows and their meat. I have no idea, however, whether we will ever be certified organic. I don’t like filling out paperwork and it’s gonna be tough to pass that test with creosote fence posts.

It’s the relationship… the knowing who’s growing the food that’s feeding your family. Meet these people. Walk their farm. See what they’re like. Are they kind? Are they diligent? Are they passionate? Are they funny? Do they dress cute? It’s simply not enough to buy the label. Labels mean less and less these days. They’re a great place to start, but they can tell very little about a product and even less about the people behind it. Be (more) intentional about what you’re doing. what you’re buying. what you’re eating. There are so few things you can control in this world! This is one of them! Go for it.

Some links for you to find good farm friends (yell if you have more):

Just in case you need it, here are some reasons truly free-range eggs (as compared to supermarket eggs) are good for you:

• 1⁄3 less cholesterol
• 1⁄4 less saturated fat
• 2⁄3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene
(from Mother Earth’s Chicken and Egg page)

And here’s everything else you’d ever want to know about an egg: egg facts.

And that’s enough (for today) about that.
I love you guys.

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About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), 1 barn cat, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. View all posts by texasnorth

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