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Posted on Mon, Apr 19, 2010 : 7:35 a.m.

Backyard chickens make my eating life easier

By Corinna Borden

Borden - chickens in the laying box

Our girls tolerate minimal intrusion while they are laying. One can elicit quite a squawk if hands get too close.

Corinna Borden | Contributor

At first glance this statement might seem counterintuitive. How in the world can taking care of chickens make my eating life easier? They have to be fed and watered, the coop needs to be opened and closed so they can exercise, and we have to corral volunteers to collect eggs when we are away.

Our chickens spend their entire day scratching, eating, bathing, and looking for ways to escape (which has happened - thank goodness for patient neighbors). And yet, keeping chickens makes my eating choices easier the same way planting my own lettuce makes my eating world easier.

When I say eating world, I mean my decision to eat consciously. I have always been a vegetarian leaning, salad-munching hippie, and then I started reading. I found Animal, Vegetable, Miracle easier than reading Fast Food Nation. Fast Food Nation makes me want to hit walls and scream. (Interesting how both titles create tripping triad of treble words on my tongue.) Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was a clarion call. A trumpeting herald shouting to me that I can choose foods that are grown locally and in a manner harmonious with my values.

But boy, that decision has certainly been interesting the more one learns. And I am by no means 100 percent strict about this. I prefer Wilde’s edict - “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” But still, I try.

Part of that effort was a seven-month campaign to research keeping chickens before we actually committed to purchasing them. Though when they actually arrived, I felt like I was once again a first-year teacher. Nothing I read could have prepared me. Like so many of the good things in life (marriage, friendships, having children - I hear - and keeping pets) after taking the plunge, the fun becomes the experience.

The chickens evolved from fluff balls pecking my freckles with pencil taps to ladies equipped with sharp arrows for beaks that gouge my legs. When we walk out to their area, they come waddling out to greet us. I found our dog likes to eat chicken feces, and the only way to get it out of his fur is to cut it out. The dog still likes to visit the chickens in their cordoned area (he has feces to find). The cat avoids the whole scene.

Borden - Cat looking at baby chicks

Our cat started out very curious, yet, as the chicks have grown into layers, that curiosity has abated.

Corinna Borden | Contributor

And yes, the eating part. There is nothing easier than grabbing a warm egg from the laying box, cracking it open, and taking two minutes to cook it. Eggs can go on top of toast, oatmeal, salad, hamburgers, polenta, pasta, rice, etc. - they are key ingredients in lots of baking recipes. After the initial investment, eggs are an accessible cheap protein. They are always there in the back garden waiting to be collected and eaten.

Michael Pollan mentioned at the recent fundraiser that we no longer think of foods as foods and instead think of them as a collection of nutrients. So I will address cholesterol. According to Mayo Clinic, if you are healthy they recommend you eat less than 300 mgs of cholesterol a day. A large chicken egg yolk has about 219 mgs of cholesterol.

Before you stop eating egg yolks, here is another piece of information for you. 90 gms of most meats (lamb, goose, duck, chicken, steak, turkey) have about 80-90 mgs of cholesterol. A “normal” portion of meat is 90 gms, about 3 ounces, about the size of a deck of cards. I find it very difficult to find those “normal” portions when out and about and even hard to stick to when eating at home.

So I eschew most other forms of meat protein and I eat our eggs. I know exactly how the animals are treated and what they are eating. I know they are living their chicken lives in the fullness of what that means in the pullet-world. Though the word locavore strikes me as sounding a bit like a helmet design, these eggs define the term and, bonus, they are delicious.

Corinna works with the Westside Farmers Market and writes about many things.



Tue, Apr 20, 2010 : 8:03 a.m.

Much of the human brain is made of cholesterol. We'd die without it. I'm not terribly convinced that this jihad against cholesterol is a good thing. One of these days I'll get around to setting up a chicken coop. And rabbit hutches. I wonder if our city government overlords would let us raise rabbits? Meat rabbits are supposed to be fairly easy to deal with.


Tue, Apr 20, 2010 : 7:52 a.m.

One has to read book ilke Fast Food Nation or michael pollan's books critically, and try to figure out the assumptions behind why the author writes what he does. Fast Food Nation is written by a person who doesnt not believe in the American free market system, and hence to him, everything McDonalds or Burger King or taco Bell, etc does is evil, and unhealthy etc.


Mon, Apr 19, 2010 : 2:12 p.m.

most of that book says is hogwash, and I am saying that as someone who is more or less a vegetarian


Mon, Apr 19, 2010 : 8:43 a.m.

You will feel a lot better, when you realize that a lot fo the "facts" presented in Fast Food Nation, are hyperbole and fiction, at best.