The Community Owned Chicken
Our Farm Raised Chickens and Eggs
In days long gone every farm or region had its own chicken breed. They were strong and resilient through their genetics with the farm’s conditions at hand. They were less productive but produced eggs by consuming ‘farm waste’ and in essence the eggs were ‘free’.
These days, commercial breeding has developed in such a way that there only a few (that is 2) breeds left for commercial egg production and 1 for meat. These birds have different genetics far removed from the old breeds and hence rely on concentrated food and additives to keep them healthy in their very ‘controlled manmade environment’. After trialing those here on the farm over the last couple of years we have come back to the conclusion that these hybridized and commercial chickens are not fit for our farming system.
They are weak ‘disposable’ animals only meant to last a short period of time and give it their all and more. They are either very light (egg laying) or become extremely heavy (meat) in a too short period of time. Eating eggs or meat from these birds does not give you the satisfaction of ‘slowly’ produced food. The meat birds grow ready for slaughter in an amazingly short period of 8 weeks time!!! They do that in such a way that they cannot stand on their feet or walk properly around if you wanted to keep them for longer and they need nasty additives in their food to keep them alive. On top of this, in one system (egg) all the one day males are killed, and in the order production system (meat) all the one day old females are killed as they are not good enough for their role as either a meat bird (does not get heavy enough fast) or egg producer (does not lay enough eggs over a 360 day period).
Just like our aim was when we started here almost 20 years ago, we like to produce quality food, including chickens and eggs that are suited to the Wairarapa Eco Farm’s philosophy of a resilient mixed farm build on agro-ecological principles. One that is kind to animals and to the soil they live on, that produces eggs and meat that are high in quality and nutrient dense (not a bag full of water), and most of all not produced with excessive amounts of bought in food and additives, be they hormones, vitamins, antibiotics etc.!
So we breed our own. By breeding birds that lay a good amount of eggs and have great meat properties we do not have to kill off one day old chicks as we have a use for both males and females. The other consequence is that we can do without the additives and concentrates as the birds develop better immune systems and resilience. The down site is that the rooster takes longer to mature (extra cost in food) and the hens are less reliable in egg production. Another plus is that we spend less money on buying in stuff and close the internal nutrient and energy cycle. To summarize we lose quantity; less meat and eggs but we gain quality, good firm meat with better omega levels and other physiological active substances. The same goes up for the eggs: better omega levels and higher amounts of other physiological active substance.
We started this project in 2013 and with our recently bought incubator, and some chickens going broody over summer, we have now clutches of young chicks wandering about as well as new chickens going to lay.
This way we can slowly build up the quantity of chickens to an optimum number for our set-up, as opposed to factory farming that is ruled by economic efficiency, not ecological validity. Overtime, this is going to create another meaningful job on the farm and within our community.
We are building up a relatively small flock of chickens, avoiding the need to rely on an intensive hatchery model of chick rearing and creating a more suitable breed for our environment, which might be laying fewer eggs but will be less dependent on bought-in, expensive (organic) feed concentrates. It will take longer to raise the chickens and so we will make them available for purchase at point of laying (22-24 weeks).
Introducing the Community Owned Chicken (COC), an adoption program for chickens.
Now to you. By adopting your chicken, you are able to share in the life and well-being of the animals and develop a bond between the farm and you, our members (the consumers). You own the chicken and we take care (manage) of it for you here on the farm, giving it a wonderful free roaming environment and good food. In return we send you back the eggs from your chicken.
How will our COC work?
You buy your chicken ($10 each). For $250.00 per year ($5.00/week) we look after your chicken and in return we give it the environment it deserves. We predict that your chicken will lay around 6 eggs per week, which we will return to you on a weekly basis. We will manage the chickens according to agro-ecological principles, and they will have a secure inside house, in addition to plenty of room to range outside in our olive groves.
The chickens will keep their natural look - we will not de-beak or cut their wings - and will be guarded by our guard dogs. Practically this means pasture fed, low density free ranged in our olive grove and predominantly fed food from our farm or locally sourced. This would mean that all their food is ecologically sound and the bulk of their food is organic certified.
Their diet will consist out of any protein and herbs they find in our organic olive grove, as well as a top up of local grains, corn and wheat. In our experience (due to constraints of the NZ organic poultry sector) there is lack of certainty around continuity of supply for certified organic chook food. We therefor decided that it would be clearer to take the chickens out of certification; they are not certified organic. Although unable to guarantee certified organic feed, we are able to guarantee that they are unbeaked, and grow up without vaccinations, antibiotics or GE feed. This is a big plus considering NZ certified organic farmers can buy conventional point of lay chickens (16 weeks old) for their organic business.
How to Register your Interest?
Fill in a Chicken Adoption Registration Oct 2016/Sept 2017 online in our farmshop.
- Adopting goes preferably all year.
- We are unable to keep track of your holidays (if any) in this adoption program and are therefore unable to refund missed weeks (i.e when pausing Bucky Box). If you do pause your CSA shares you can choose to gift them to someone else.
- The COC chicken adoption is only possible as part of the CSA veggie share (as an add-on); i.e. we are unable to just deliver a box of eggs.