Tuesday, September 23, 2008

September Update

September's been a very quiet month with the girls...They have almost completely stopped laying and I do miss the eggs. Everyone has or is going through some stage of moulting and there are feathers everywhere. That alone may be the reason though stress, excessive heat, or a lack of light can also cause hens to stop laying.

I hardly think the girls are stressed...they get plenty of food and exercise and they still enjoy keeping some of my vegetable plants pruned. The last bit of cabbage I had has been bitten back quite nicely. I stopped feeding them corn on the cob, much to the neighborhood kids' dismay as they loved stopping by with the remnants from dinner.

There's not much I can do but wait things out and....gulp, gulp...buy eggs at the store...

Meanwhile, an article in the Boston Globe North section on 9/18 caught my attention. http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/09/18/if_council_prevails_chickens_wont_come_home_to_roost/?page=2
It seems someone in Lynn was about to be fined by the health inspector for keeping chickens after the city received a notice from the CDC about avian flu in poultry. The chickens had to be given away and now the city is proposing additional restrictions severely limiting where chickens can be kept. I responded back to the Boston Globe that a sensible and fair policy, such as Beverly has protects everyone - the birds, the owners, the neighbors, and the community. Mr. Ahern should be applauded for his attempts to provide food for his family in a sustainable manner, though it's important that we work with our local municipalities and their existing regulations, or work to change those regulations to reflect a more appropriate policy of integrating poultry into an urban environment.

There are many communities - from Beverly to Madison, WI, and New York City, that have successfully regulated poultry keeping and Lynn should take a look at those regulations before deciding on a total ban. The threat of avian flu is no more a problem for the small poultry owner than for the large factory farm. If anything, I would think we would generally have healthier birds because of the conditions under which they are raised - plenty of fresh air and room to move, food scraps, bugs from the yard, and close monitoring.. just my opinion. Mother Earth News tested eggs from many small poultry owners and found the health benefits way beyond the factory egg. Anyone who has eaten a free range egg knows the difference.

As we enter a time where rising energy and food costs are forcing us to examine where our food comes from more of us should be doing what Mr. Ahern has done - raising vegetables and keeping a few hens. As someone who also does this I can tell you of the value in knowing that much of what I eat is pesticide free and organic. I hope others will be encouraged by Mr. Ahern to work in Lynn for an appropriate poultry policy. Our communities would do well to encourage sustainable living on many levels but that is another discussion.

Lastly, I have to mention that my step-daughter, Sharon Astyk, BHS Class of 1990, has just published her first book "Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front" (featured selection this month in Mother Earth News). She looks at the future of peak oil and climate change and turns this 'depletion' into 'abundance' as she provides a practical road map for putting back into our lives much more than we realize.. It's a great book and you can get more information on the book and her other writings at her website: http://sharonastyk.com/. I have Sharon to thank for my chickens...