Who knew there was such a thing as a chook auction? Apparently there is, or at least in small town Australia – the couple I’m currently staying with went to one last Saturday morning. After an unfortunate run in between their last brood and their Irish Terrier, the chook pen was pining for some new feathered residents. Apparently the auction was quite the place to be (though that’s not saying much for a town of this size). A hullaballoo of people eagerly (and quite aggressively at times, so I hear) bidding for their new egg-laying-machines. S and B came home with five almost mature Hyline chickens pleased with their purchase, despite having only gone in with the intention of acquiring three. That’s always the case with shopping isn’t it? Each bird was $24 a pop. Was that expensive? I honestly don’t know. How much would one expect to pay for a bog-standard-yet-efficient-egg-laying-chook to cost? What price would you be prepared to pay?
Now I have to be careful what I say from here onwards as we personally have not had our own brood of chooks for quite some time. 2005 I think it was. Dreadful. Yes there have been situations when housing chooks has been impossible, but not always. What with the initial set up of a decent pen (the bigger, the better), and a cat/dog/crow/fox proof one at that, it can be marginally rather daunting. Is the time and effort worth it for the sake of one’s own eggs? I think so. A hypocritical statement? Mmmm it is, however I do plan to have my own chooks when the next feasible opportunity arises.
S and I were discussing the cost-benefits on Saturday afternoon, whilst listening to the chooks scratching about and settling into their new home. We concluded that it probably wasn’t any cheaper to have your own chooks over purchasing eggs, even if you are buying free range eggs on a regular basis. On that matter it should always be free range. Always. I shouldn’t need to outline the reasons. Ensuring that your little brood of egg-producers live a long and happy life doesn’t come freely. However, I’m a staunch believer that cost doesn’t mean everything.
What are the benefits of owning chickens/sharing chickens (for a while we fed food scraps to our neighbour’s)? Why, there’s plenty sir, plenty. We’ve just touched on one. Scraps. ‘Reusing’ those apple cores, the cheese you forgot about and most definitely isn’t the ‘safe’ type of blue, carrot tops, and so on is a significantly better alternative to chucking them in the rubbish bin. A compost bin or worm farm is a brilliant option if you don’t want to bother with the upkeep of chooks, but there’s no reaping the eggy rewards afterwards!
Owning your own chooks also eliminates the environmental waste associated with the cleaning, sorting, packaging and transport of your eggs. Sure, you may have to clean poop and a feather or two off the occasional one but you’ll manage. Knowing that that mucky shell contains a nutrient powerhouse is more than enough compensation, I should think. What’s that you see? An orange yolk? Yep they do exist. It aint a myth.
As we were sitting in the yard, discussing all this, S pointed out that there’s something innately peaceful about hearing chickens clucking and scratching away. They can transform a house into a home, no question. Yep, there’s the not so fun side of de-fleaing them (I used to be terrified that they would peck my toes in revenge) or dealing with a broody hen, but all in all they certainly one of natures most phenomenal recycling machines. We humans must follow suit, and devise more ways of transforming so called food ‘waste’ into naturally packaged parcels of goodness. The humble chook. A feathered, highly efficient nutrient exchange machine indeed.