Friday, August 31, 2012

Urban Chickens Make Healthy Kids and Strong Communities

Helping the Hungry

One in eight people struggle with hunger, including many children. One way municipalities can help their hungry citizens for very little cost is to promote backyard gardens, including keeping small flocks of chickens. Eggs from hens allowed to forage and move freely (even within appropriately sized enclosed areas) are much higher in nutrients than those available at grocery stores.  From Mother Earth News:
"In 1988, Artemis Simopoulos, co-author of The Omega Diet, found that eggs from pastured hens in Greece contained 13 times more omega-3s than eggs from U.S. supermarkets. In 1974, a British study found that eggs from pastured hens had 50 percent more folic acid and 70 percent more vitamin B12 than eggs from factory-farmed hens. In 1997, a study in Animal Feed Science and Technology found eggs from free-range chickens had higher levels of both omega-3s and vitamin E than those from hens maintained in cages and fed commercial diets. Most recently, in 2003, Pennsylvania State University researchers reported that birds kept on pasture produced three times more omega-3s in their eggs than birds raised in cages on a commercial diet. They also found twice as much vitamin E and 40 percent more vitamin A in the yolks of the pastured birds."

Backyard hens' eggs cost about $2 a dozen (for feed and wood shavings; less if they are given more kitchen scraps, weeds and grass), which cost more than $4 a dozen for (almost) comparably nutritious eggs at the grocery store. They are a great source of affordable protein.

Backyard urban hen keeping saves a family money and saves the city money on feeding the hungry.  It also saves a municipality money by reducing the food scraps that go into the waste stream (to see what you can feed hens from the kitchen, click here).

Food Security

If someone wanted to cripple a whole lot of people, that someone could attack large sources of food, such as the drought has attacked the nation's corn crop this year. Or when 228 million eggs were recalled in August 2010 because of a huge salmonella outbreak. When you grow corn in your backyard and raise a small flock of hens for eggs, you are at a much smaller risk of food losses. Taxpayers and insurance companies and families save money on health care costs from such outbreaks.

In his life-changing book Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet, Bill McKibben discusses at length the importance of focusing on small and local. Food, energy, and governance needs to be focused on local, manageable projects. Keeping a backyard flock is part of that movement.

Vitamin N

Contact with nature including gardens and pets (backyard chickens are a hybrid of pets and food source), has shown to reduce mental illness - including depression and anxiety - obesity and even violence.  It improves mood and the ability to concentrate (hello test scores), and speeds up physical healing. Backyard gardens, parks, household pets, neighborhood trees, and yes, chickens, help create healthier people and healthier communities. Richard Louv calls contact with nature Vitamin N. In his book The Nature Principle, he writes, "an emerging high-tech/high-nature housing design philosophy includes conserving energy, using nature-friendly materials, and also applying biophilic design principles to promote health, human energy, and beauty." (p. 161) Backyard chickens are not a fallback to dirt yards in podunkville, they are a part of a diverse and progressive redesign of urban living that includes wilderness, gardens, and high-tech living.

Healthy Children and Communities

What happens when you give kids nutritious food, a sense of security, and a connection with nature? They do better in school and are less likely to follow a violent lifestyle.

And what about adults? Well, the same thing happens. Healthy, safe, engaged adults care for themselves and their neighbors.

Now who wouldn't want to create these conditions for their cities? Well cared for urban chickens need to be legalized in Aurora, Colorado.

1 comment:

sara said...

Thank you for this post.