Benefits of Raising Chickens

There are many different reasons to build your own chicken coop. Although raising your own chickens isn’t for everyone, it’s much more attainable than you think! Here are a few of the benefits of raising chickens.

  • Nutritious Eggs: Although you may think that store bought eggs and free range eggs are the same, they are not. In fact, eggs from free ranging chickens contained “25% more vitamin E, a third more vitamin A, and 75% more beta cerotene” and also contain “two to three times more omega-3 fatty acids”.  Pastured hens also produce eggs with less cholesterol and saturated fat than store bought eggs. Commercial eggs are lacking in nutrients partly because of what the caged chickens consume but mostly because they aren’t fresh, and air seeps into the eggshell which effects the nutrients and the taste.
  • Antibiotic Free: Caged chickens are fed unnatural diets with antibiotics and hormones to make them grow bigger and faster. These hormones and chemicals however, cause eggs and the chicken’s meat to lose nutrients and flavor and can also be harmful for humans to consume. In fact, some meat producers add arsenic to their bird’s feed to increase growth, make meat pink, and kill certain diseases but the consumption of arsenic over a prolonged period of time can cause heart disease, cancer, decrease in brain function, and diabetes! The use of antibiotics in feed can also cause antibiotic-resistant infections to occur, because bacteria and viruses are becoming immune to the antibiotics that we use regularly. And after the last massive egg recall it’s only natural to begin to question what we are really consuming. If you raise your own chickens you will know exactly what (if any) hormones or antibiotics they are taking and be able to control that to fit your needs.
  • Composting and Gardening: Chickens are great for composting. You can feed them your kitchen compost, as they will eat almost anything. Because they are omnivores you can even feed them meat scraps. (However, you should also feed them chicken feed to ensure they are getting proper nutrients).  Giving your chickens food waste also helps to keep more out of landfills, which is helpful to the environment and therefore beneficial to everyone. Chicken waste and eggshells are rich in nitrogen, making excellent fertilizer for your garden. Chickens are also great for gardens because they are natural scavengers and will eat unwanted insects like the ones that eat your summer vegetables or even ticks, fleas, and mosquitos. Their claws also turn the soil, creating better aeration, breaking up vegetation, and accelerating the decomposing process, keeping your garden cleaner and growing faster.
  • Children Love Chickens: Raising chickens is a very kid-friendly activity. Your kids will undoubtedly love collecting the eggs, and (lucky for you) they can even do the necessary but dirty chores like feeding the chickens and cleaning the chicken coop. I do not have kids, but other bloggers who raise chickens say that their chickens have helped to teach their kids responsibility, and also helps to show them where their food comes from with the “farm-to-plate” idea. Having chickens can also be beneficial to adults, as chickens are very social (although not very smart), they love to receive attention and will even let you hold and pet them. When humans hug someone they love, or a beloved pet, the chemical oxytocin, a stress-reducing hormone, is released in the brain. Petting a chicken can do the same thing! As you can see, raising chickens could be very beneficial for your mood and your children’s!

Having chickens is also much easier than you think because they are low maintenance animals. Aside from feeding them daily and occasionally changing the straw from their coop they require very little attention, less attention actually than a dog would need. Chickens hardly require money either, aside from their food and the cost it takes to build the coop initially. You never have to walk your chickens, wash your chickens, or take your chickens to the vet.

Now, if you have decided that you are interested in raising chickens, the next step is to pick a spot for them and to build a chicken coop. I found great chicken coop ideas on Pinterest, ranging from chicken hutches to chicken mansions. I would recommend browsing them all and also looking on the Internet (or coming up with your own idea) to build the chicken coop that best suits your needs. For my chicken coop, I went with a premade kit with a smaller design that will only house the chickens at night, and they will be free ranging throughout the day. This design worked with my needs the best but I suggest you play around with ideas. There are many pre-made kits online that are reasonably priced and are possibly the best deal if you lack the designing and carpentry skills to build a chicken coop, like I do.Here is the link to the chicken hutch I bought. Check out my video to see my chicken hutch!

Chicken Hutch by Tractor Supply
Chicken Hutch by Tractor Supply

Composting and Why You Should Care

When I first read about compcompostosting, I was skeptical to say the least. The idea of rotting trash sitting in a compost bin in my yard and then on top of my garden was nothing less than repulsive to me. However, with a little talking into I was convinced that compost bins and using compost as fertilizer was the smartest way to go about gardening, and here’s why:

1. Compost is a natural fertilizer. It helps to loosen clay soils, helps sandy soils to retain water, and it is natural/organic  so it contains no petroleum-based compounds like most commercial fertilizers do. Also, since compost is whatever trash you throw into the bin, you know exactly what kind of nutrients your plants and vegetables  are getting.

2. Compost not only cleans the environment but also the soil. Composting cleans the environment simply by making people produce less waste, when you find a way to reuse your garbage less goes to landfills. Also, composting has recently been found to “absorb odors and treat semibolatile and volatile organic compounds (VOCS), including heating fuels, polyaromatic hydrocarbons, and explosives in soil” according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (May 13, 2013).

3. Composting is easy! Even if you aren’t a gardener but want to start living more sustainably most cities (even Las Cruces, New Mexico) have a green composting bin, where the civilian can put their compost into the bin for other people to use as fertilizer for their gardens for free.

 

Below is a list of items I have found to work great in composting:

eggshells

vegetables

fruit

coffee grounds and filters/tea bags

nutshells

brown paper bags

paper towels

newspaper

grass clippings and other yard trimmings

Don’t forget to recycle your food!

 

 

 

Aquaponics: Benefits of Getting Fishy

Aquaponics is one of the most sustainable way to produce your own food. Families can grow their own food with very little space and hardly any maintenance besides the setup; but before I get into the benefits of aquaponics, I should explain exactly what it is.

AquaponicNitrogenCycle_web copy

Aquaponics (shown above) is the combination of aquaculture and hydroponics. In it’s simplest form, aquaponics consists of plants (veggies, flowers, ect.) in grow beds with things like clay pebbles or rocks on the bottom that get fed water with fish waste in it. The bacteria on the surface of the grow bed convert the ammonia from the fish waste into nitrogen, or fertilizer, that the plants can use. After the plants have filtered the water for nutrients the clean water leaves the plants and drains back into the fish tank, starting the cycle over again.

The amazing thing about aquaponics is that very many people can be fed with this system; recirculating the water from the fish to plants is sustainable and smart because less water is needed than if you were to do each separately and  plants grow as rapidly as if you were giving them artificial nutrients (which can be very expensive) yet you are growing organically. You may also select your favorite fish to be farmed aquaponically. Typically talapia are used but any species works, and the more you like to eat it the better it is for you!

The size of aquaponic system you want to create and the complexity of that system would definitely contribute to the price, but if you wanted to try out a small project at home you can get kits starting around sixty dollars a piece, like the one shown below from backtotheroots.com .

As you can see, aquaponics is an amazing way to feed yourself, and feed your community.

Aquaponics-2T

Resurrecting the Extinct: A Woolly Mammoth Story

When most people think of resurrection ideas of Frankenstein come to mind, but what if resurrecting extinct animals could help reduce the effects of global warming or possibly even reverse those changes?

The goal of resurrection, or reanimation, research is not to make perfect living copies of extinct species, nor is it meant to be a one-off stunt in a laboratory or zoo. Resurrection (reanimation) is about leveraging the best of ancient and synthetic DNA, just like genetically modified fruits and vegetables. The goal is to adapt existing ecosystems to radical modern environmental changes, such as global warming.

Ecosystems that depend on “keystone species” have lost the species diversity they once had because some species no longer fit into that ecosystem. As environmental factors change, for example global warming, ancient diversity may be needed again. For instance, 4,000 years ago the tundras of Russia and Canada consisted of a richer grass-and ice- based ecosystem. With today’s warming climate they are melting, and if that process continues, they could release more greenhouse gasses than all the world’s forests would if they burned to the ground. A few dozen changes to the genome of a modern elephant-to give it subcutaneous fat, woolly hair and sebaceous glands- might suffice to create a variation that is functionally similar to the mammoth. Returning this extinct and keystone species to the tundras could stave off some effects of global warming.

Mammoths could keep the region from feeling the effects of global warming by: (a) eating dead grass, thus enabling the sun to reach spring grass, whose deep roots prevent erosion; (b) increasing reflected light by felling trees, which absorb sunlight; and (c) punching through insulating snow so that freezing air penetrates the soil. Poachers seem far less likely to target Arctic mammoths than African elephants.

“De-extinction”, or resurrection, is not a novel idea. Medical researchers have resurrected the full genomes of the human endogenous retrovirus HERV-K and the 1918 influenza virus. Insight into the resurrected extinct species could save millions of lives. Several other extinct genes, including the mammoth hemoglobin, have been reconstructed and tested for novel properties. Moving from these few genes to most of the 20,000 or so in a bird or mammalian genome may not be necessary, and even if it is, it may not be hard to do. The costs for a variety of relevant technologies are low-and dropping.

Breeding once-extinct animals and raising them until there are sufficient numbers to release into the wild is an ambitious undertaking, but the expense should be comparable to breeding livestock or preserving other endangered wildlife. These costs could be reduced if we used genetic modification to improve the species we revive-boosting their immunity and fertility and their ability to draw nutrition from available food and to cope with environmental stress.

Aside from resurrecting extinct species, reanimation could help living ones by restoring lost genetic diversity. The Tasmanian devil (aka Sarcophilus harrisii) is s inbred at this pint that most species members can exchange tumor cells without rejection. A rare transmissible cancer spread via facial wounds is driving the species toward extinction. Resurrecting ancestral, diverse Sarcophilus histocompatibility genes, which govern tissue rejection, could save it. Similar arguments could be made for amphibians, cheetahs, corals, and other groups. Ancient genes from their extinct ancestors could make them more tolerant of chemicals, heat, infection, and drought.

Resurrection, or reanimation, is not a panacea for ecosystems at risk. Preventing ongoing extinction of elephants, rhinoceroses, and other threatened species is critically important. By all means, we must set priorities for allocating finite conservation resources. But it is a mistake to look at this issue as a zero-sum game. Just as a new vaccine can free up medical resources that would otherwise be spent on sick patients, resurrection of extinct species may be able to help conservationists by giving them powerful new tools. That this is even a possibility is reason enough to explore it seriously.