Column: Permaculture in Practice
Chickens can be pets and much more
By: Nate Downey
Published online: Sunday, May 06, 2012
Appeared in: Home, Santa Fe Real Estate Guide
Edition: May 2012 Vol. 15 No. 2
We’ve kept chickens in the Santa Fe
city limits for 15 years. For about half of
this time, we kept them on an eighth of
an acre surrounded by others’ walls and
windows. Right now, our coop is an egg’s
throw from two or three neighboring
homes. We’ve never received a complaint.
Many of our friends also have chickens,
and the only time we’ve heard of any
“nuisance” it was rooster-oriented.
(Biological note: Roosters are NOT
required to get dependably delicious eggs.
Roosters are only needed if you want your
eggs to hatch into birds. This means most
chicken owners do not own roosters.)
Quite the opposite from being called a
nuisance, we all enjoy sharing eggs with
our community, and the non-chicken-
owning always seem to enjoy them.
Our feathered friends provide healthy
food, free fun, fascinating beauty, great
soil, and a sense of purpose in life.
Sometimes I wonder, How many
Frosted Flakes have my kids NOT eaten
thanks to our hens? Sure, our boys love
sweetened cereal, sugary muffins, and
waffles with syrup in the morning,
but they also love eggs: scrambled,
fried, soft-boiled, or omelet-style with
cheese -- wrapped up in the form of a
quintessential (and totally traditional)
breakfast burrito. For lunch, it’s egg salad.
For snack, the only thing between my kids
and some piece of junk food sometimes is
a hard-boiled egg.
My heart goes out to folks in Eldorado
who are being told by a small group
of busybodies that they can’t eat and
share this kind of convenient, fresh, and
hormone-free food. In this country, one
would hope that having the freedom to
choose a vastly better life would be not be
prohibited by nervous ninnies.
I also feel sorry for Eldorado’s
gardeners. Unlike the dog doo and cat scat
that pollute our state’s waterways, poultry
poo is wonderful for building healthy soil.
From my 20 years as a landscaper in this
town, I know that Eldorado, of all places,
would benefit from better soils.
What’s with this anti-chicken
contingent? It’s clearly misinformed and
behind the times. The more it barks and
bites, the sillier the whole situation seems
because the anti-chicken minority only
help to bring the facts to the fore and
more people quickly learn how great it is
to have chickens as pets. Like other pets,
chickens happen to be extremely beautiful
and interesting to watch. They are also a
gas to train, feed, and hold.
In a worst-case scenario, the uptight
tendencies of some residents could end up
costing Eldorado dearly in legal bills. This
kind of public fight would probably not be
good for property values, and it certainly
would not be good for the human values
associated with maintaining a sense of
purpose in life. Chickens help support these values because they represent a
real way for people to take a little bit
more responsibility for their lives on this
finite planet with its increasingly limited
Nate Downey is president of Santa Fe
Permaculture (505-424-4444) and the author
of Harvest the Rain: How to Enrich Your Life
by Seeing Every Storm as a Resource (Sunstone