By Zev Friedman
Thirteen Hut Hamlet neighbors recently established a chicken co-op, endearingly referred to as Posse Poulet. From these 50 or so birds, we have been receiving almost all of our needed eggs, and we’re looking ahead to a possible moderate increase in number of birds, including some ducks. We’ll also be slaughtering some of the older hens this fall for stew.
Working together, we get an integrated rotational chicken system with a manageable workload and cost for each household, as well as the fun of collaborating. We purchased 45 laying hens from Imani Farm (who decided to reduce their flock this year) and received several hens and another two roosters (one is now digested soup) from Black Wolf. With the financial structure and roles within the co-op set up by last spring, we made the leap and purchased equipment (such as electric fencing, materials for a moveable coop and feed containers) and then the birds in June. Since then, they’ve been rotated through three overgrown agricultural areas in the neighborhood. One of the areas the chickens cleared was around the House of Oneness, which will be deconstructed this season and salvaged for reconstruction as the House of Diversity in the Village Center (see related article in this newsletter).
Kimchi, another co-operative in the coop co-op, writes: “The chicken co-op has been a great way to experience and expand our connections with the land, the source of our food, and learn how to share with each other. What a gift to create rich relationships at Earthaven!”
We’ve also been experimenting with “alternative feed systems” such as black soldier fly larvae and red wiggler worm production, and of course we feed all of our seedy weeds to the birds, thus reducing weed pressure in our compost piles and giving nutrients to the birds. We’ve also been experimenting with using charcoal in their pen, nesting boxes and roost to absorb manure nutrients and odor and create biochar.