Monthly Archives: June 2012

Can pigs build ponds?

At a recent event with Sepp Holzer, somebody asked Sepp for advice on what sort of liner to use for a pond.  Sepp’s response was “I grade your question with an ‘F’, the lowest possible grade!” Sepp has built hundreds … Continue reading

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Eliminate the cost of chicken feed

I used to sell my chickens for almost exactly the same price I paid for feed.  And the story for the eggs was pretty much the same.  This is not sustainable.  So I started exploring ways to cut feed costs … Continue reading

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How Not to Raise Chickens

Paddock Shift System



To me, this comic artist is exceptionally brilliant at capturing and representing very common and complicated issues that can arise for people who have never raised chickens before.  I think the desire to steward chickens is normal and healthy. And what is good for the chicken is something people typically want to understand, but the information from that perspective is scarce, even with the myriad of books available on the topic.  This is a big reason why I created my raising chickens article and have created the Wheaton eco scale to help quantify the implications of the different ways one can raise chickens:  Level 1 is using a coop and run and Level 6 uses a paddock shift with food forests system. The key, for me, is to not hate on the people behind me, but instead, try to figure out ways to educate them on the next levels. 


I have to admit that I have bought chickens on-line.  This cartoon makes a pretty good point about how that isn’t necessarily supporting “local” (should that be your reason for raising chickens). But … there are issues buying local too (potentially less selection, could be worse quality of care, fuel for travel to pick up, etc…).   While I feel shame about some of my past choices, I recognize that most all paths have downsides.  Since I did order on-line, I spent time checking reviews to see which hatcheries had the most live chicks arrive and made this my primary shopping criteria. I also had things worked out with the post office so they would call me the moment they had the chicks (one of the perks of a very small town). The folks at the post office seemed to really enjoy it because of all the peeping! I think in all of the deliveries, there was at least one dead chick. Damn.

“You know, we spent $200 on this vintage chicken coop and another $100 to fix it, then there’s that organic chicken feed at $3 a pound …. these are going to be rather pricey eggs … Don’t think about it that way! These are artisanal eggs. Each one is like an original work of art!”  Experiencing the reality of this statement is what led me to paddock shift systems. I was selling eggs and meat for about the same price as the feed I was buying.  I do believe the egg can be a work of art if the chicken is a forest animal and getting plenty of fresh veggies and bugs. But if all they get is dried up grain and nothing else, while penned in a small area where they stand on their own poop all day …. that is hardly “artisanal.”


Raising chickens is a lot of responsibility and, as is the common flaw with most systems, you cannot leave your responsibilities (unless you live in a community that shares responsibilities).  This comic does a good job of showing how clueless jerks will often stick others with their responsibilities.  It also illustrates the lack of preparation and knowledge with which first timers often jump into chicken raising, particularly around chicken life expectancy and what it means to raise a live animal (like death and harvesting).  “Chicken Recycling…we offer a full line of karma offsets…..”  These are new to me.  But I could see these folks getting super rich offering this stuff! Brilliant!  This video, on respectful chicken harvesting, is one every wanna be chicken owner should watch. 

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