No culling during holiday time
Chickens go through a moulting period each year. During these 6-8 weeks, they don’t lay. Chickens start this moulting period at around 18 months old.
Usually, due to productivity and profit (why feed a chicken when it’s not laying eggs for you to make money with?), the chook is killed and used for meat.
But, just like Anni says, we don’t execute our employees when they take a holiday each year! Why should we do the same with chooks?
My chickens eat a zero-waste lifestyle. No kidding. Anni is given the off cuts and unused bagels from a local bagel company in New Zealand. These are shredded up, and placed in upcycled rubbish bins for the chooks to eat out of.
Throughout the field where the chooks roam, there are beautiful fruit trees. I asked Anni if she uses the fruit or sells it at the markets she attends. The answer was no; the fruit trees are solely for the chickens. The fallen fruit attracts bugs that the chickens love to eat. Anni and her family spend a lot of time planting trees, and curating an environment that the chickens love.
The circle of life
Naturally, I wondered what happens to chickens who pass away. There are two ways they dispose of their bodies:
- The chicken is placed in a hole and a fruit tree is planted in the hole.
- The chicken is placed in a bucket hanging high, with holes in the bottom. The carcass attracts maggots for the other chickens to eat: they thrive off maggots. It’s the circle of life.
On our way back from the laying shed, Anni spotted a chicken outside the fence. As she approached, it squatted down as if ready for her to pick it up, and she plopped the chicken back over the fence.
Anni explained that every single day, the chicken lays her eggs in a flax bush outside the fence. Her daily routine is to wait outside the fence until Anni puts her back with the other chickens. They don’t collect her eggs, because they don’t know how long they’ve been there. She has her own little nest and routine, and no one interrupts it.
Perhaps it was the stories of wild cats giving birth to kittens in the chicken coop and living contently with the chickens for weeks, or the way the chickens came up to me, and let me pat them kindly, but I couldn’t keep a smile off my face that day. I still can’t stop thinking about the experience I had at Anni’s farm. It gave me confidence in the future of farming.