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David Braden
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Golden, CO, United States
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Chapter 13

Posted by David Braden almost 10 years ago

Nature works through closed loop production systems.

I have been writing a lot about the bees because that has worked so well. Don and I have talked about how the bees have “sex appeal” relative to other things we are doing. At the same time we have been working on chickens. We cleaned out a back room in an outbuilding, cut a chicken door to the outside, began experiments in coop and run designs for suburban back yards, built a couple of pasturing structures . . . May 9 we got 50 straight run Road Island Reds. They are 4 weeks old as I write and just graduated to the “big chicken” feeder and waterer.

50 Chicks















The idea is to pool our resources to place between 2 and 6 chickens with each team member interested in caring for the birds. That would give a family somewhere between ½ to 2 dozen eggs a week. The chickens are then spread out to where they can all have fresh greens to make Omega 3 fatty acids, more kitchen scraps get processed into eggs, and chicken manure is produced on site for our gardens. We want to experiment with more products such as feeding the chicken bedding to worms, feeding the worms back to the chickens and using the worm casting for planting in the deep mulch. We can dedicate part of our gardens to growing food for the chickens such as sunflowers, amaranth and quinoa. I am thinking that once a year, the team will gather and decide how many chickens we need for the coming year. Each team member will then bring back their favorite hen to spend some time with the team roosters and the right number of fertile eggs, from our best chickens, can go in the incubator.


With a certain amount of monitoring and intervention, bees will pretty much take care of themselves while chickens require food and water every day. Honey has a ready market if we produce more than the team can use. Chickens are different because our team could eat a lot of eggs and meat relative to the time and expense of raising it. If we did produce an excess of either, we might be able to command a premium price for organic and pasture fed. However, for people of limited means, pricing would be in competition with concentrated animal feeding operations. CAFOs can deliver eggs and meat inexpensively because they are not required to cover the cost of the pollution where the chickens are raised or the depletion of the soil where the chicken food is raised. For back yard chickens the economics don't add up if you buy your feed at the feed store. And, if we do buy our feed at the feed store, we contribute to depletion of the soils where the feed is grown.


The economics change if we work to integrate our chickens into a closed loop production system in which we can count the value of all the products of the system. In industry, this concept is called an industrial ecology in which the by products of each step in the production system become feed stock for another step . . . closing the loop in materials flow and cycling the energy embedded in the by products. Nature builds whole habitats as closed loop production systems . . . creating such wonders as rain forests and barrier reefs. We can begin to do the same things in our back yards . . . each new process we can integrate improves the habitat in which we live.


Chicken Run
















Tractor with Run

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