One good way to fight back against the corporate food machine is to raise your own chickens. According to The City Chicken, Lansing and East Lansing now allow folks to raise a few chickens for their own use. Folks in the surrounding bedroom communities should check with local authorities.
Fortunately for me, my neighbor raises chickens. So I get to eat the farm-fresh, orange-yolked eggs that are raised in conditions better than most of my relatives have ever enjoyed. Here is a video I did with Lisa last summer where she de-mystifies what it takes to be successful, even if you have never lived on a farm.
Lisa’s husband built her that lush henhouse, but she says that you can use a plastic doghouse to get started. One of the coolest ideas is a chicken “tractor” for portable pasturing. Eric McCarthy reviews plans suitable for backyard farmers. Chicken Coop Source and Garden Eggs are two of a number of companies that sells kits and finished coops and tractors.
If you are zoned agricultural and have enough land to be more ambitious, you might consider using all or part of a hoophouse as a chicken coop. Hoophouses are those unheated passive solar greenhouses sprouting up around the state that are often used to grow greens year-round. Nic and Jen Welty of Omena outside Traverse City found that adding farm-fresh eggs to the produce they sell at the farmers’ market and to their CSA customers is popular, so they are using part of their hoophouse to raise as many as 200 chickens. (I can verify his chickens are healthy and sprightly since one jumped into my van when I did this video, though I didn’t notice until I was miles away.)
Raising chickens not only takes work, but it requires re-assessing your relationship with and attitudes toward other living creatures. Lisa loves her chickens, but they are not pets. As a squeamish vegetarian who loves eggs too much to become a vegan, I am happy that Lisa has the skills to raise healthy and happy chickens – and the courage to end their lives so that I don’t have to.