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Deconstructing Dinner: Reconstructing Our Food System
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Weekly Column

July 1, 2008


Deconstructing Dinner



Bucky Buckaw lends insight yet again for this second installment in a series on backyard chickens.


For part I of the backyard chickens series we met Bucky Buckaw, a unique and humourous character based in Boise, Idaho. Bucky hosts the radio segment "Bucky Buckaw's Backyard Chicken Broadcast".


As an expert on everything to do with backyard chickening, Bucky shared his thoughts on why housing backyard chickens within cities is one of the most responsible means through which our food can be gathered.


These reasons only seem to be increasing.


Yet another case of Mad Cow (BSE) was reported in British Columbia on June 23 by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). The infected animal was five years old. The age of the animal is important because it was born after a partial ban was implemented in 1997 that prohibited certain animal by-products from making their way into the feed of cattle.


Former Health Canada scientists had long insisted that a partial ban was not enough and called for a ban on all animal products in cattle feed. It was proposed that a complete ban would eradicate BSE. Health Canada refused to heed the advice and those scientists have all since been fired in 2004.


Alternatives to the industrial production of meat, dairy and eggs are plentiful, and one of the most easily accessible is raising animals right in your own backyard.




As part of this second installment of the backyard chickens series, Bucky Buckaw explores the breeds available to any backyard chicken farmer. Most industrial chicken operations use one variety in particular, and the risk of disease and virus transmission is therefore much riskier.


For those wishing to choose backyard chickens as a source for eggs and/or meat, there are instead hundreds of readily available breeds to choose from.


Bucky Buckaw is picky about his breeds and encourages people to seek out chicks from small-scale hobby breeders. "I take the same view towards chicken breed preferences taken by others who are excessively concerned with cat or dog breeds," says Bucky.


One of the most important characteristics of a breed for backyard chickens is size.


Most breeds come in two sizes full-size or bantam (bantee). Bantams are one-fifth to one-quarter the size. There are also "true bantams", which have no large size counterpart. Examples of these are Burmese, Rosecomb, Sebright and Dutch Bantam.


According to Bucky, "Dutch Bantams are said to have been developed by peasants at a time when the law stated that all or some large eggs were to go to the lord of the manor."


Bucky is comfortable (albeit jokingly) with his own birds being of a small size. "Sometimes I do wonder if the day may come when some government entity will begin demanding a portion of the eggs from my backyard," says Bucky, "so I kind of think of it as insurance that I've got small egg layers!"


Other advantages of housing bantams according to Bucky: "They are provided with proportionately more space, they're easier to house and handle and they are also less likely to entirely destroy your garden if they manage to get in unsupervised when your seedlings are vulnerable."


One disadvantage: "Smaller birds are less intimidating to cats!"


Chicken Poop


Full-size chickens can produce between 16-17lbs of manure per year, while bantams produce about one-half to two-thirds as much.


Taking a drive through any region of North America where industrial chicken factories are located can be a rather unpleasant experience. These experiences have led most of us to believe that chicken poop stinks! Bucky Buckaw disagrees, and instead loves chicken poop. "The truth is, I really get a kick out of harvesting the day's chicken poop," says Bucky.


While Bucky can only guess why his backyard chickens don't produce stinky poop, his guess seems pretty feasible. "I'm convinced that my flock's poop smells so sweet in part because my chickens only eat veggies, and grains and bugs; no cannibalism chicken-eating for them; no meat of other livestock, not to mention I don't feed them processed foods or added preservatives or chemicals like antibiotics," stresses Bucky.


Chicken manure is viewed by any green thumb as the most valuable of all manures. According to Bucky Buckaw, "before the chemical fertilizer revolution, chicken manure was pretty much viewed as having equal value as eggs and meat."

Bucky concludes his views on chicken poop with a rather direct assurance: "So no more of this ringing your hands about having chickens living in your backyard because you think you or your neighbours are going to find the smell offensive. That's just bull#@*&, which, by the way, is not so great!"


Deconstructing Dinner is heard on radio stations across Canada and is available as a Podcast. More information on today's topic can be found at (





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