BACKYARD HENS AND FOOD WASTE
Could New Zealand’s current egg crisis be the answer to a percentage of the country’s food waste problems? Hear me out – we might have a clucking good solution to a food shortage and food waste.
First up, in 2022 a food survey was conducted by Rabobank and Kiwi Harvest which showed that over 100,000 tonnes of food is wasted every year in NZ, averaging at $1520 per household per year. That amounts to a grand total of food waste equal to $3.1 billion; putting aside the cost one significant problem with food waste in compost is that it produces methane gas. That’s no yolk.
To combat the very real issue of food waste in 2010 an innovative city in Belgium offered its residents the opportunity to take free chickens in a hopes of mitigating food waste within the city. The programme was such a success that other cities in Belgium followed suit. With one resident commenting;
“For once I think we did something that was a win win. The chickens came from these awful egg laying batteries and looked horrible, but recovered after a few weeks and looked like healthy chickens full of feathers. So even the chickens benefited from this. It was also not limited to one city, several cities followed this example. It was a straightforward success’
Fed on household scraps the chickens put a dent in the city’s large food waste and all the participating families had enough chickens to provide eggs for themselves and others. Over the past decade there have been similar trials run throughout Canada.
So could this work within New Zealand? Urban hens aren’t the only answer to feeding a city and reducing food waste but they could be a part of it.
Before we crack on though it is worth noting that there are conditions that are required for hen-raising and it is a commitment. There are also specific by-laws across the country that might mean that it’s not possible in your neighborhood.
The SPCA warns people buying chickens, because of the egg shortage, that this is a long-term commitment and hens can live up to 10 years, its not just a summer event. SPCA farmed animals expert, Marie McAninch, said people should only get chickens if they want them around (that is, it has to be because you like the animal not just as a kitchen helper).
I view Kiwis as innovative and proud of their green image. Backyard hens could provide a regular, cheap and nutritious source of protein for a much smaller investment than purchasing eggs. However, do your research before bringing home some clucking feathered friends. The SPCA has some great guidelines on everything you need to follow to set up and care for your chickens;
For me, I didn’t use to give a great deal of thought to chickens until I was working on a farm with loose chickens. One chicken in particular, demonstrating inpeck-able taste, took a real liking to me. I aptly named it ‘little chicken’ and the minute I drove into the farm it would come sprinting towards me like Usain Bolt. Little Chicken would follow me around that farm like a bad smell, it would even sit on my shoulder or head while I moved cattle through yards and sit on my feet while I ate lunch.
After meeting this particular bantam and surprising myself by growing incredibly fond of it, I realized that they are friendly little balls of feathers full of character and wanting attention just like a cat or dog.
I am near completion of my chicken coop and while it has been a few years since I worked at ‘that’ farm, I will be going back to try and find Little Chicken, wish me luck.