Thursday, June 11, 2015

Thinking about chickens and what we're doing.

Of course on a post mostly about chickens I'm going to start with a bunny photo because they were being adorable when I came out this morning, and wanted attention. Of course, that meant I gave it to them because when they want pettins, I want to give them pettins. They're looking good, growing fast, and eating everything in the world that is provided to them. No wonder they've grown so well with eating how they have. But now over to chicken discussion.

Chickens have been very much in the news lately as I suspect most of you are well aware. If you didn't know there has been an outbreak of avian flu in flocks in the midwest starting back in April. There are obviously going to be consequences for that due to the number of chickens that have had to be killed due to the contamination. At this point at least 3 million laying hens have been killed either because of the flu, or due to potential exposure to avoid spreading the virus. Recently with the shortage of egg production, that's led to shortages of eggs for a lot of things. Right now it's hitting restaurants and bakers the hardest. You'll see here that there are still more cases being reported at this point, so the problems aren't likely to stop shortly. So far on a national scale the result is the doubling of the cost of eggs. On a national average scale that has raised the cost of battery raised chicken eggs to $3/dozen. In this area $4 - $5/dozen for organic is the norm, and that hasn't changed yet despite the change in cost of conventional eggs.
One of the reasons I think that we're seeing this level of infection is the crowded conditions that chickens are living in. When 30,000 -100,000 chickens are crammed into one living space 3 million isn't that hard to get to. Of course not only chickens suffer from the systems that most US laying chickens are being kept in. For reference, the Wikipedia article on Battery Laying, for reference look into the Furnished Cage as well. With all of this happening, I am really happy that we do have laying hens, and am thinking to increase our flock size a little more than we'd originally thought to. That way we can start selling some eggs, and make sure we have enough eggs. Of course, avian flu could show up around us in which case this would all be for naught. We're unlikely to have that happen, but given that avian flu is transmitted by wild birds for the most part it isn't out of the question. For reference, the CDC web page on transmission between animals. As with most of my concerns with factory farming in all its forms, it's not that avian flu infections or blights wouldn't happen in small farming situations. It wouldn't spread as quickly, or to as many places. In addition the effect on overall production wouldn't be a severe. Either way, I'm glad we are doing what we're doing at this point.

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