Supporting Local Agriculture

When do you think this quote was written?

we of the east send west of the New York-Ohio state boundary between 900 Million and a Billion Dollars every year for food products that could and would grow here in the east.

And this:

If you are so unfortunate that you are compelled to live in a city where you cannot keep even a half dozen hens in your back yard, you can help some by insisting that your grocer supply you with nearby eggs.

No, this isn’t from some recent locavore tract. It’s from the Lay or Bust Almanac from 1921.

What's New is Old

I have a collection of poultry books and pamphlets from the early 1900’s. The material looks charming and dated, yet the advice is good -or better- than what is found in books and on-line today. The Lay or Bust Yearbook, put out by the feed company of the same name is a case in point.

Their market is the “back lot poultry keeper.”

My favorite bit of advice from this brochure is, “don’t go into the poultry business if you do not like hens.” Can you see Perdue saying that to their contract farmers? But, it makes great sense if you keep 50 hens in your backyard. The more you enjoy being with the flock, the more you’ll interact with them, and be aware of their health and needs. A small flock is right there when you walk out the door. The girls will cluck to you. You’ll see them out your kitchen window. They will be as much a part of the your life as the family dog.

Chickens were often vital to a household’s income. Back in 1917, a dozen eggs in Boston sold from one neighbor to another, went for 75¢. In today’s dollars, that’s $12.32. Makes the $4.00/doz. carton of organic eggs at your local farmers’ market look like a bargain, doesn’t it?


As promised in yesterday’s blog, here are photos of some of the girls roosting.

Sussex hen roosting on a ledge

This is LuLu, fluffed up on the shelf by the window. She’s the only one who sleeps up there.

hens roosting

Here is Snowball, tucked between Edwina and Ginger. I had to turn on the light to get the photo, so Ginger stood up and Edwina peered around. Snowball wasn’t about to lose her cozy place – she turned her head but didn’t move her body. You can tell by her tail down position and her wings held out a bit that she’s relaxed and settled in for the night.

New Year Eggs

Chickens need to bask in 14 hours of sunlight to lay productively, but once in awhile, you’ll have a hen that will lay straight through the winter. The Wyandottes appear to be doing their bit to keep me supplied with eggs, but no one else is chipping in right now. I’ve stopped having scrambled eggs and smoked salmon for dinner, and I am baking recipes that don’t require custards. I miss eggs, but am trying not to buy any from the market. I know that if I can make it through to February, the girls will start laying again.

Despite the weather (the snowiest December ever recorded in this area), the girls are all doing fine. It’s been quite cold, but they are in a dry and draft-free shelter and don’t need a heater. The two “party girls” (the small white hens) cozy up together at night. Snowball, the smartest hen, squeezes between the two largest girls, so that you can barely see her. Snowball has her own living down comforter! (I’ll try to get a photo of that tonight to show you.) Even the hens who are molting and showing skin are keeping warm enough.

Candy is delighted with the white stuff and has made a U-shaped tunnel in the corner of the yard.

My big dog, Lily, found the discarded Halloween pumpkins, half-buried in the snow. She ate quite a lot, and then made a huge mess in the house (and people make fun of tiny bird brains!)

So, that’s the mid-winter report. Happy New Year!