On Friday, Tamara and I were setting up displays at community centres and neighbourhood houses in our three backyard composting pilot neighbourhoods. In between sites, we made a pit stop at her place. In addition to needing some water, she wanted me to meet the girls. Lemon, Puff (the one with the fascinator), Hako and Flapper are one year old layer hens named by Tamara’s seven year old son. The chickens provide the family with up to four eggs a day. Eggs are also shared with friends and neighbours. At one of our first meetings on the compost project, Tamara came bearing beautiful, pastel-coloured eggs for her teammates.
While we were in the yard, the hens were allowed to roam. After being cooped up all day, they seemed delighted with their freedom. When Tamara started aerating the compost bin, they made a bee-line for it. Seems Lemon loves to help out with the aeration process. The others were content to peck away at the goodies they found at the open trap door. Hopefully the girls are eating the sow bugs before those little critters make their way into the newly planted garden.
As I watched the scene, I detected an aroma coming from the bin. I mentioned to Tamara that her nitrogen content might be a bit high (my polite way of saying her bin stinks). Turns out she adds the chicken manure to the compost – a rich source of nitrogen. And chickens are herbivores (unless you count the sow bugs and worms they might be eating). I sniffed the air again and realized it was the farmy smell of manure and not the dank anaerobic smell of too much wet, green material.
With the City of Vancouver now endorsing backyard chickens and promoting backyard composting, perhaps there’s a way to combine the two efforts. Give away a chicken with every compost, a whole new composting accessory. A bawk-yard composting program –something to test in future pilots.