In Professor of Classics Carl Shaw’s backyard there is a long chicken run supporting a little sign with the quote “I dream of a world where chickens can cross the road without having their motives questioned.” Shaw built the run for his three hens, Lisa, Louise and Lana. Over fall break, I was a pet sitter for Shaw’s hens, his tortoise Archer, and his two cats, Elliot and Dorian.
Shaw is an innovative pet owner in many ways. The chicken coop has a solar powered door opener and a cave has been dug out in the back corner of the yard to serve as a spot for Archer to stay cool. Shaw also makes his own cat food using vitamins taken from a vet’s mixture. The cat food includes chicken, eggs, fish oil, Vitamin E and taurine – an amino acid essential for cats.
Shaw adopted his chickens from Come See Come Save, a market in Bradenton that sells a wide variety of farm supplies and animals. The organic chicken feed Shaw feeds his chickens is also bought there. Archer, who is a Sulcata tortoise, was adopted from Majical Miniatures in Parrish, Florida.
“With chickens, I would recommend getting them as young as possible,” Shaw said. “This is because the more you handle them the easier they will be as pets and the happier they are to hang out with you.”
In addition to providing charming company, Shaw’s animals also support his wellbeing. The chickens supply the only animal product his wife Amber Shaw eats. Archer produces nourishment for the yard by munching on grass and weeds around Shaw’s garden. Tortoises and chickens are relatively simple pets: Archer feeds himself (except for the occasional treat of kale) and the chickens need only be fed a generous amount and given fresh water once a day.
Chickens provide a surprisingly wide variety of benefits for their homes and for the world. They love to eat weeds and insects and can help protect a garden or even a house from both. They can also permeate soil for good growth. Chickens love to eat kitchen scraps and their droppings create an invaluable natural fertilizer. In fact, in 2011, a city in Belgium gave three laying hens to 2,000 homes for the purpose of redirecting 252 tons of waste from landfills every year.
Raising chickens also ensures fresh and natural eggs. Many commercial egg companies claim their products are hormone and cage free. However, as scandals involving abusive factory farms are increasingly exposed, the public is often left in doubt as to whether what they are consuming is ethical and healthy.
In 2010, the Humane Society of the United States filed a complaint against the country’s largest egg producer, Eggland’s Best, for making misleading marketing statements about the treatment of their chickens. In contrast to their commercial vision of green grassland, the popular egg brand’s major farm turned out to be keeping chickens in wire cages so small they could not spread their wings. This incident, along with many others, revealed the uncertainty of animal treatment throughout commercial brands of poultry and egg products.
In the Zoroastrian religion, the chicken is a sign of enlightenment as it rises with the sun. Throughout the 7 a.m. feedings, I discovered that the chickens’ upbeat attitudes were contagious and could even brighten my usual morning disposition. In fact, chickens are adopted as emotional support animals in areas all over the world!
Professor Shaw’s homemade cat food
3 pounds of poultry thigh meat
3/4 cup water
6000 mg fish oil (Do NOT use cod liver oil!)
400 IU (268 mg) Vitamin E (powdered E in capsules is the easiest to use)
50 mg Vitamin B-complex (capsules or tablets)
2,000 mg taurine (use powdered – either in capsules or loose)
1 tsp Morton Lite salt with iodine
4 ounces of chicken livers (get organic!)
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon Bone Meal
Put chicken in roasting pan with water and liver. Cook at 350 until just done (or even a little before totally done). Lightly cook egg white, but keep the yolk liquidy. Mix cooked chicken and all other ingredients in food processor. Throw bits and pieces on floor for your kitty sous chef.