How to grow chickens without buying grain

compost chickens photo
Video screen capture Geoff Lawton

Why waste agricultural effort on growing feed for animals when we can simply feed ourselves?

That's the most simple premise behind the environmental case for veganism. But that equation gets a bit more complicated when animals don't eat food fit for humans—but rather turn resources we couldn't otherwise eat, whether it's trash or grass, into a high-value protein for human consumption.

That's why this video from permaculture legend Geoff Lawton is so interesting. There are plenty of farming operations that feed their chickens from a mix of food waste, forage and grain—but there can't be many that have eliminated grain purchases entirely.

From worms and bugs to waste animal bedding and even mushroom mycelium, these chickens get a diet that's unrivaled by your average supermarket egg operation. Of course, it helps that Karl Hammer runs Vermont Compost, so he's not short of alternative inputs.

Still, it's a useful reminder that the linear, industrial model of agriculture has turned things on its head. By thinking of our food and farming systems as interconnected ecosystems of inputs and outputs, it's not that hard to imagine something better.

How to grow chickens without buying grain
Even most pasture-raised chickens get a majority of their calories from grain. But one Vermont farmer has stopped buying chicken feed entirely.

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