How About a White House Chicken Flock?

By Bill Niman and Nicolette Hahn Niman
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Photo by ktylerconk/Flickr CC

Michelle Obama made front-page news late last week when she broke ground on a new White House vegetable and herb garden. We join the sustainable-food advocates across the country who are cheering loudly. And now we suggest the logical next step: a flock of egg-laying hens for the White House grounds.

The idea may sound far fetched, but is it, really? At the dawn of the 20th century, chickens were literally everywhere. Census figures show that 88 percent of farms had chicken flocks. Even in urban areas, there was a chicken for every two people (You can find the full citations for these numbers on page 40 of my book, Righteous Porkchop: Finding a Life and Good Food Beyond Factory Farms).

Fueled by a desire to reconnect with the source of one's food, as well as to regain control over its safety and healthfulness, there is already a small but growing movement to re-establish backyard poultry flocks in many parts of the United States. Like vegetable gardening, tending a chicken flock can produce the freshest, tastiest food available, and gets you outdoors and in motion even more reliably than dog walking. [Curator's note: Carol Ann Sayle's account of her relationship with her chickens, particularly one tough hen, could inspire anyone get started.] So to Michelle Obama and the White House chefs in charge of the garden, we say: Great start -- keep going!

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2009/03/how-about-a-white-house-chicken-flock/4865/