Have you ever met a chicken?
I mean really looked one of those clucking, crazed birds in its tiny, roving eye beneath that fluttery flesh hat and wondered what the HELL was going on in there?
I had not.
I thought chickens were calm, vacant little feather balls that stood around, laid eggs, taste delicious in an Asian wrap, and occasionally gently pecked in the dirt while Billy Bob played bluegrass in the background. Or something. Turns out, I don’t know chicken shit about chickens.
I pride myself on caring how they are raised and under what conditions they live, but I had never *actually* hung out with one. Let alone around 2,500 of them for 5 hours.
It was precisely at the moment I found myself squealing with alarm and sprinting across a chicken yard, anxiously looking back as several hundred chickens were running (yes, running) in my wake that I realized there’s a chance I had seriously misjudged The Chicken.
Chickens, my friends, are somewhere between Elle Woods’ character from Legally Blonde and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. They’re bizarre and bizarrely charming, not stupid but also not quite all there, and move en masse with alarming enthusiasm.
After I got used to their spastic dashing about and overwhelming curiosity about everything, I stood there surrounded by bawking chickens as they aggressively and sometimes painfully pecked at my pants and boots, taking breaks to peer up at me indignantly.
“Huh. So. These are chickens,” I thought, sagely.
Behind me, the Chicken Lord looked on, probably wondering who the hell this yahoo was, who had begged her way onto his chicken farm and was now shrieking and fleeing before his flock of pasture-raised hens.
I don’t know Nathan Boggs nearly well enough to call him the Chicken Lord, which I’m hoping he’ll let me keep in the final edit, but I know Fili-West Farms eggs, for sure. They’re incredibly tasty. They're in my fridge right now. And that’s why I’m here.
I’m not a vegetarian. But it’s hard to be an environmentalist and not scratch the surface of factory farming. I started reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s book, Eating Animals, and it’s a horrifying portrayal of factory farming and big agriculture in this country. I’m on the fence about recommending it, frankly, because I think it doesn’t give enough credit to the small farmers who are determined to do it right, to honor the animals, the earth, and the eons old ritual of eating animals, even in our overpopulated and demanding consumerist world.
And that’s where the Chicken Lord and Fili-West Farms comes in.
While I was having some sort of city-chick kumbaya moment with a bunch of chickens, Boggs was building a Chicken Caravan while his adorable wife Ghie roamed from yard to yard collecting farm fresh eggs.
What’s a Chicken Caravan? It’s a moveable chicken shed. The specially outfitted boxcar (basically) has a roosting area, nesting boxes complete with privacy curtains - apparently, a brooding hen is a force to be reckoned with - and a hand crank for shuttling eggs down a conveyor belt for easy, clean collection. The box is sheltered, spacious, and even uses solar energy.
The solar panels power the timed closure of the nesting boxes but also power the electric fence that keeps the chickens in and the predators out. The yard around each Chicken Caravan is spacious, and the chickens have plenty of room to chase bloggers, scratch in the dirt, flap their wings, and do whatever it is that chickens do. The Chicken Caravans rotate around the farm onto fresh pastures in order to allow the land to rest and the grass and bugs to recover. It’s awesome.
What’s more awesome is the concept Boggs and his wife have for Fili-West Farms.
It’s farming done right, it’s raising animals fit to eat, not some science experiment in mass production.
Here’s some info about those chickens that chased me across the yard***:
Eat: Bartlett’s Milling feed, which does not contain antibiotics, medications, or animal byproducts
Sleep: keep natural sleep cycles, thanks to outdoor exposure
Exercise: each chicken has ample space to scratch and romp about, making for healthier birds
Breathe: virtually no ammonia smell or toxicity
Health: these birds are not vaccinated, nor are they drugged, and their eggs are cleaned in a natural vinegar-based solution before arriving to your local restaurant or farmer’s market. The egg washing machine uses a steady stream of warm, clean water to wash the eggs.
*This gallery contains affiliate links. This means that if you click through and give the product a whirl, I get a tiny fee for spreading the news at no extra cost to you. This helps me offset the enormous amount of time that goes into Compost & Cava.
So how does this save the planet? Well, for starters, it saves you. From eating sick animals, their byproducts, from exposure to drug-resistant diseases, and the chemicals most supermarket chicken is pumped full of. Fili-West products also have a longer shelf life, are lower in saturated fats, and higher in Omega-3s and Vitamin E.
It saves the land from being overworked and loaded down with toxic shit (literally), which will run off into our beloved waterways, and it saves the earth by farming cleaner, smarter, and with longevity and sustainability in mind.
Chicken Lord. This is not an idly bestowed title, dear readers. This is a title earned through passion, thoroughness, incredibly hard work… and some damn tasty product. Here’s to the Chicken Lord, Ghie, and Fili-West Farms!
Oh, and the chickens? Those clucking, crazed birds? Be careful, y’all. They’ll steal your heart before you know it.
***Fili-West Farms has a thorough explanation in fantastic detail about what their process means, and how it matters to you as a consumer and relates directly to your health on their website, as well as additional information Facebook page. You should also check out Netflix series "Rotten", specifically the episode "Big Bird". Please go, read, like, share, and most importantly buy.
And a special thank you to the Chicken Lord for taking the time with this little space on the interweb.