Backyard Chicken Project
Welcome to Myrnam, a remote village located thirty minutes away from the closest town with grocery stores! We are in the process of developing a sustainable backyard chicken coop for our school. The reason for this would be to provide a food source for our school utilizing the eggs produced from laying hens. Utilizing what we learn from our trial project, we will broaden our project to promote backyard poultry in our community, which will be one way to reduce our ecological footprint. Backyard chickens will produce a food source for many without having to drive a far distance to get it. We are a part of the North Saskatchewan River watershed – our watershed is affected by agriculture. All around us are large scale industrialized farms. The biggest issue surrounding our area is the runoff from agricultural operations that contaminate our water. We are in the process of designing a small scale chicken coop because we can control where the waste products are going to ensure that we can protect our watershed. The more chicken coops we build for people in the community the more we are able to help to protect our watershed. The little things we can do to help our watershed the better we will be in the future.
Myrnam is located in the North Saskatchewan River watershed. As mentioned before we are in a high agriculture industry area, the problem with this is the amount of waste from agricultural operations going into the watershed. The fecal matter is running off into the water source adding bacteria, viruses and nitrogen into our watershed. The pesticides and fertilizers used in grain farming operations, are putting harmful chemicals into the water sources causing the freshwater we use to be polluted. We need industry for small rural communities to thrive, but we need to make changes that will better our environment. Our backyard poultry project is one small step of many towards sustainable living.
The issue we want to address is the water quality decreasing in our watershed due to agriculture. The longer we choose to ignore this large issue about water quality the worse off we will be. Living in a small rural community with high need for agriculture, we are concerned about what extent these practices are contaminating our drinking water. We feel that this issue of water pollution due to agriculture is important because not only is it contaminating our fresh water source which affects access to clean drinking water but the nutrients in runoff are causing eutrophication of our watershed. These impacts are giving a negative view on agriculture. Big scale farms are the leading cause of the watershed quality deteriorating. Our hope with this project is to provide food for our community using a smaller scale approach. Also, we want to reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and particulate emissions that could get into our water by not having to travel out of the community for food.
Large scale chicken production has devastating consequences on water quality, but also contributes to global climate change. The amount of manure that is produced by industrialized chicken farms, produces huge amounts of waste that will enter our watershed due to run-off. These large scale operations have no place where the manure can decompose safely – they spread it throughout local fields or just leave it on a pile which then over time seeps into the ground which leads to the contamination of our watershed. We are building a small scale chicken coop to provide eggs for the school and community members as well as poultry meat for our community. The main goal of our project is to reduce our carbon footprint while also having a positive effect on our watershed. Our chicken coop consists of a rainwater collection system to water our chickens, an outside accessible collection box for the eggs which will provide our school’s breakfast and foods program with a source of protein. Also it has a manure collection tray to ensure we collect the waste materials and then compost it to use as dirt in our community garden plots. We understand that poultry manure is acidic and we will learn best practices to compost the waste. As a school we plan to have a farmers market to advertise our coop kits, which community members can purchase. We plan to help give back to our community by donating some of our eggs to our local seniors lodge. Over the past couple months we have been working on a scale model to ensure effective use of material which reduces waste. We are in the last stages of finalizing our design and then ready to purchase materials to build. We hope to find funding to make our project a reality.
Our plan with this project is to have a model at the school to make sure it is successful, and will be used to educate the students with their involvement with the project. After successful implementation of our project we hope to have chicken coops around the village and hopefully expand to the county and farmers around the area. As our project grows it can serve as a model for other communities to take apart in as well. Currently there are 3 students between grades 11 and 12 and our shop teacher who is working on this project to help make it as successful. We hope that we can have our grade ¾ class incubate eggs as a part of their life cycle unit in science class, as well as have the shop classes help with the building portion. This is one of many ways our school involves all the students in hands-on learning projects. If it is successful it will affect approximately 150 students as well as involve people around the community. So far we discovered that the planning and design portion have taken the longest, but we feel the extensive planning will result in a better implementation.
Living in such a rural community, our environmental footprint is much higher than those in a more accessible area. Our closest town to get essentials is an average of 45 kilometers away. Traveling far distances for items we need requires so much energy and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. There are roughly 500 people that live in and around Myrnam.. We can only imagine how many trips one family makes to town and back, let alone the amount of times we need to go each week. This does not include the truck that has to transport the eggs from the plant to the grocery store. They make this trip weekly as well, and from a great distance.. With our chicken coop we know what we are feeding them, how they are being treated and how the eggs are being handled, whereas getting eggs from the grocery store you don’t know what’s getting put into the chickens and how they are being treated. For those who wish to buy organic eggs you are paying more for them then regular eggs, this is due to the added care of the chickens. Giving the community the option to purchase these coops will be one small way we can help the environment. With the amount of people in our rural community who support the agriculture industry, we feel that with our chicken coop we would be able to educate the community on how to have a sustainable food supply. Our intention with building this coop is for people to support local and reduce their carbon footprint, to better our environment. By reducing the amount of gas emissions we are releasing into the air we are bettering our water quality in our watersheds.
Our backyard chicken coop will consist of a plywood coop and nesting boxes, 2×2’s to make the run, chicken wire all around the coop to ensure that the chickens do not escape as well as no predators can get the chickens. It will also include a PVC pipe feeding tube from the outside and watering containers. There will also be eavestroughs on the coop to collect rainwater for the chickens, and a compost bin to dispose of the chicken waste in an efficient way and to reuse it as dirt in the schools already existing garden plots. To build and run one coop it will cost approximately $600.00. We are hoping that we can cover these costs from different grants we are applying for that are tied to agriculture and the environment around our area. Between New Myrnam School and the village’s CTEC building we will be able to properly build the coop and it will be housed in the back of the school yard. With the amount of motivation the students and staff at New Myrnam School have we hope that as soon as we are able to receive funding that this project will be put into action and hopefully completed within 3-4 weeks, as the building portion will not take very much time and then our backyard chicken coop will become a reality!
Reflection & Celebration
In conclusion, we feel this small scale chicken operation will ensure long term health of our North Saskatchewan River watershed. It will also build collaboration in our community. This will also give people who live in the village the opportunity to have chickens in their backyard as they are unable to because they don’t live in the country. It also supplies the village with a local source of food, as well as reducing their carbon footprint. This then has a positive impact on our watershed and the fresh water sources around Myrnam and surrounding areas. These small changes will lead to a longer lasting impact for years to come. Thank you for taking the time to consider our proposal.
A lot of our knowledge has come from field trips such as Inside Education’s Cultiv8, which is an agriculture summit, where we had discussions with poultry experts, and Gener8, an energy summit. Our past projects gave us the inspiration to continue projects that involve caring for the environment. The teachers at New Myrnam school have had a big impact in helping with the project as they supported us throughout this whole process.