Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

I have kept chickens before but only on a very small suburban block with not much in the way of productive gardening. 
Nowadays, with much more land and an extensive vegetable garden I am better placed to integrate elements into a sustainable mix.
While I  began my labours using a mulch/compost template, since importing a few chickens into the mix, the sustainability quotient has changed sharply. Our bona fide garbage -- the stuff that goes out to the council truck -- each week has imploded so that it's hardly worth the effort of wheeling the bin to the curb side. 
Even I -- with a  poultry and rabbit keeping background -- was surprized. Chickens will eat almost anything.
Ninety percent of the kitchen waste is recycled through the back ends of the chooks -- and the manures are bedded on grass clippings which every now and then are muck spread on the garden.
This simple exercise suggests that if there were more animals in the urban landscape -- such as pigs, ducks, rabbits, goats and sheep -- we'd not only enhance the gardening fertility but recycle and utilize tonnes of neighborhood wastes while doing away with the totally useless exercise of lawn mowing. 
Even around where I live -- a township surrounded by 'hobby farms'-- so many of the local squires will spend their hard earned weekends mowing broad scale grassland to keep bushfire and reptile at bay.
Why not keep sheep or goats instead? 
[I see a business opportunity: Rent a Sheep.]
Similarly a neighborhood piggery -- small scale,  open and  free range -- would eat up almost anything you could throw at it with bacon hocks on offer at the end of the day. 
One of the oversights  of the urban agriculture movement is that it tends to be chlorophyll obsessed and doesn't recognize why the traditional norm was for mixed agriculture where animals were integrated into the 'system' to output food and fertility. 
Laws banning the keeping of pigs in urban areas, for instance,  are only a recent phenomenon. I think Darwin passed an ordinance as late as the 1970s. A well kept,  regularly inspected animal facility will pose no threat to human health. We face more of a health threat from the birds and fruit bats that fly into our domestic spaces  and the rodents who always coexist with us.
Similar myopic legislation was passed in the sixties stopping farmers feeding pigs milk whey and vegetable wastes. My uncle's farm was a sustainable dairy+pork mix which was sentenced to massive  feed supplementation once the new rules were imposed.
But an integrated system of urban farming lots -- akin to the English system of allotments and commons -- sustained and supplemented by animal husbandry -- makes a lot more sense than engineering vegetable growing space beside each and every individual domestic dwelling. 
Growers and non growers alike not only get to recycle their domestic wastes, but all get to share in the harvest.
A note on systems In the washup, chook rearing is  a lot easier in my experience than either compost making or worm farming. The chickens do all the work. All you need do is feed them stuff. As I suggested, I've kept rabbits and fed them vegetable scraps etc but while they grow quickly ready for butchering, there is no supplementary gain en route to harvest size -- like eggs. Also rabbits require solid flooring (or very deep fences) otherwise they exit the premises.
Chicken pens can be located anywhere or even shifted around to work over soil -- the chicken tractor.Worms can be a bit touchy as to their requirements and to generate composting scale presumes some preliminary mulching. But with chickens the wait for manure is as long as it takes for stuff to transit the poultry gasto intestinal tract. 

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Comment by Elaine de Saxe on November 1, 2011 at 7:17
We have got a bit precious with our suburban space, to our detriment. My neighbour on a mini-acreage has 4 goats, several hens and 2 roosters. Don't know if the council knows but we neighbours know about the roosters ;-) The next best thing for the hen-deprived is composting in situ - worm farms are just too much effort for so little reward. Feed the worms in the ground - works very well.

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