Food prices in Shamattawa are very high and the quality of food available is not very good, especially since the grocery store burnt down in the fall of 2016. People often cannot afford good food when it is available. There are also limited opportunities for young people to learn new skills and be involved in positive activities. The chicken project is a response to both of these needs.
Chicken coops were built with support from friends and family. We used a mixture of local and shipped materials to build the first coop and fence. When the chickens arrived they attracted a lot of interest and one person ran home and built a small coop, returning to pick up ten chickens the next day. 47 chickens out of 50 were raised and harvested. People were happy to see that it was possible to raise chicken in their community and continue to speak about it with pride. The coop became a place for young people to come visit and many of them helped out with feeding and watering. Along with youth, adults helped out when the main chicken raisers were away. Some community members are now looking to raise chickens for themselves, possibly take over the maintenance of the current coops and share the workload. Chickens were processed and shared with 12 families, plus the two families who raised them.
There were some initial challenges getting the coop built in time because of the weather, as well as ensuring the chicken feed was properly stored, as it had to come up the winter road. The fencing itself wasn’t complete until after the chicks arrived. Although the coop attracted lots of attention and excitement, some young people broke-in and hurt a half-dozen chickens in the first six weeks. Fortunately those chickens were able to be cooked and eaten, even if they didn’t reach the full size. For the main family raising chickens, it was a full-time commitment. While they were able to get some help from friends and family, it did make it more difficult for them to go out to camp. The summer is an important time to go out on the land to camp and tending the chickens will be a challenge if it prevents people from going. Shipping in feed and bedding was decided to make the initial year easier while the new chicken raisers got a feel for the work of raising chickens, but going forward it is important to the raisers and Food Matters Manitoba to find more local sources of bedding and feed. This would keep costs down as well as involve and benefit more people in the community.
Along with the new recreation programs and gardens, the chicken project is often talked about as something that is going well for Shamattawa. People struggle through many challenges, often so many that it can become overwhelming. Starting and continuing these types of initiatives is key to creating hope and finding a way forward. The chickens themselves are said to be the tastiest and chubbiest chickens that people in Shamattawa have seen. As they were shared with Elders and families with kids, the chickens clearly became a source of a good meal. This was at the very time the store had burned down, leaving many people without access to fresh foods like chicken. Raising local chickens could become part of the way that people feed themselves, especially with gardening, moose and goose hunting, trapping, fishing and picking berries.
In the coming year, both coops have people to take on the primary responsibility for raising chickens. Food Matters Manitoba will continue to provide support where needed, but most of the training will be passed between community members. Some people also talked about building their own coops and have gathered supplies. The Health Director will look at supporting chicken raising activities with newly hired youth workers. Again, supplies will be shipped over the winter road, but chicken raisers will work with Food Matters Manitoba and the youth workers to find good sources of food and bedding, through such ways as: seeding open spaces, collecting bedding materials and finding food scraps or trimmings. Local sources could supplement and eventually replace supplies that need to be brought over the winter road. Keeping the chicken coops running, opens the possibility of raising ducks and even egg laying hens. In order to set-up community chicken raising for the long-term, there has been talk about setting up a cooperative membership that could share the work, costs and of course the meat and eggs.
To find out more about the Shamattawa Chicken Project please read here.
To find out more about other community partners please read here.
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