It all started in 2013. This was the year I learned I had an overgrowth of the fungal species, candida, which can result from a leaky gut and an imbalanced microbiome. It was also the year I got engaged to my husband Brian on an 8-day ski traverse in the Canadian Rockies. I remember this well because throughout much of the trip I was suffering extreme stomach pains from eating anything with a high concentration of carbohydrates, which was a frequent occurrence since we were so physically active. After the trip, the typical methods to address my candida overgrowth were not cutting it for me. I was not feeling any better and it was quite challenging to eat such a restrictive diet while continuing our high activity levels. Thus, 2013 was the year I embarked on a pathway of nutritional discovery and self healing, which eventually prompted my career switch into functional nutrition, and also included lots of chicken.

As I progressed along my healing pathway, I quickly learned that one of the first foods to add into a diet when trying to heal is bone broth. Broth made from the bones of animals, such as cows, chickens, elk, and pigs, is an excellent source of collagen protein, which is the dominant structural protein in our bodies. This means collagen helps build and heal tissues including joints, skin, muscle tissue. In my case I was working to heal my intestinal lining. It turns out the amino acids in bone broth are also excellent at supporting gut health, our microbiome, and our immune health.

We were buying a LOT of organic chickens. We would roast or boil the whole chicken first, then save the bones for broth to use in making soups and stews. We got really good at making soups and broths; my body began to heal; and I had plenty of energy to be active and ski. Life was good. Brian started thinking of how much money he could save on buying organic chicken if we raised our own.

Fast forward ahead nearly a decade, and we are backyard chicken farmers. This is the third year we have raised meat birds to feed our family, and this year we have birds for sale to feed other families as well. Our first, experimental, year we raised 25 Cornish Crosses. Last year we raised 75 Red Rangers. This year we raised 150 of the Rangers again. . 

These chickens play a number of important roles for our bodies, our land, and our whole family‚Äôs growth. First, our chickens are an important protein source in our diet. Animal protein is one of the most nutrient dense foods available, and when feeding a growing family of 5, nutrient density and protein content are two of my top priorities. Our family easily eats one chicken every week of the year. We roast it for dinner one night, eat it in soup or salad another night, and make more soup or broth out of the bones. 

Second, our chickens are building soil and fertility on our property. Using mobile floorless coops,  the chickens are moved to fresh pasture each day and they forage and fertilize a new patch of ground each day. While we do supplement their feed, they get a great deal of essential micronutrients that would be unavailable to them without fresh pasture. The area the chickens move through is seeded and watered to further increase the vegetation and biomass. 

Third, our chickens get all of us outside and working together. While Brian is the mastermind and head of the chicken operation, all five of us take on various roles to care for the birds as they grow from chicks into beautiful, nutritionally dense, soil-building animals. Our youngest loves turning on the sprinklers to water the seeded areas. Our oldest watches the chicks carefully when they first arrive to ensure they get used to their new surroundings. All kids help with feeding and watering, and are even eager to help when it comes time to butcher.. 

I never could have imagined back in 2013 that I would marry a backyard chicken farmer (one of his many talents), or that my whole family would get to take part in raising food to nourish both ourselves and the land that we live on. It has been a successful experiment in growing our own healing food so far, and we will continue to learn and grow together as we keep it going. 

If our story intrigues you a bit, or if you are yourself eating a LOT of organic chicken and are curious if raising meat birds is an adventure you could embark on yourself, I invite you to come join us for an in-person workshop on raising and processing meat birds at our property on Saturday, October 1st. 

Sign up here through Mountain Roots Education

Also, if you are local in the greater Teton area, you can also buy our chickens! Just reach out and we can arrange a chicken hand-off: emily@realfoodfoundations.com.