Mother Earth News, (arguably the coolest, best established, and most trustworthy of news sources for all things self-reliant and homesteading) recently invited me to interview two chicken experts who were presenting at the Mother Earth News Fair in Belton, Texas. I was flattered and excited to host this interview with Pat Foreman and Victoria “Redhed” Miller (that is not a misspelling of her nickname.)
In my interview with Pat and Victoria, we discuss a wide range of chicken topics. Some of the items we discussed in depth include: gardening with chickens efficiently, selecting chicken breeds for your situation, how to best build a chicken coop, how keeping small backyard chickens can help fight against large chicken factories, the amazing nutrition found in naturally raised eggs, and much, much more!
Both Pat and Victoria are poultry experts extraordinaire with very diverse backgrounds. What they strikingly share in common is that their respective paths to to poultry were not always obvious.
Pat Foreman earned dual Bachelor’s of Science degrees in pharmacology and animal science from Purdue University. Through her studies she became fascinated by the disturbing dichotomy of how each of these two college’s approached nutrition. In the college of pharmacy, she became extensively familiar with the Recommended Daily Allowance standards – which are the minimum nutrients necessary to keep humans healthy. Conversely, at the college of animal sciences the focus was on how to formulate feed for maximum health benefits in livestock. The paradox between these two school’s of thought and their differing attitudes towards health struck Pat deeply.
Though a trained pharmacist, Pat has spent the past 25+ years working to naturally improve human nutrition and health. To this end, she has studied composting methods in depth and operated a small-scale farm. It was through her work in permaculture and soil sciences that Pat became involved in keep poultry. She learned that chickens (and other livestock birds) are a natural and symbiotic component in building topsoil and processing compost. Free range chickens and turkeys are an integral partners at her farm. Pat refers to poultry as the “most underused workers around” as they are extremely efficient at providing pest control, kitchen scrap disposal, garden fertilization, and earth tilling in a backyard or on a farm. Through proximity to her farm birds, she developed a deep understanding and affinity for them.
Pat has authored (or co-authored) several books, including City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-reyclers, and Local Food Producers, Chicken Tractor, Day Range Poultry: Every Chicken Owner’s Guide to Grazing Gardens and Improving Pastures, and Tiny Home to Call Your Own: Living Well in Just Right Houses. She also developed a training course for keeping backyard chickens called the Chickens and You Training Series.
Victoria “Redhed” Miller also came to own and develop a rich knowledge of/understanding for poultry in an unexpected manner. Despite being a lifelong urbanite living in the metropolis Seattle area since her infancy, Victoria had always dreamed of living on a farm.
In 2006, Victoria and her husband David decided to make a radical life change – they left Seattle to live on a remote, off-grid farm. David’s Portuguese grandparents had purchased the forty acre property, later named Canyon Creek Farms, in the foothills of Washington’s lush Olympic Mountains in 1936. Their home was hand-built by David’s grandfather in 1940 and updated by Victoria and David to be powered through an off-grid solar array and propane gas.
It was through self-teaching, (the rare practice of research, reading, experimentation, observation and adjustment based on the results), Victoria learned to run an organic, free-range poultry farm. She and David raise chickens, ducks and turkeys for egg and meat sales. There have been hard lessons learnt throughout the years – especially regarding predators on their heavily wooded homestead. Each challenge left Victoria and David a little wiser. In her first book, Pure Poultry: Living Well with Heritage Chickens, Turkeys and Ducks, Victoria shared her hands-on experience learning to run a small-scale farm and to raise a few hundred birds at a time.
Since moving to Canyon Creek Farms, Victoria has been formally trained at Washington State University in Sustainable Agriculture, earned her certification as a Master Food Preserver, and obtained her home distillery license. She is now an experienced brewer and distiller, sharing that knowledge in her second book, Craft Distilling: Making Liquor Legally at Home, published in 2016.
Mother Earth News Fairs
Pat and Victoria are both regular presenters at the Mother Earth News Fairs which are held each spring/summer at several locations around the United States. The fairs are amazing weekend long extravaganzas in all things homesteading. Multiple stages host simultaneous lectures and demonstrations on a wide range of topics — cooking, keeping chickens, distilling, aquaponics, green living, etc. from early morning until late into the late evening for two days. If you have never been to a Mother Earth News Fair you should consider visiting one close to you. Be sure to attend at least one of Pat and Victoria’s classes at the Fairs and tell them “Hi!” and that you heard of them through the Urban Chicken Podcast.
Learn more about Pat and Victoria and the various projects in which they are involved, through the following linked resources.
- Pat Foreman’s Chicken Mastery Courses “ChickensAndYou” — CLASS
- Pat working for global sustainability & local food with Gossamer Foundation
- Pat’s Book — City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-reyclers, and Local Food Producers
- Pat’s Book — Chicken Tractor
- Pat’s Book — Day Range Poultry: Every Chicken Owner’s Guide to Grazing Gardens and Improving Pastures
- Pat’s Book — Tiny Home to Call Your Own: Living Well in Just Right Houses
- Victoria Miller’s “Pot Pies and Egg Money” — BLOG
- Victoria Miller’s “Canyon Creek Farms” — BLOG
- Victoria (@offgridwriter) — TWITTER
- Victoria’s Facebook — FB PAGE
- Victoria’s Book —Pure Poultry: Living Well with Heritage Chickens, Turkeys and Ducks
- Victoria’s Book —Craft Distilling: Making Liquor Legally at Home
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