If you are a returning student, you might have noticed seven members of our Northwest School community are no longer with us. But don’t worry! The chickens haven’t ended up on your plate. They have gone to a nonprofit where they can live their chicken lives to their fullest. At the beginning of the year when I saw the empty space the chicken coop used to occupy, my heart skipped a beat. I hope to assuage some of the fears and answer some questions that may have come up after noticing the chickens’ absence.
Originally the chickens were brought to the school through a student proposal. Everything in the garden is student-led, from its design to the late chicken coop, which was built during a past Summit. The chickens helped to further our school’s dedication to sustainability by providing eggs to the dining hall and eating compost scraps. They were also exciting and drew people’s attention in a way plants can’t. The presence of animals in the garden was a great way for students to practice the skills necessary to care for living beings. Unfortunately, the Northwest community struggled to consistently look after the chickens throughout school breaks, particularly during the summer months. There are some summer camps that occur on school grounds, but these do not last the entire three months. While our beloved chickens were on their lonesome last summer, rats found their way into their coop and ate the food in it. Efforts to keep the rats out led to the chickens having much less freedom to roam the garden.
In addition to the problem of consistent upkeep, caring for the chickens was a lot of work that continued to fall on a single faculty member. Originally, much of the labor was the responsibility of Jenny C, the former director of Environmental Education and Sustainability. When Jenny left, Reena M, former office manager, and assistant DEI director took on the job, but caring for the chickens was a lot for one person with many other responsibilities. There had been numerous attempts made by NWS to garner more support for the upkeep of the chickens in order to spread the labor involved, but the challenge of meeting care responsibilities persisted.
After much deliberation, the NWS faculty decided that the best thing we could do for the chickens was give them a new home. Damien J, the director of Facilities and Transportation, suggested they go to a non-profit he had worked with previously, which provides supportive housing for women. The location of the housing non-profit is semi-rural and includes ample room for the chickens to roam, as well as residents and staff present to take care of them seven days a week. You can rest assured that the chickens are happy and healthy in their new home.
While we had to say farewell to the chickens, this doesn’t mean animals on campus are off the table forever. Neo, our director of Environmental Education and Sustainability, is hoping to bring in worms to assist in the decomposition process in our compost bins. Worms may be very different animals from chickens, but it is vital that our community is confident in our ability to plan for and provide adequate care for any animals we choose to bring into the community, especially during school breaks.