The Tao of the Backyard Chickens, Goats, and Garden: Top 5 Tenets of Healthful Eating and Living

hen house

Follow the way of the chickens and other observations of nature on your path to better health. In my practice, I get paid to tell people how to eat and make lifestyle changes to manage a variety of health issues. I see a lot of people struggling with obesity and other diseases related to our modern day lifestyle, and I tell a lot of these people the same things. The top 5 things come down to what my animals and garden have taught me.

  1. Get adequate rest, and go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday. I have two hens, one named Sgt Pepper and the other Lady (Madonna). They live in a two-story coop that my husband custom built. Every evening around dusk, the two ladies put their hair in rollers and go up to their second level perch to go to bed for the night. Every morning, they wake up with the sun. They are both very productive layers. I tell my patients that during sleep, the nutrients we consume are used for rebuilding and restoring. The amount and quality of our sleep also affect our mood, hormones, and metabolism. Our bodies like to operate according to a rhythm, like my ladies who go to bed and wake up with the sun every single day.
  2. Start your day with breakfast and continue with regular meals at set times. We have a blue-eyed Nigerian dwarf goat named Scout. She’s the cute, little one, but she has the most horrendous bleat that sounds like an old lady who smoked her entire life. If she doesn’t get her meals on time, you’ll hear it. We’re the same. Skip breakfast (or lunch or dinner), and you’ll be doing your body a disservice by slowing down your metabolism and overeating by night, not to mention bleating hangrily at your significant other.
  3. Eat a variety of whole foods, especially your fruits and vegetables! My girls love to eat bugs, worms, yogurt, strawberry tops, barley sprouts, kale, and various herbs and weeds. It makes me happy to know that they’re not eating just commercially processed feed like their less fortunate sisters out there on some egg farms. By eating a variety of whole foods, you’re more likely to cover your bases as well as get the phytochemicals and antioxidants that haven’t been isolated and included in any multivitamin.
  4. Have treats in moderation. Chickens go crazy for chicken scratch, which is the human equivalent of empty calories.  If you feed them mostly chicken scratch, they’ll fill up on that and not have room for the nutrients they need for healthy, shiny feathers, egg production or fertility, and fighting off disease. We’re the same. People can eat nutritionally-empty foods in abundance, become obese, and be deficient in essential vitamins and minerals.
  5. Connect with others. Our county ordinance regarding goats is that you can’t keep just one goat; you have to have two. Why? Because they’re social animals. Without another caprine or other hooved friend, they become lonely and will not thrive. Your vegetables also do better if planted along with companion flowers that attract pollinators like bees and butterflies and deter pests. One of the secrets of Okinawans, one of the longest-lived populations, is their tight social networks and feeling of connectedness to the community.

All the insights into the tao to health can be found by observing nature. At least that’s what my chickens, goats, and plants tell me.

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