You are here

Sustainable Austin Blog

Net-Zero Hero: Michelle Hernandez, Photo of Michelle standing next to a coop

I’m helping to make Austin Net-Zero by: celebrating chickens as zero waste heroes!

 

Head shot of Michelle HernandezAustin is green and we all want to keep it that way! As a community, we’re committed to reaching the target of Net-Zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, which will ensure a safe, healthy, vibrant Austin for many years to come. Here’s the story of how one person can make a difference.

Meet Michelle Hernandez, Co-Founder of Austin’s Funky Chicken Coop Tour®. When Michelle first started raising chickens, she didn’t realize it would be a gateway to a zero-waste lifestyle. While raising and caring for her birds, her perspective on waste shifted as she realized all the great things her chickens could do — turn compost for her garden, gobble up food scraps from her kitchen, and even “make” breakfast! Since then, Michelle has sought to share what she’s learned about chickens, and currently teaches free chicken keeping classes.

We spoke with Michelle about her commitment to Net-Zero, what her toughest challenges have been, and what advice she has for others looking to live Net-Zero. Read more below.

 

What inspired you to take action?

I wanted to have a small flock to have fresh eggs. You can’t go much more local than your back yard for a meal.

 

How did you do it?

After doing some upfront research, I started with a small coop and flock. I quickly found that chickens are quite entertaining. I had no idea that there are nearly as many chicken breeds as there are dog breeds! I wanted to share what I had learned so I helped found the Funky Chicken Coop Tour, and then served as Organizer for the Austin and Central Texas Backyard Poultry Meetup. I now also am an instructor for the free Austin Resource Recovery Chicken Keeping classes. So, I guess chickens continue to play a part in my life.

Michelle holding chicken in front of chicken coop.

Whats's been the toughest part?

Chickens are great backyard pets. However, they are prey and as such need good protection from predators. The designing of a great coop setup can be fun, but it’s sad to hear when someone loses a pet to predators.

Close up of locking mechanism on coop door.  Chicken coop.

Have there been any unexpected benefits?

When I started raising chickens over a decade ago, I didn’t realize they were a gateway to more sustainable living practices. I found that these birds are pets with benefits. The average American throws a half pound of food waste into the garbage daily. Chickens gave me a new perspective on that “waste.” Instead of throwing it away, I divert scraps to extra chicken feed (not all comes from a bag), which in turn makes more fresh eggs!

There are so many wonderful things about chickens. They use their keen daytime eyesight to find and consume bugs. Their powerful claws are wonderful at scratching and aerating soils, which is especially helpful in Central Texas. Their deposits of black gold go into a compost pile, which they can scratch and turn for me. This creates rich nutrients for the garden. Plus, none of my other pets make me breakfast, lunch, or dinner with delicious eggs!

Another uneggspected (...get the yolk?) benefit is that chickens build community. People of differing political, religious, or other viewpoints have no trouble “speaking chicken” to each other. Share eggs with your new neighbors and make a friend!

Close-up of chicken being held by Michelle.  Three chickens staring at each other.

Close-up of Michelle's chicken earring  Michelle standing against a fence.

What advice do you have for others?

Do some homework upfront to see if chickens are a good fit for you. Make sure your property restrictions allow you to raise chickens. Go to Austin’s Funky Chicken Coop Tour to get a preview, join an active online or in person chicken community, or volunteer to help a neighbor or your community garden with chicken care. If you live in an apartment, don’t be discouraged. Austin has five community gardens that have chickens on site.

Close-up of chicken being held by Michelle.

The Impact

Graphic reads "reduce" with a down arrowAccording to the EPA Food Recovery Hierarchy, feeding animals is the third best way to reduce food waste, after reducing the volume of surplus food and feeding hungry people. By keeping chickens you can reduce waste, control insects naturally, save money by downsizing your trash cart, fertilize your lawn, and help Austin reach its Zero Waste goal. Learn more about Austin's chicken keeping rebate>

 

To learn more about Austin's Net-Zero Goal, view the Community Climate Plan.

Share your Net-Zero contributions with us on Twitter or Facebook and use #NetZeroHero. If you know a Net-Zero Hero (or heroes!) who should be recognized for their efforts, send your nomination to sustainability@austintexas.gov.

Tagged: Net-Zero, net-zero heroes, Sustainability, chickens, zero waste

More Blog Posts

About this blog

News, ideas, and inspiration from the Office of Sustainability, to help advance a Bright Green future for Austin.

Tags

Sustainability

bicycle

featured member

sustainable

eNewsletter

net zero

library

emissions reduction

staff engagement

sustainability tips

grow zone

green

non-profit

new central library

net zero hero

solar energy

high school

co2

Plug in partners

Office of Sustainability

green schools showcase

mobility

super bowl 50

landscape

city of austin employee

st. andrew’s episcopal school

tips

ronda rutledge

watershed protection

Austin Mobility

water quality

Central library

Water conservation

health

make austin greener

seed bank

giving back

seaholm power plant

vegetable garden

charging

rethink

climate

electric vehicle

key performance indicators

energy efficiency

Education

HNTB

transportation

super bowl

garden

City of Austin

st. andrew’s

beat the heat

zero emissions

recycle

21st century America

pet waste

healthy corner stores

waste diversion

agbl

earth month

flooding

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin.

volunteer

design

herb garden

smart bench

rethink app

water preservation

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin. sustainability

kpi

green schools

alternative transportation

2015

green challenge

net-zero heroes

austin green business leader

heat

litter control

complete communities

Watershed

mobile markets

Composting

healthy living

erosion

seaholm ecodistrict

food

soofa

led

city sustainability

green building

bus rider

grant recipients

go green

green business

summer

leaf

scoop the poop

farm stands

green cup challenge

Green is the New Black

earth month tips

rain gardens

recycling

Seaholm

compost

soofa bench

rethink challenge

energy

environment

architecture

reuse

august martin jr

Melissa Rothrock

bgfg

bike commute

Austin Energy

food planning

profile

mall

greenhouse gas emissions

urban farms

green habits

huston tillotson university

water

yellow bike project

walking

austinites

upcycle

capital metro

Bright Green Future

bike

food insecurity

suburb

sxsw

Farmshare

carshandra hollins

save

conservation

bicycling

solar panels

springtime

sharon mays

bus

Waste not challenge

tree farm

lighting

north central austin

neighborhood

e-waste

GAVA

earth day

local food

solar

ecodistrict

save money

environmentaustin

Austin

generation net-zero

bailey middle school

rundberg

redevelopment

carbon footprint

community gardens

Net-Zero

gardening

open data

zero waste

recycled reads

bright green future grant

public affairs

crockett

leadership

dell

fresh for less

community

austin interfaith network

dashboard

holiday

austin public library

george cofer

University of Texas

lanier

business

aisd

congregation beth israel

goals

pilot

heidi tse

transporation

biking

Calder Kamin

lbj

blog

events

restaurant

food for all

challenge

redevelopment; code

conferences

electric drive

Eco-Friendly Tips

reduce carbon footprint

seniors

artist

connected

festivals

healthy

Baldwin Elementary

austinties

4th of July

bike month

children

compact

austin city limits

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin. green

reclaimed water

renewable energy

local business

breathing

sustainability accomplishments

Zero Waste Block Leader

seton

rebate

formula 1

halloween

purple pipe

wildlife

bryony gomez-palacio

austin business

air

Goodwill

catalina berry

urban trails

eastside memorial high school

climate change

austin fire department. climate resilience

restoration

Dustin Fedako

green choice

holidays

small business

how to ride the bus

ozone

year in review

lisa apfelberg

eastside memorial

chickens

electric

visiting austin

recycling tips

wildfire

kids

pat bulla

mopac mobility bridges

food recovery

air quality

keynote

chief sustainability officer

tour

tourism

austin resource recovery

resilience

whole life learning center

family

dale bulla

pedestrian

golden-cheeked warbler

joseph de leon

gallons saved

upcycled

green business leaders

Net Zero Carbon emissions

bill nye

lucia athens

biophillic cities

recipes

learning

Nature

low flow

gift bows

reagan high

Austin's food system

science

green visitor

greenchoice

autumn

hiking

birds

wrapping paper

eco-audit

reagan high school

Award

local food system

Austin Energy Regional Science Fest

fall

gus garcia

castle hill

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin. earth day

school

Prosperous. Sustainable. Austin. sustainable

pumpkin

shoal creek trail

diy

capmetro

gift ideas

food policy

donations

michael harris

Healthy Austin

violet crown trail

Food Waste

metrorapid

farmers market

SXSW Eco

student showcase

grant

animals

good food purchasing

thor harris

green operations and maintenance

community and outreach

applied materials

local produce

presentation

how-to

outdoors

reclaimed wood

sustainable business

trails

fitness

local farms

city hall

texas

local

green spaces

sealab

Austin Animal Center

electricity

wellness

farms

weather

Music

foundation communities

2016

animal

farming

nominations

valentine

stay cool

musican

Mendez Middle School

resource management

agriculture

nominate net-zero hero

ecorise

valentines day

activities

cool pavement

greenbelt

Mueller

sustainability education

the science guy

texas women in agriculture

nominate

Sameer Pusapaty

green roof

McKinney/York

water efficiency

Texas women

net-zero hero 2016

party tips

green operations

safety

creek protection

infrastructure

amy stansbury

2017

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January