The trend of keeping backyard chickens has been on the rise over the past number of years, and it’s easy to see why. Of course, there are the fresh eggs to look forward to, but did you know that chickens have a lot else going for them?
From free therapy to learning about self-sustainability, here are 20 great reasons to keep your own backyard chickens:
This is the obvious reason – you’ll have a supply of fresh eggs on hand. Not to mention the convenience, as you’ll have absolutely no need to get out of your pajamas and head to the store to make a fresh, healthy breakfast.
Organic & Non-GMO
Caged hens are fed a diet of corn, soy and cottonseed meals … three huge GMO crops. If you really take the old saying ‘you are what you eat’ to heart, then you’ll be wary of eggs which come from these hens. By keeping your own, you know exactly what they’re eating and can avoid feeding them engineered and antibiotic laden crops.
Free range eggs from your backyard have been shown to have a far greater nutritional value than nasty battery eggs.
There is more than seven times the Vitamin A and Beta Carotene (essential for good eyesight) and almost double the Vitamin E in free range eggs. When it comes to the essential fatty acid Omega 3 (which is necessary for heart health, healthy cholesterol levels and positive mental and behavioral health) the free range variety win again with an incredible 292mg, versus a pitiful 0.033mg in battery eggs. You’ll also get less saturated fat in free range eggs.
For your health, and the chickens, consider getting some backyard hens.
Not only will you get nutritious, organic eggs, but you can be safe in the knowledge that your omelet is served up cruelty free. You may think you’re already supporting a cruelty free life for farmed chickens by buying free range but, the truth is, commercially marketed ‘free range’ eggs don’t have the happy origins that the industry would like you to believe. There is actually no definite description of what ‘free range’ is and, even then, less than 1% of chickens in the US are considered to be free range.
Did you know chickens have a great memory and can differentiate between over 100 human or animal faces? They love to play, they dream, they mourn for each other and they feel pain and distress. They also make great mothers – they talk to their chicks while still in the egg, and turn the eggs about 50 times a day.
The term ‘pecking order’ didn’t come out of nowhere – hens have an ordered social structure based on a hierarchy. If you make room for them in your back garden, you and your family will get to learn all about these fascinating creatures up close. Have a look here for even more amazing facts about chickens.
Save a Life
Be a hero and save ex-battery hens from the slaughterhouse. 300 million birds each year are crammed into cages that are far too small. Why not play a part in giving some a second chance? They’ll reward you with their protein rich eggs and companionship.
Maybe free chicken manure isn’t something to get too excited about, but if you’re proud of your garden it can work wonders. Chicken manure is actually classed as being one of the most desirable manures due to its high nutrient level. Utilizing this is an important part of sustainable and organic agriculture.
It’s estimated that having between 5 and 10 chickens should produce enough fertilizer to take care of your entire vegetable garden and yard for the year. It’s also great to add to your compost.
Check out these 6 great ways that can even use your eggshells in the garden!
When you get your backyard chickens, you’ll have a great excuse to ditch the pesticides and chemical-laden bug killers. Your chickens will do that job for you. They eat pretty much any bug including beetles, slugs, ticks and grasshoppers.
Between a steady supply of fertilizer and a newly slug-free garden, your roses will never have looked so good.
Cut Down on Food Waste
Nationwide, food scraps make up about 17% (29 million tons) of what is sent to landfills, and yard waste is slightly more at 33 million tons. Your chickens can help you out here too!
In addition to some chicken food, they’ll eat pretty much most kitchen scraps – fruit and vegetable peelings, bread, cooked beans, cooked rice, oatmeal, pasta … and the list goes on. They can’t have all foods though so make sure you know what’s bad for them too. Meat and other animal products are best avoided.
Save Heritage Breeds
Because only certain chickens are good for meat, and others are specially bred for maximum egg production, today’s chickens look significantly different from their ancestors.
You could take on the role of conservationist by adding a few rare heritage breeds to your yard. Different breeds have different characteristics so choose which breed is right for you based on their temperament, and your location and available space.
Chickens may just be the perfect sidekick for every gardener. A source of pest control and manure all in one, they also will rid your garden of those invasive weeds that pop up all over the place.
As they scratch and claw the ground, they eat and disperse all those weed seeds that have blown in. Next year, you’ll be amazed at your neat and tidy garden.
Recommended Reading: Garden Weeds: 8 Of The Most Effective Ways To Get Rid Of Them For Good
A Source of Therapy
Move over cats and dogs, these beautiful creatures could be the next therapy animals! They’re already being used to help those with autism as well as the elderly.
Keeping chickens is seen as therapeutic for children on the autism spectrum by getting the kids involved in feeding and caring for the chickens, thereby promoting independent living skills.
They have also been used for patients with dementia and other psychiatric disorders. Because chickens are always moving around, pecking and socializing, they’re seen as calming.
Learn Where Food Comes From
Keeping chickens is a great way for kids to learn about nature, agriculture and the responsibility of caring for animals. It’s also a fantastic way for both kids and adults to gain respect for these intelligent creatures that produce food for us.
Because chickens are clever creatures, each occupying a different role in the pecking order, keeping them in your backyard gives you a chance to see the individual personalities and quirks of each of your new pets.
Cut Down on Food Miles
We’ve all heard of food miles – the distance over which a food item is transported from producer to consumer. Well, you can’t cut down on this particular type of environmental impact much more than keeping a source of food in your own back garden.
As you also clock up miles getting waste foods away from you and to the landfill, it seems these useful creatures save you miles twice when they gobble up your table scraps too!
A Lesson in Self-Sustainability
If you already grow your own vegetables and keep a compost heap then you’re heading in the right direction to becoming self-sustaining.
Keeping your own chickens is the next step – for the eggs, the pest and weed control and the simple source of fertilizer.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about egg shortages or recalls due to salmonella outbreaks!
A Taste of Country Life
Did you always want to live in the country but your job or your family meant you needed to be by the city? Well, keeping backyard chickens is one way of bringing country life to the city!
They don’t need much room to be happy (of course, it depends on how many you keep) and you’ll get a taste of keeping your own animals and collecting your own food – fresh from your mini-farm.
The Social Aspect
Would you believe there are entire communities dedicated to raising backyard chickens? Just do a quick internet search and you’ll see. It’s a great way to share your newfound passion with others, to pick up some tips and tricks, and to brag about how great the new additions to your family are.
It’s good for real-life socializing too. Mentioning you keep chickens is a great conversation starter and I’ll bet your kids’ friends want to come over and check out these cool creatures.
Yes, there are initial start-up costs. You’ll need to buy or build a chicken coop, ensure your new pets are kept safe from predators and invest in food and feeding equipment.
Once it’s all set up though, it’s relatively inexpensive to care for these quirky ladies. You’ll be cutting down on household waste (and garbage costs), you’ll have rich soil to grow your own crops, you won’t need to splurge on weed killer or insect repellent and, of course, you’ll get cheap organic eggs – which can sometimes be a little pricey in the store. Don’t forget the free therapy, companionship and amusement.
All in all, it’s a pretty good deal!
A Fun Hobby
What else would you get up to on a Sunday afternoon than spend time with your chicks? Sure, it might seem like an odd choice of pastime to some … but so is stamp collecting.
As hobbies go, it’s a pretty low-maintenance one and can be a lot more rewarding than making a jigsaw puzzle.
Before you Start Building a Chicken Coop…
…there are a few things you need to think about!
- These chickens will be totally dependent on you for food, shelter and safety. Are you fully committed to caring for them before you take them on?
- Predators are a serious issue for backyard hens. Can you ensure your chickens are well cared for, and protected from dogs, coyotes and snakes … as well as from the elements?
- Accept that, over time, a chicken’s egg laying abilities will diminish. Will you be willing to care for her into old age even if she isn’t producing an egg a day?
- There is a 5% chance that your hen will turn out to be a rooster (it can be quite difficult to tell the gender at first)! Will you be happy with an early morning wake-up call? If not, what happens to the rooster?
- Yes, we said keeping hens can be cheap .. but it’s not free. You’ll need to factor in the cost of feeding them, caring for them if they get ill, and possibly even paying someone to look after them when you are on holidays.