10 Reasons to Keep Backyard Chickens.
1. Farm Fresh Eggs Daily:
There is just something about collecting farm fresh eggs from your backyard. In a day when we can literally buy everything that we need from the store, there is a purity in raising your own food. Farm Fresh eggs are one of the main reasons that people keep chickens. They are far superior to the eggs supplied in the stores. Additionally, you have the satisfaction of knowing that the eggs collected are from happy hens who are treated well even spoiled. If the flock is allowed to free range and forage for bugs, greens, and grains the nutritional value of the eggs are further increased. Additionally, high Omega-3 feed is also available in most feed stores, further adding to the nutritional value of the eggs. The chickens are what they eat, as a consumer, we are what they eat. Having control over our food supply, brings a purity that money cannot buy.
2. Cruelty Free:
Not only will you get nutritious, organic eggs, but you can rest in the knowledge that your omelet is served up cruelty free. It’s easy to think that the eggs that are labeled “free range” found in stores are laid by hens who have access to open pasture and sunshine. This sadly is not the case. These eggs do not have the happy origins that the industry would have you believe. The hard truth is that these eggs are laid by hens who are cramped in a shed much like meat birds or turkeys. They have no access to green grass or anything of the like. Many of these birds never see the light of day much like their battery hens’ counterparts. Less than 1% of chickens raised in the US are considered to be free range. Most free-range chickens are raised on private family farms or are kept as pets by backyard chickens’ keepers and enthusiasts.
3. Pest Control:
When you acquire backyard chickens, you also get a pest control crew. Chickens love, love, love to eat bugs! They will happily rid your plants and yard of all available bugs. This allows you to grow organic veggies on your property. With chickens tending the plants the use of pesticides is no longer needed. Your new pest control crew will tend all your plants, both veggie ornamental alike. Additionally, they will tend the soil by tilling the dirt looking for worms, aerating the soil in the process. Chickens are one of the best natural pest control experts. They even ridded my backyard of a yellow jacket nest. They destroyed the nest and ate all the larvae evicting the occupants, virtually rendering the nest unlivable. It was one of the most interesting and amazing things I have ever witnessed.
4. Free Fertalizer:
If you want great gardens the first place to start is fertilizer. Chicken fertilizer is superior in many ways. Due to the gizzard, chickens process everything they eat. All seeds and other matter are broken down to usable substances. Thus, chicken manure contains no weed seeds. Contrast that with manure from cows or horses which do not process everything they eat down to a singularity. Thus, the manure from these animals contains weed seeds. Not just weed seeds, but fertile weed seeds. When using manure from these animals, gardeners are often horrified at the number of weeds that pop up in their gardens soon after. Thus, chicken manure is far superior to manure from other animals. When it can be obtained organically is it specifically valuable.
Chicken manure purchased from stores often in large bags are sourced from factory farms. All the chemicals that are feed to the chickens are passed into the manure. That manure is then spread on your gardens containing all the chemicals that were consumed by the chickens. So even though you intend to grow organic produce, the manure spread on your gardens is anything but. Sourcing this precious liquid gold from your own flock, feed a high quality or organic feed will be far superior. If the flock is allowed to free range, the benefits compound further. The coop shaving or manure from these well-tended animals will be an excellent source of nourishment for your gardens. You can be assured that what you are putting on your gardens contains no chemicals or otherwise dangerous ingredients. Manure from organically raised chickens is sought out for this very reason. I have several people who ask me for my coop litter whenever I clean out the coops. They know the value of this material and use it for composting and/or spreading on their gardens.
As a backyard chicken keeper, you will have firsthand access to this wonder product. I compost and spread the litter from the coops on my gardens. I am rewarded with a handsome yield. People often ask me what I am feeding my plants to produce beautiful flower gardens and abundant veggie gardens. I tell them that my secret is the poop from my chickens.
In fact, coop litter is one of the fundamental reasons why I wanted to keep chickens. I have always been around gardens; gardening is in my blood. After purchasing my home, I wanted to start some gardens. The hard clay here made growing anything virtually impossible. In order to condition the soil to produce a yield, I had to cultivate it for my intended purposes. That meant getting my hands on a good source of manure to turn this land into something that could produce crops. After some consideration, I decided to get a small flock of chickens to produce the fuel that I needed for my plants. Years later, I have multiple coops and 50+ chickens that I richly enjoy. What started as a need for a sustainable farm fuel has turned into a hobby that I thoroughly enjoy.
5. Cut Down on Food Waste:
Nationwide food scraps make up about 17% of land fill waste (29 million tons). Yard waste, items such as grass clippings, weeds, and leaves make up about slightly more at 33 tons. Chickens can reduce this needless waste by a large amount. Chickens are natural composters, eating most food scraps and turning the rest into nutritious fertilizer for your gardens. My girls are my compost tenders. In addition to their coop litter, I add food scraps and yard waste such as leaves or grass clippings to my compost pile. The girls will readily eat the food scraps and much of the grass clippings leaving the rest to naturally compost. They will tend my compost pile daily by turning the material over as they look over the pile for worms and other delectables. Using their natural abilities, I allow them work my compost pile into usable fuel that I then put on my gardens. As a result, the amount of waste that would otherwise go to the landfill I instead offer to my chickens.
Chickens can eat just about anything from veggies, fruits, pastas, and cooked meat as long as it is not spoiled. The only things to watch for are raw onions, garlic and potato peals. Outside of that, chickens can eat most of what is seen as food waste. Instead of putting these waste items in the trash, I collect them in a small bucket and run them out to the girls. They absolutely love kitchen scraps and readily dispose of them for me. By having chickens not only do I get compost attendants, I also reduce my food waste by a vast amount.
6. Save Heritage Breeds:
Because today’s chickens are breed for different functions, they look different from their ancestors. With the meat industry and the egg industry selecting out different traits to meet their needs, today’s chickens are far from what they used to be. Heritage breeds are those breeds that exist outside the of the meat/egg industry.
As a backyard chicken keeper, you can take on the role of conservationists by adding to your flock heritage breeds. By adding some of these rare or very rare breeds, you are keeping them from becoming extinct. Since the meat and egg industry only needs a few breeds for production, those left will become endangered without keepers preserving them. I have several of these breeds on my farm. I have a few very rare breeds and plan to add a few more heritage breeds over the next few years. Some of these breeds are what settlers kept as a food source for meat and eggs when first coming to this country. Others such as the Silkie which date back to the Chinese Han Dynasty around 206BCE were brought to the America’s via the Silk Road, a major training route through Asia. In fact, the Silkie was first mentioned by Marco Polo in his journals on his trip across China and Europe around 1290-1300. He recorded in his journal referencing a “furry chicken”. After Silkies made it to the Western World, the breed was recognized and officially was accepted in North America in 1874. Today the Silkie is one of the most beloved heritage breeds kept by numerous backyard chicken enthusiasts.
It is through the interest of backyard chicken keepers that the Silkie has remained pure to its heritage. Through the efforts of backyard chicken enthusiasts, hobby keepers and hatcheries, this breed is love by many today. Another example of a beloved heritage breed is the Polish.
The Polishes have a complicated history, it’s not really clear where they came from. Their name is derived from the Dutch word “pol” which translates as head. Contrary to their name, they did not come from Poland. It has been hypothesized that they originated in the Netherlands, while other enthusiasts think that they were brought to Europe during the time of the Mongols. Other fun loving chicken lovers such as I ponder if their origins are not of this world at all. Possibly like H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu, they came from Orion or another world out there, just kidding :-). In all seriousness though, no one really knows where these Crown Jewels came from. Even today a lot of mystery surrounds their origins. Maybe we will never know, but for rare breed chicken lovers that does not really matter. If anything, this mystery makes these cuddly backyard buddies even more loveable. One thing is for certain, it is through the dedication of backyard chicken keepers that this fancy breed remains true to its ancestors wherever they came from.
In addition to the Silkie and the Polish, there are many other Heritage breeds such as the Orpington, Australorp, Wyandotte, Brahma, Rhode Island Red, Plymouth Rock, Sussex, Leghorn, Dominique, Jersey Giant, New Hampshire Red, Delaware and Welsummer.
7. A Lesson in Self–Sustainability:
There is just something about keeping chickens that brings us back to our roots. Times of old, days gone by when just about everyone kept a flock of chickens to supply eggs for the family. A time when gardening was not just a hobby but a way of survival. Cleaning coops and collecting eggs has a feeling of purpose that many are seeking today. In a world where we can literally buy everything we need at the store, being able to supply and grow your own food has a purity that money cannot buy. Knowing that you are eating a product that is not only organic but supplied by animals that are well cared for brings happiness to the soul.
It’s this feeling of self-sustainability that many are seeking today. Growing produce is much more than just putting a seed in the ground and waiting. There is tending, feeding, and caring for the plant that has sprouted from the seed in order to gather a yield. Chickens provide much of those services for you. With their manure and coop litter, they condition the ground making it fertile. As the plant matures, they eat the bugs and till the soil, aerating the soil. Finally, as they work your gardens, they will continually feed your plants throughout the growing season with their droppings.
It’s this cycle that allows one to be self-sustaining. By keeping chickens, your farm (whether hobby size or plantation size) has everything you need to grow and harvest your own food. Additionally, along the way that will provide you with farm fresh eggs and plenty of companionship.
8. Educational Value:
Chickens are amazing creatures and can teach us much about their world and ours. Many associate chickens with meat and eggs but nothing more. Chickens, contrary to popular belief are not bird brains, they are in fact highly intelligent creatures. Did you know that chickens can distinguish between 100 different faces both human and animal, they have full color vision, dream while they sleep, feel pain and distress, love to play, and mourn for each other. We have more in common with chickens than previously thought.
Chickens are very affectionate; they love to be held and enjoy human interaction. I have several individuals that are lap chickens, jumping on my lap as soon as I sit down. They have personalities just like humans along with likes and dislikes. They are complex creatures that are able to teach us much.
Keeping backyard chickens is an educational endeavor. It is astonishing how much keeping a few of these marvelous creates can teach you. Many of our phrases today come from the complex social structure of a chicken flock.
Pecking order for example. This phrase used in everyday figurative language is derived from chicken behavior and for good reason.
A flock of chickens have a very complex social structure. The term “pecking order” comes from this highly structured hierarchy. A flock is organized into a hierarchy, each member knowing their place within the group.
At the top of the pecking order is the alpha rooster. Answering to him will be the other roosters in the flock. Directly under the roosters will be the order of the hens. The alpha hen is usually a little bossy in relation to the other hens in the flock. As for the rest of the members, position is established by literally “pecking” one another on the back, indicating superiority. This behavior flows from the alpha rooster to the poor individual sitting at the bottom of the pecking order.
Once the pecking order is established, all activities within the flock revolve around this order. Simple activities such as who roosts where in the coop. The order in which the flock exits the coop in the morning, and the order in which they return.
Observing this complex animal behavior in my own flock is very interesting. It brings home the literal and most descriptive meaning to the term “pecking order”.
Other everyday terms such as “cocky” and “hen pecked” are also very well explained by watching a flock of chickens. It’s amazing how much figurative language we as humans have adopted from the humble chicken.
Chickens also teach us about where our food comes from. After witnessing what is actually required by a hen to lay just a single egg, I have much more appreciation for my morning omelet and no longer take a simple egg for granted.
In the case of children, chickens teach responsibility. If children are involved in caring for the family flock, they will learn valuable lessons. Getting up as the rooster’s crow to feed and tend the coops. Then locking up the coops at dusk and collecting the days eggs. Children learn an appreciation for the chickens as they tend and interact with the flock. If they have a small coop of their own with a few hens to tend, they will quickly become pampered pets. Chickens can become family pets like a dog. They are affectionate, intelligent, and enjoy interacting with their caretaker. The girls on the other hand will quickly learn who their human is and look forward to seeing them every morning.
9. A Source of therapy:
Keeping backyard chickens is a source of therapy like nothing else I have experienced. No matter how bad my day has been, my girls are always happy to see me.
In the morning when I enter the backyard, opening the coops for the day, they are delighted and greet me with anticipation. Clucking with joy as I prepare their food, water, and clean their coops. They are genuinely happy to see me. After a long hard day, I can always go to the backyard and find happiness. They flock with excitement as I enter the backyard. Sometimes flying in from the far corners of the yard, thrilled at my presence. Their joy in response to me entering their world lifts my spirits and brings joy to my day.
Like dogs, chickens love affection. I have several ladies and a few roosters who readily jump on my lap eager for attention as soon as I sit down. They enjoy the companionship from their human keeper. Once on my lap they tell me all about their days, clucking all the details as I eagerly listen. It’s hard to be sad around a flock of lovable backyard companions.
On days when I feel blue or down in the dumps, a simple trip to the backyard is all that I need. Happiness for me does not come in a bottle, from the store or in a bank account. Happiness for me is a pair of boots and a flock of happy chickens.
Others have expressed the same in relation to their flocks. Chickens really are the antidepressant with feathers.
10. Entertainment Value:
Chickens are clever creatures, each possessing a different and unique personality. Because of this, they are very entertaining creatures. Even as a flock, chickens will capture your attention.
One of the funniest interactions that a flock can engage in is something I call “the chicken keep away game”. The game commences like this. A hen finds something delectable such as a juicy bug or big worm. She will announce to the flock with glee that she has found a prize. With the object in her beak, she will run around the yard while the others chase her, wanting a piece of her find. Depending on how large the trophy morsel is, this could go on for some time. Changing beaks several times till finally someone eats or loses it, whichever comes first. This is just about as close as a flock of chickens can get to a round of touch football. If you have a flock of mixed breeds, the entertainment value is increased. Some breeds have quirks or unique things about them that separates them from others. Take the Polish for example.
A funny chicken oddity is the Polish. Out of all the breeds that I keep, the polish holds the crown for comedy. Due to the feathered crests atop their head, their vision is limited. Unable to see what is above them, everything spooks them. Simple things in their environment can get a rise out of them. They have a tendency to be flighty and high strung for this reason.
In addition, they are a very curious breed, always getting themselves into trouble, then not able to see well enough to get themselves out. They will often call for other flock members to come a rescue them from their predicament. Typically, one or more of the roosters will come to their aid. I have 14 Polishes in my flock of various colors, all of them possess this particular niche for comedy.
I have spent many hours being entertained by my flock. At times its better than prime time TV. Before I had chickens, I would have never equated them with comedy. My girls are now my go to for a happy hour with the hens. I have to admit at times, I will bring a few grapes just to stir the pot and watch their antics as they play the “chicken keep away game”.
There are many other advantages of keeping chickens. The list could go on, I have only listed my top 10 reasons. I hope that you have found this post helpful. If you have any questions, please post them in the comments. You can also drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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