Before the modern day grocery stores and mass food production, small family farms and modest sized flocks of chickens in a family’s yard were common place. For over half a century, this practice all but disappeared as big city living and modern conveniences took over. Whether it’s a concern over where our food is coming from or just a nostalgic yearning for a connection with a simpler time- backyard hen houses are popping up all over the nation. And there are plenty of great reasons to consider getting on board!
1. They’re Easy!
Compared to other household pets, chickens are winning the race when it comes to self-reliance. Baby chicks do require a fair amount of care in the beginning, but it’s not long before they are ready to be outside full time. With a properly set up coop, the only maintenance that is required is refilling their food and water containers once a week (on average) and cleaning the coop out. Once the ladies start laying, it’s a good idea to collect those gorgeous fresh eggs daily. But come on- that part can hardly be considered a chore. The relative ease of owning chickens makes them a fantastic pet for a family hoping to teach their children about responsibility. The tasks for keeping chickens are mostly light weight and straight forward with little room for error- making them the perfect chore for little hands.
2. Chickens are the perfect companions for the backyard gardener.
For those of us who have decided to test out our green thumb- chickens are fantastic helpers! First off, chickens create a whole lot of “fertilizer”. One hen can produce a pound of manure a week and the nitrogen content is through the roof! All that nitrogen is great for your organic garden soil if you add it to a compost pile first to let it “cool off” for a while. Adding nitrogen will give your veggie garden a tremendous boost. Also, chickens are FANTASTIC pest control. Free range chickens love little pests- see ya later mosquitos! And when it comes to the back breaking task of tilling up your garden each spring to get the soil ready for new plants- the ladies will take care of that as well. Their talons are incredibly strong and can tear up rock hard soil in a matter of hours- making it a cinch to blend in your fresh compost (rich with nitrogen!) and put your new precious plants in the freshly tilled dirt. Just make sure you have a fence around your veggie garden to keep those chickens out after you’ve planted- they’re over achievers when it comes to tilling up that soil and will happily uproot any new plants you’ve put in the ground.
3. They provide hours of entertainment and are a fantastic conversation starter.
Our little ladies are hilarious! They aren’t always the brightest- but because they were held regularly from the beginning, they are curious and friendly. They come running from all over the yard when we come outside and are usually pecking on the back door each morning demanding treats. We’ve had a blast sharing our adventures in chicken keeping with friends, co-workers and even strangers. And it’s always a great way to shift a boring dinner conversation or a tense debate over politics at a cocktail party. Conservatives and liberals alike are all fascinated with the idea of keeping chickens.
4. Knowing where your food comes from is a good thing.
Over the past century, our food industry has shifted greatly- creating an overwhelmingly inhumane situation. If you’ve watched any of the documentaries that have come out over the last decade or so, you know that the way animals are raised, and killed, to feed us has become down right deplorable. Chickens raised in a factory environment are kept in a cage their entire lives that is no bigger than an iPad. They can not turn around. They never see the light of day. Their feed is nutrient deficient, which leaves the eggs and meat that end up on our plates- nutritionally inferior as well. And while we miss out on nutrients- the food coming from these birds are not short on antibiotics, chemicals and hormones. Uh, no thanks. Owning chickens is a wonderful way to take ownership of where our food is coming from- both for the quality of the food and the well being of the animals who provide it.
5. Fresh Eggs!
The life of the average “city chicken” is far superior to that of a factory hen- and it shows in the egg. The pasture fed chicken produce eggs that have a rich, dark orange yolk and an excellent flavor that speaks for itself. But they really shine when put to the nutrient test. Compared to factory raised hens, pasture fed chickens eggs contain:
• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene
• 4 to 6 times more vitamin D
Winner, winner chicken dinner! Like we always say at our house: A happy chicken lays happy eggs.
Deciding to get a new pet of any kind is a big decision, and should be prepared for accordingly. If you’re interested in seeing what it takes to get set up for backyard chickens, there is a wealth of knowledge on Backyard Chickens and be sure to check out the books at your local library.
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