Post by Contributing Writer, Jill
Chickens seem to be all the rage right now. Who would have thought? Urban, suburban, and rural chicken keeping is on the rise as more and more people see it as a simple way to boost their self-sufficiency and sustainability. Perhaps you’ve pondered the idea yourself. Should you take the “chicken plunge”? Here are 5 benefits to keep in mind as you consider keeping a flock of your own.
1. Fresh, natural eggs and meat. Obviously, this is probably the primary reason most people choose to own chickens. Local food awareness is on the rise and folks everywhere are becoming more interested in where and how their food is produced.
Naturally raised eggs are more nutritious than their store-bought counterparts, and you can’t beat the freshness of an egg that was laid that morning! When a hen’s laying years are complete, there is always the option of butchering her and harvesting the meat and bones for nourishing soups, stews, and broth. While not everyone will choose to do this, it can be an added source of naturally raised meat and ensures that nothing goes to waste.
2. The perfect “small-scale” introduction to home food production. More and more towns and cities are allowing for residents to keep a couple chickens in their backyard. This is a great introduction to the world of animal ownership, especially if you are looking towards a rural or homesteading lifestyle in your future.
Chickens require little room, and the sky is the limit when it comes to coops and runs. Housing for your flock doesn’t need to be fancy and can often be improvised with materials you have around your home (just be sure the coop is secure from wandering predators!). Chickens are fairly easy to maintain and care for, especially when compared to other “larger” farm animals like cows or horses.
3. The joys of sharing the miracles and cycles of life with your children. Imagine being able to share first hand with your children or grandchildren how eggs are produced, and the ample learning opportunities that will become available. They will have the opportunity to gain a valuable, first hand knowledge as to where their food comes from.
Younger children can enjoy collecting eggs, while older children can take on the responsibilites of feeding, watering, and cleaning the coop. I can think of endless numbers of science projects and experiments involving your flock; incubating eggs, learning feed rations, animal nutrition, and the list goes on!
4. A simple way to convert kitchen scraps into valuable compost. Aged or composted chicken manure is an excellent amendment for your garden. No more having to purchase commercial compost or fertilizers!
Chickens will also eat a large variety of table scraps, even things like yogurt or leftover milk! This can help to reduce your feed bill, produce more nutritious eggs, and prevent you from having to keep a compost bin for table scraps. Additionally, if you have the capabilities to allow your flock to free-range in your yard or garden, they will fertilize as they go.
5. Sheer entertainment value. Before I became a chicken owner, I would have never guessed that a flock of chickens can be some of the best entertainment around! It is amazing how quickly they develop personalities and preferences. I find it oddly soothing to watch them lazily pick and scratch around in the dirt. Turn off your TV, gather your family, and head outside to watch your chickens!
Of course, one should keep in mind that there is a measure of responsibility that comes with any type of animal ownership, whether it be a puppy, a chicken, or a cow. It’s important to take into consideration your weekly schedule, as well as who would be available to care for your flock when you leave on vacation, etc. While they are definitely an easy animal to keep, they still must be fed, watered, and cared for on a daily basis, and those needs must be carefully considered before bringing home a box of chicks from the feed store.
If you have never thought about keeping a home flock before, I encourage you to consider adding them to your lifestyle. Take the plunge and join the ranks of happy chicken farmers all over the country!
Jill writes from the homestead she shares with her husband, baby daughter, and an ever-changing assortment of animals. When she’s not in the kitchen preparing traditional foods, you’ll find her outside riding her horses, growing vegetables, milking goats, and killing rattlesnakes. She shares homesteading tales and kitchen tips at her blog, The Prairie Homestead.