Why Keep Backyard Chickens?
There are many reasons people choose to keep chickens in their backyards, ranging from the hard-nosed practical to the abstract philosophical. Here are just a few:
Probably the most obvious reason to keep chickens is to provide yourself with a steady supply of fresh, healthy eggs. Because you control the chickens’ diet, you know exactly what is going into the food your family eats. Chickens can also provide a source of meat, although this is really for the hardcore in a backyard environment!
Old bedding straw from the chicken coop is an excellent addition to the compost heap, and chicken manure gives your garden a huge nitrogen boost. But it doesn’t end there – you can also let the chickens roam the garden beds to eat weed seeds and insect pests and scratch over the soil. This is best done at the end of the season so they don’t damage your precious seedlings.
Keeping chickens is good for the environment, as it allows you to opt out of the factory-farmed egg production system and eat super-local food. They’ll also happily devour your food scraps from the kitchen, as well as any trimmings and spent plants from your vegetable patch. Even lawn clippings, autumn leaves and other yard waste can be handed over to the chickens – what they don’t eat will be turned over and broken down until lovely compost remains. Much better than sending everything to landfill!
Chickens have distinct personalities, and can be handled like a pet. Their daily interactions are entertaining to watch, especially their antics when you throw a treat into their pen. The huge variety of size, shape and colour available makes chickens a lovely ornamental addition to the backyard, too.
Children can learn a lot about where food comes from by keeping backyard chickens. They’ll also develop an appreciation of living things, be encouraged to explore the outdoors, and will learn the responsibility of feeding, watering and checking the health of their chickens.
Organic free-range eggs are expensive to buy from the store. Producing your own eggs is quite easy and very cost effective. Add to that the savings through reduced need for garden pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. You can also sell fresh eggs to friends and neighbors if you have a surplus.
Chickens are a unique and fascinating animal to raise, and unlike most pets they will actually pay their own way. They are not hard work, and the rewards are many.