Friday, March 7, 2014

5 Reasons to Keep Backyard Chickens

As keeping flocks of backyard chickens is growing in popularity, people are also starting to realize the many benefits of raising a backyard flock. Different people may have different reasons, to be sure, but the cumulative benefits cannot be understated. From insect control to fresh eggs, from fertilizer to entertainment, backyard chickens are a great move.

Keeping your own chickens is more than just cheap entertainment!
I have 16 grown chickens (15 egg layers and a rooster), and another 16 chickens in the chick-u-bator. Wife and I have discussed getting another 20-30 meat birds this summer. So, we'll be up to our necks in chickens before long.

But that's a good thing.

Like i said, the benefits of keeping chickens can vary from person to person, and the reasons why people keep them as as different as the chickens themselves. For us, though, there are a few key benefits that stand out.

1. They provide a very healthy source of food.

Our flock lays pretty well. We average about 12 eggs a day from 15 young hens. I guess they're technically still pullets at 11 months old, but that's beside the point. The point is that they provide a rich, healthy food that is well beyond the conventional variety in terms of color, nutrition, taste, and yes, even size.

2. They help till the gardens and rid it of pests.

After the growing season last year, I ran the sheep and chickens in the garden to help clean it up. Ha! They obliterated it, making my share of the clean-up that much lighter. The place was crawling in squash bugs when I let them in, and two days later, there wasn't a bug to be had. I really, really hope they took a huge hit out of the population. They also cleaned up all the old tomatoes, scratched and aerated the ground, and generally did a great job providing free labor.

3. They save food.

Whenever the kids (or the adults) in our home can't finish our dinners, or if some veggies are starting to brown just a bit, we've learned to not throw it away. Instead of tossing our food, we toss it to the chickens. I love seeing them scurry around for the best bites (they LOVE beef). It's satisfying to know that we are stretching our food budget by converting leftover portions that we don't eat into healthy, farm-fresh eggs.

4. They provide free fertilizer.

What goes in must come out, right? As the chickens are busy eating bugs, weeds, and fermented grains, they of course need to eliminate waste. Fortunately, chicken poo is superb as a fertilizer for gardens and pastures. We let our chickens drop where they will, and let that get worked into the soil. With our rotational systems, the manure spreads out evenly and does not "burn" an area up. Smaller flocks can achieve the same benefits on a suburban or urban lawn, resulting in greener grass year after year. or, in our case, lusher pasture. :)

Corn the Rooster (the white one) strutting and pooping. Entertaining
AND productive. It's a win-win!

5. They are very entertaining.

Wife and I love being outside when the hens lay an egg. We thoroughly enjoy hearing the "egg song" that our girls sing. We also like seeing Corn the Rooster strut his stuff for his girls. They always bring a smile to my face. We also like seeing the different eggs they lay. From huge double-yolkers, to the infamous "rocket egg" (long and skinny), to the different shades of brown, and soon to be blue, their eggs are always a delightful surprise for us. Thing #2 always asks how many we get each morning, and with the natural variances in laying cycles,it's a surprise each morning.

So, those are my top 5 reasons for keeping backyard chickens. I'd love to hear other reasons from y'all, too.

Stay tuned as introduce our new girls to the flock in a few weeks, and as we (hopefully) get a few Copper Marans to add to the mix!

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