Years ago I made the leap into keeping backyard chickens as a hobby. I have a small flock of just 10 birds that keep me, and my neighbors, well stocked on fresh eggs. What was most surprising to me was how easy and self-maintained they are. They really require less effort than a cat, and I’ve never met a cat that laid eggs.
Well, not eggs I’d like to eat anyway.
There are a few really great reasons to keep chickens.
1. Their eggs are more nutritious.
It’s not too difficult to grasp that fresh food is better for you. Fresh eggs contain more omega-3s and vitamins than store bought. You also get to control what the chickens eat to some extent. You can feed them organic feed instead of non-organic or GMO feed. What they eat is what you eat, and that’s an important thing to keep in mind.
2. You know it’s cruelty free.
I’ve had folks make the argument that my backyard chickens lead subjugated, cruel lives, but I don’t think my chickens would agree. They get to free range, eat bugs, and pretty much do whatever they want in a completely safe environment. You can’t say the same thing about caged chickens on some farm somewhere far away from you.
3. You have the opportunity to rescue a chicken.
Right now, there are 300 million hens crammed into cages to lay eggs for all of us to eat. You can actually find hens that have been saved from slaughterhouses and concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and give them a second chance at life. Because of you, they’ll get to bask in the sun, scratch the dirt, and eat all the treats you can give them.
4. They make great manure.
Like most manure, it needs to be composted, but chicken manure is actually very rich and a great amendment to any compost heap or garden. Just be very very careful about how you use it. Disease can be spread through chicken poo.
5. They keep pests at bay.
Chickens enjoy eating bugs, but did you know that chickens will also go after small prey like mice and lizards? I’ve seen one of my hens get a mouse before and, frankly, it’s kind of metal. They really get in after it. And here at my house, we have issues with mice. The chickens help us out with that.
6. You reduce your food waste.
Chickens will eat just about anything. Most of my kitchen scraps end up getting tossed out to them to peck at and enjoy. Of course, not everything is okay to feed a chicken. I don’t personally give them meat and there are a handful of fruits and veggies that aren’t particularly good for them.