Does anyone really need a reason to keep chickens!?
Just in case the answer is yes, we have come up with 14 great reasons why you should keep chickens in your backyard.
There are many reasons to keep chickens, both practical and personal.
This year we have been reminded by Nature that nothing is certain and we need to be able to be a little bit self-reliant.
Keeping chickens is one small way in which we can do that.
My grandparents lived through two World Wars and Grandma had a room dedicated to supplies of canned homemade goods, paper products and other necessities. I thought she was a bit over the top at the time but I now realize she was simply being practical and prepared.
So, without further ado, here are 14 reasons to keep chickens…
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Your hard-working backyard hens will provide you with almost an egg per day.
Hybrid hens such as Golden Comets are born to lay eggs and will give 5 eggs each week!
Who can resist the appeal of going into their backyard to get warm fresh eggs every day!?
These eggs are nutrition powerhouses providing essential elements such as iodine, vitamin D, selenium and phosphorus. Also studies show that eggs from free range hens are far more nutritious than eggs from hens raised in less than optimal conditions.
Of course if you feed your hens junk then the egg’s nutrition content will be slightly less than average, but feeding your ladies with quality chicken feed gives them a great start to life.
2. Chicken TV
For relaxation there is nothing better than sitting and watching the flock patrolling the yard.
There is never dull and because there is always something going on:
- Communicating with each other
- Dust baths
- Petty squabbles
- Sharing the feeder
It really is time well spent since you can learn so much about your flock’s dynamic by observing how they interact with each other. If you sit there long enough you might just start to believe you can understand what they are talking about!
As an added bonus we tend to forget about ourselves and our accompanying woes.
Chickens make us laugh and smile – what could be better?
It is important to know what your food is and where it comes from.
These days so many folks are unaware of where their food comes from, how it is processed and even what the meat actually looks like when it is alive.
Having chickens, hatching eggs and caring for chicks is a great way to teach kids about how to care for animals responsibly.
Getting your children to care for the hens, collect eggs and clean the coop will teach them some responsibility.
Children of all ages can help out in some way!
Just make to supervise young children when they are handling those fragile chicks.
4. Sustainable Living
This past year taught us a bit about how fragile our food systems really are. We have seen food and goods shortages in almost every country in the world.
During 2020 we have sen many folks buying chicks and raising chickens for the first time.
Chickens go a long way towards providing basic food security.
Both them and their eggs provide a good source of food for many families.
A small flock of chickens needs relatively little space and can help to remove a little of the anxiety of food shortages. It is difficult to suddenly go from dependent to independent, but chickens are a great start towards self-reliance.
Once you have them set up in their coop they require little in the way of daily care.
Something that also fits nicely here is the impact of food miles upon the environment. Simply put, many of the foods we consume have a huge carbon footprint because they are transported from A to B.
Having your own chickens reduces your carbon footprint.
It may be a small amount but every little helps our planet.
5. Quality Nutrition
Whether you are raising chickens for eggs, meat or both you know what is being fed to your birds and you know the healthy conditions they live in.
You get to choose whether or not you want to feed your hens organic, non-GMO or regular feed.
Despite phrases such as “barn raised”, “free range” or even “organic”, our perception and the reality of the “industrial hen” may be two different things.
The laws regarding livestock are ambiguous at best and while we may think of birds raised on grass and running around the yard, the reality is probably very different.
Chickens kept inside lay eggs that are not as nutritious as their free ranging counterparts.
The free range backyard chicken egg has better color, better flavor and better nutrition!
6. Pest Control
Most chickens are great at pest control.
They just love to patrol the garden in search of tasty bugs to supplement their diet. The added protein from the insects helps to nourish your flock.
Insects such as ticks, mosquitoes, caterpillars and flies are all high on the list of chicken delicacies. We let our flock roam the yard in the Fall especially when ticks are plentiful and since we have been doing this the amount of ticks we have has reduced significantly. So in addition to adding protein to their diets, chickens are removing nasty disease bearing bugs from the land!
Chickens are not above killing the odd mouse or small snake if it happens to come along in their path.
Because they will kill small mice or even peck at a body do not put down poison. Although some rat poisons are very specific in dosage these days the chance that your hens may ingest poison is quite real.
Those of us who keep chickens know they produce a lot of poop.
This poop can be used to fertilize your garden as it provides lots of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. All of those elements are essential for soil.
Just note you cannot put it directly onto your plants, it needs to age first.
Mix it together with Fall leaves, old straw bedding and any green compost from the garden and let it “cook” over time. Make sure you turn it occasionally and in a relatively short period of time you will have great new soil to add to the yard.
During the wintertime I throw it directly onto the garden since it will be composted down before the plants wake up.
8. Factory Farming
Factory farming even sounds unappealing to many people.
Unfortunately the laws governing the treatment of livestock animals are ambiguous.
Also, not surprisingly, the practice of factory farming is also incredibly bad for the environment.
While great strides have been made to improve the welfare of these animals there is still much work to be done.
By raising your own chickens, you can care for them in a humane way.
Also it is well know that chickens are a “gateway” to raising other livestock such as geese, ducks and even larger animals such as goats and sheep.
9. Reduces Waste
Chickens are omnivores which means they eat meat and vegetables.
If you have kept backyard chickens before you will know that they will eat just about anything.
They will happily eat your leftovers, just make sure not to give them stuff like pizza or other starches on a regular basis!
Chickens love things like spaghetti, peas, corn, apples and many other goodies. Make sure you clean up once they have finished snacking to help stop vermin or predators from visiting the coop.
You can read our guide on what to feed chickens for more advice.
10. Low Maintenance
Once you have everything in place for your hens they are remarkably low maintenance.
They do not need to be walked, their food and water is already available to them and they do not need to be entertained all day.
All they need is to be let out and closed in at night at the very basic level. If you really want to cut down on the maintenance then you can consider using an automatic chicken coop door.
Most people usually spend a little time with them during the morning wake-up or during the day. Although they are low maintenance the vast majority of folks like to go and socialize with their flock. This is a great time to check that feed and water are adequate and to collect those beautiful eggs.
Did you know that chickens can be used as therapy animals too?
Although not scientifically studied like therapy dogs, there is a growing consensus that suggests keeping chickens can be very helpful for people suffering from autism. This is especially true for children as it can give them a sense of purpose, order and self-worth that can be hard for them to come by in the “normal” world.
Chicken therapy has also been used with great success in people with anxiety, depression and loneliness.
The use of the chicken in these fields may be surprising to some people but hens are actually very intelligent creatures and can exhibit some empathy. They are also quite comical to watch and it is hard to not smile when you watch them going about their business.
12. Unique Pets
Keeping chickens as pets?
Yes, why not?
They are easier to care for than a dog or cat, they pay rent (eggs), are economical and do not bark.
The rise of the chicken as a house pet has steadily increased.
For folks living in apartments where cats and dogs may not be allowed a chicken is a good choice. They are small and can easily adapt to indoor life.
They just need a few simple provisions: a bed area, dust bath, food and water.
Chicken diapers can be bought or made, so there are no little surprises to clean up!
13. Breed Conservation
Some folks decide to keep a small flock of endangered breeds.
Their small flock will reward them with eggs and in turn they help the breed to survive.
If you decide to do this you will need to carefully pick your breed. If eggs are not important to you then then Sultan is possibly for you since they are notoriously poor layers.
As always do your homework to pick the breed you want to help and make sure it is the right fit for you and where you live. You can find a complete list of chicken breeds here. The Livestock Conservancy (US), Rare Breeds Trust (UK) and other rare breed organizations keep lists of the most endangered breeds in that particular country as well as worldwide.
14. Social Community
Once you start keeping chickens you can be part of a huge online community.
These groups talk about everything chicken – from care and maintenance to family, other pets and numerous other topics.
They can give you a real sense of belonging and also help you through things like broody hens, illness and other chicken related problems. There are literally thousands of folks in these communities all of whom love to talk about their chickens.
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Should You Keep Backyard Chickens (Summary)
Whether you keep chickens purely for eggs, or whether you regard them as pets, chickens are pretty neat little creatures.
Hybrid layers (like ISA Browns) will lay for a couple of years, but if you happen to get a heritage breed (like a Speckled Sussex) they will lay eggs over a much longer period.
It really depends upon what you want from your chickens.
You could even consider getting some rescued battery hens. They may require a lot of work initially but they are still good for laying for around eighteen months or so.
Whatever you decide and whatever your reason for starting out on your chicken journey you will find that keeping a few hens might just be the most therapeutic thing you have done in a while!
What are your reasons for keeping chickens?
Let us know in the comments section below…
Hi Chris I have just read your article on chickens I found it very interesting me and my husband are very new chicken keepers. Thank you Tracy Rick