Why raise chickens?
Well, being a chicken fancier, I’d say the answer is obvious. But if you need some convincing—better yet, if your spouse/significant other/parents need some convincing!—here’s my list of answers to that question.
- Eggs. ‘Nuff said. Actually, they’re fresher, tastier, and look better than store-bought eggs. The yolk will be perky and a deep yellow from natural compounds called xanthophylls that the hens get from corn, alfalfa, or other greens. For more info on eggs and egg-carton labels, see my post Egg Labels: What’s in a Name?
- Education. Kids as much as adults need to realize that a good answer for the question, “Where do eggs come from?” is not “The store.” It’s a great educational process (as well as an exercise in responsibility) for kids (and adults) to care for another living creature.
- Health. Yup, those backyard eggs will most likely be salmonella free! Hens that are well kept will not succumb to disease and will most likely not harbor salmonella bacteria. For more info, see my post The Scoop on Salmonella in Eggs.
- Self-Sufficiency. The closeted pioneer in all of us swells with pride when we see a source of food running around in the backyard. Whether folks choose to eat just the eggs or to eat the chickens, too, we feel we’re pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps, contributing to a larger good for the health of the world.
- Animal Welfare. If you’ve not seen pictures of laying hens in battery cages, Google it. It’s not a pretty sight. For every hen in someone’s backyard, one less battery hen will be tortured for her short (2 years max) existence. We all get that one.
- Composting. So if your kids won’t turn your compost pile, the chickens will! Lots of tasty creepy-crawlies live in compost heaps. Hens want these delectable sources of protein—so they scratch and dig for them. They also love to dustbathe, which involves kicking up all kinds of dirt.
- Poop. Mmmmm… Nitrogen-rich fertilizer! What could be better for the garden? Chicken poop has lots of ammonia, which decomposes into nitrogen. Caveat emptor, however: chicken poop is hot compost and should be properly processed before applying to plants. For more info on this see The scoop on poop, or how is poop like raku pottery?
- Personality. Yep, chickens have them—in abundance. You’ll discover the mischievous one, the singer, the clown, the psychopath, the leader, the sweetheart. They’re all out there, waiting to meet you!
- Simplicity. There is something sacred and unique that ties people with animals with the land. Keeping chickens is a celebration of something less hurried, more wholesome, and timeless, a kind of ecological synergy.
- Fun. I’ve always had fun with chickens, since I was 10. Baby chicks are about the cutest things you’ll ever see, next to… well, I can’t think of anything! It’s great to watch them grow into awkward teenagers, with their gangly legs and changing voices. And getting your first egg is really something to crow about! The ladies are endlessly entertaining as they pick up their skirts and chase some tasty tidbit or come in for an afternoon snack on the porch.
Have some reasons of your own? Please feel free to post!