By Stacey Chippendale
Going green, reducing our carbon footprint, becoming self-sufficient and eating slow foods are some popular catch phrases that are used to describe the growing trend of embracing sustainability . Keeping backyard chickens is a great starting point for most families. Following are 20 compelling reasons for becoming a backyard chicken owner:
1. Eggs from free ranging hens are tastier and more nutritious – Research shows they’re not only higher in omega-3s, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, D, and E, but they’re lower in cholesterol and saturated fat. Backyard eggs have a dark orange yolk – not the pale yellow color you see in store-bought eggs. Most people say they taste better, too.
2. Serving fresher foods to our families – Fresher is always better. How old are those eggs you just bought in the grocery store? You can serve today’s freshly laid eggs for breakfast.
3. Low maintenance pets- You don’t have to walk them, groom them or bath them. Gathering eggs, refilling a waterer and topping off a feeder only takes a few minutes of time each day. You can even go away for a few days at a time without hiring a pet sitter.
4. Great entertainment — Each chicken has it’s own unique and endearing personality. They come in a vast array of colors, patterns, shapes and sizes. They scratch, they flit, they flap and before you know it you will have wasted an hour watching them cavort around your yard. You’ll use treats to teach them to come when you call, you will name them and pick them up to stroke those incredibly silky feathers every chance you get.
5. All natural pest control – Chickens that are allowed to forage in your yard will significantly reduce your pest problems. They eat bugs, grubs, larvae, beetles, slugs, small snakes, small rodents and the list goes on and on.
6. Free lawn service – Leaves, weeds and grass clippings are a treat for poultry. They will dig through whatever you give them, eat what they can, and pulverize the rest. Give a small flock a mound of yard debris and a week later it’ll be gone without a trace. You didn’t have to rake it, bag it and send it to a landfill! Did you know that 33 million tons of yard waste ends up in landfills each year?
7. Zero waste partners – Now you can throw those unwanted leftovers into the chicken run. No more feeling guilty about letting them go bad in the fridge or throwing them out! Nationwide, food scraps make up about 17% (29 million tons) of what is sent to landfills.
8. Free Fertilizer – While your chickens are scratching, digging and cleaning up your lawn they are also fertilizing it. You may no longer even need to purchase that expensive fertilizer.
9. Chicken therapy – After an emotionally exhausting day, a few quiet minutes spent outside with your chickens can be an excellent stress reliever. Oxytocin is a stress-lowering chemical in your body that’s unleashed when you hug or pet something you love. Believe it or not there are hens who do a lot of volunteer work as therapy chickens! There is one who is a regular at a local nursing home.
10. Connecting family members with their food source – Most children in America have no idea where chicken nuggets come from and many think eggs come from the dairy case. Having chickens helps make the connection that much of our food comes from living things.
11. Teaching responsibility – Chickens are much simpler to care for than a lot of other types of pets. This makes them a perfect first responsibility for younger children.
12. Compost pile ingredients – Compost piles need a wide variety of ingredients to cook into a rich “black gold” fertilizer. Poop from a coop is rich in nitrogen and eggshells will add calcium.
13. Eating more local food – Many people have started buying vegetables, meats and dairy from local producers. You can see, taste and smell the difference. Backyard eggs are the ultimate in local food.
14. Reducing oil consumption and carbon footprint – Commercial food systems depend on oil. Over 17% of America’s oil consumption is used in agricultural production and, about 25% of this oil is used for fertilizer. The total energy input of food production, processing, packaging, transporting and storing is greater than the calories consumed.
15. Become a trend setter – Even though backyard chickens is one of the hottest trends, there still are a lot of people who don’t own chickens. You can be the first one in your family or neighborhood to earn the title of experienced chicken keeper. They will be amazed when they watch a chicken fall asleep in your arms.
16. Removing GMO or Non-Organic food from your diet – Many people now only eat organic or Non-GMO foods. By feeding your hens organic or Non-GMO feed you can maintain your dietary discipline.
17. Tickle your funny bone – Chickens can be as slapstick as the Three Stooges used to be. Doing something incredibly smart immediately followed by something incredibly stupid. They are always clowning around.
18. A great family economics lesson – Credit cards have eliminated the need to teach children about budgeting and expenses. Chickens are a great way to teach the whole family about what it costs to produce a dozen eggs. Take it one step further by selling some eggs and everyone can learn what is involved in running a family business.
19. Saving heritage breeds – Factory-farm operations prefer pretty much the same type of high-volume laying or meat hybrids. Because of this some rare, heritage breeds have very few birds left to carry on their breed. Choosing and promoting rare breeds of chickens can help to increase their numbers.
20. Chickens pay their own way – We love our dogs and cats but what do they contribute? Free ranging hens contribute eggs and so much more, the list goes on and on as you can see by everything listed above.