I don’t know if it’s like this where you live, but where I am, raising chickens is becoming very popular! My next door neighbors have chickens, my nephew Nate (the beekeeper) has chickens and recently my youngest sister Dori adopted a brood! (The pictures in this post were taken at her house yesterday.) And none of these people live on a farm! Just modest-sized suburban lots.
This seems to be part of a bigger movement overall…one I touched on last month when I did a post about the beehive we bought and becoming a beekeeper! Increasing numbers of people around the nation are adding beehives, chicken coops and gardens to their yards, and more and more communities are changing their rules to accommodate this rise in urban agriculture.
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Why the sudden outbreak of “fowl fever?” Well, if you think about it, there are LOTS of reasons for wanting to raise your own backyard chickens! Here are a few:
Better taste & better for you
If you prefer home-grown tomatoes to those bought from the store, you will probably also prefer home-hatched eggs. Crack an egg from a backyard chicken and the yolk will have noticeably deeper color.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that eggs produced from pastured or free-range chickens are more nutritious. Research conducted by Mother Earth News compared eggs from 14 flocks across the United States. The study found that when compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, free-range eggs contained:
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 3/2 more vitamin A
- Twice the omega-3 fatty acids
- Three times more vitamin E
- Seven times more beta carotene
- Four to six times more vitamin D.
I’m convinced on THAT information alone!
Great experience for the whole family
Raising chickens is something the entire family can get involved with. Last week my daughter-in-law Ava invited us over for a backyard barbecue and I got to witness firsthand the fun their 3 small children were having with the chickens! It was quite entertaining! :-)
Here is a picture of my sister’s daughter, Brianna, “herding chickens” in their backyard. According to my sister Dori, the chickens have actually been therapeutic for her daughter who has been diagnosed with Asberger’s syndrome.
She not only takes complete responsibility for them…cleaning their coop, feeding them…she also sits and talks with them and sings to them. There is a real connection there and, according to Dori, she is so much happier since they arrived.
Young children love taking care of the birds and gathering the eggs. Feeding and supplying water for the chickens on a daily basis is a great way to help children learn about responsibility and work.
Raising chickens is also a great way to help kids (and adults) understand their connection with the food they eat. Many of us rarely eat food that doesn’t come straight from the store and don’t enjoy the direct interaction with the land enjoyed by our ancestors.
Chickens eat ticks, fleas, ants, beetles, grasshoppers, fly larvae, grubs, caterpillars and even mice. Gardeners will be happy to know that chickens LOVE snails and slugs!
If any of these reasons sound good to you…here are a few thing you might also want to consider before taking the leap into becoming a poultry hobbyist:
- Like any animal, chickens require daily attention. While they can roam freely in a fenced yard during the day, at night they must be secured in a coop or shelter to protect them from predators. FYI…some people mistakenly believe chickens ATTRACT raccoons, foxes and skunks. In fact these predators already exist in cities and will take advantage of a fresh chicken dinner if the opportunity presents itself.
- Chickens produce waste. Chicken coops and yards must be cleaned every week or two. Five or six hens create about as much waste as a medium-sized dog.
- Roosters are noisy and many cities specifically prohibit owning roosters. However, you don’t NEED a rooster. Hens will lay eggs and be just fine without a rooster.
- While collecting your own eggs is nice, you won’t save money over buying eggs from the store. After totaling the cost of chicks, housing them, feeding them and buying other supplies, the eggs and meat the chickens provide is fairly expensive.
But if you’re like my neighbors, nephew, or sister….the benefits of having a personal flock of chickens is worth the extra cost.