Ask anyone who raises backyard chickens and they’ll tell you how much they love their flock. You’ll probably get more information than you bargained for! Chicken owners are so enthusiastic about chickens, in part because when kept as part of a small backyard flock, they’re pets.
Chickens are like dogs or cats – each one has a personality with its own favorite pastimes, food preferences, and even its own distinct voice. Some chickens like to cluck around the yard alone rather than as part of the group. Some like to loudly announce to the world when they’ve laid an egg. And some prefer pizza crusts to leftover vegetables.
Whether you’re interested in the farm-to-table movement, you want to teach your kids about where their food comes from, or you just like being self-sufficient, there are plenty of reasons to keep your own chickens. If you’ve ever considered a little backyard flock of your own, here are 5 benefits to raising backyard chickens.
1. Chickens are handy to have around.
Chickens love to forage. Let them roam around your backyard and they’ll eat bugs that would otherwise be crawling around your backyard and chowing down on your flower or vegetable garden. While they’re scratching around the yard for bugs and other tasty bits, they also do a great job of spreading seeds around, which can be great for your lawn. And no need for weed killer! They’ll do a nice job of eating those pesky weeds in the yard too.
Surprisingly, chickens love table scraps too, so you can say goodbye to that stinky trash can full of the broccoli your kids refused to eat at dinner last night.
2. They lay eggs. Lots of eggs.
It’s pretty amazing to go into the backyard and come back inside with a handful of eggs. One chicken can lay anywhere from 4 to 7 eggs a week. So a flock of just 3 chickens means anywhere from a dozen to more than 20 eggs a week! You’ll never buy eggs in the grocery store again. What’s not to love?
3. They’re a great way to show kids where food comes from.
The added benefit of collecting eggs in your backyard is that it’s a great way to teach kids that food doesn’t start at the grocery store. Though it can be hard to compete with the commercials for candy and sugary cereal all over TV, what’s more exciting than opening the coop and finding eggs waiting for you? They can see firsthand that feeding and caring for their chickens leads to finding eggs in nest boxes. They also get to see what goes into getting those eggs. They’ll understand that it’s so much more than going to the grocery store and grabbing a carton from the refrigerated section. To get those eggs it takes food and water, a clean and safe chicken coop, and plenty of space for roaming.
4. Chickens can help teach responsibility.
Once you have chickens, the “maintenance” of taking care of them is pretty easy. Kids as young as 4 and 5 years old can help collect eggs and put them in the refrigerator. Older kids can help refill food and water and help clean out the coop. With help, kids of any age can help feed the flock those delicious leftover bread crusts and broccoli florets; though you might want to save that chore for yourself, since it’ll make your chickens love you.
5. Raising chickens can be a family hobby.
Chickens aren’t just a chore or a source of eggs. They’re also a fun pastime. Chickens come in so many sizes and colors no flock looks the same. You may be interested in bantams, which are a smaller variety of many chicken breeds, chickens that have feathered feet or feathers on their faces that make them look like they have beards, or chickens that lay blue eggs.
Half the fun of having chickens is choosing the variety you want to keep. Sit down as a family and discuss the different breeds that you’re interested in and that fit what you’re looking for in chickens. MyPetChicken.com has a list of breeds with pictures and general information about temperament and egg laying if you need a place to start.
Once you have your flock, they’re so much fun to watch. Let them forage in the backyard while you’re doing yard work or while the kids are playing. You’ll soon find yourself sitting in the yard on a nice spring day with a glass of lemonade doing nothing else except watching the kids run around and the chickens scratch for bugs.
Chickens are a commitment that takes work. But because of the popularity of keeping a backyard flock, there are a multitude of resources available on all things chicken. Local hardware stores now stock chicken feed and chicken coop accessories like feeders and waterers and even offer chicks for sale in the spring. Websites like BackYardChickens.com are full of articles on raising chickens and forums for people who want to reach out to other chicken owners. It’s a great place for veteran chicken owners as well as those new to the chicken world to share stories and ask for advice.
Raising chickens is a rewarding hobby. You’ll not only be grateful for the delicious eggs they lay, but for what they’ll teach you and your kids. And you’ll soon realize there’s never a dull moment in the yard of a chicken keeper.
Photo Credits: Michelle Frick