As more people look to grow their own food, backyard chicken coops are becoming a popular trend. They allow families to love and care for a pet while receiving an all-natural food source in return.
“There’s nothing like a good organic fresh egg. I wanted to have the eggs, but I also wanted to create that free-range atmosphere.” Shelia Spurlin of Wicksburg, Alabama.
Jess Dooley, with Big Muddy Urban Farm, a local nonprofit organization says, “hens are easy pets. Once the coop is built, they pretty much take care of themselves, minus the occasional hay cleaning.”
However, according to CBS News, live poultry in backyard flocks are linked to several multistate outbreaks of salmonella infections that have now sickened 212 people in 44 states. The most recent illnesses began on June 21, with 88 of the cases reported in the last month.
Should Chicken Coops Be Banned?
While the several multistate outbreaks of salmonella are without a doubt, a cause for concern, there are a lot of benefits as well. “Home-raised chickens are a healthier alternative to store-bought eggs, and they keep away pests,” says Councillor Justin Di Ciano from Toronto, Canada. He also states they are a “cruelty-free” alternative to factory-farmed eggs.
With that said, let’s look at some benefits as well as some downsides for having backyard chickens coops.
Benefits of Backyard Chicken Coops
Organic & Non-GMO – Caged hens are fed a diet of corn, soy, and cottonseeds. By running your own chicken coop, you know what you and your family are eating.
Greater Nutrition – Free range eggs have a far higher nutritional value than engineered eggs. There is more Vitamin A and Beta Carotene and almost double the Vitamin E in free range eggs. You’ll also get less saturated fat in free range eggs.
Cruelty-Free – The fact is, commercially marketed ‘free range’ eggs don’t have the peaceful origins that the industry would like you to believe. There is no clear classification of what ‘free range’ is and, even then, less than 1% of chickens in the US are considered to be free range.
Emotional Value – Chickens have a great memory and can differentiate between 100+ human and animal faces. They love to play, they dream, mourn for each other, and they feel pain. They also make great mothers! They talk to their chicks while still in the egg, and turn the eggs about 50 times a day.
Pest Control – Backyard chickens will give you a great excuse to throw out you pesticides and chemical bug killers. Your chickens will do the work for you. They eat pretty much any bug including ticks.
It’s Cheap – After initial startup costs, it’s relatively inexpensive to care for them. You’ll have rich soil to grow your crops, you won’t need to splurge on weed killer or insect repellent, and best of all, you’ll get cheap organic eggs.
The Downside of Backyard Chicken Coops
Chickens Can Be Dirty – Chickens can be dirty and also create messes. You will need to regularly clean chickens, coops, and bedding material.
Predation – Backyard hens are very vulnerable to other animals like dogs, cats, snakes, coyotes, possum, hawks, and raccoons. “What killed my chickens?” is a common question with almost 24,000 answers offered on Google. You may have to bring your chickens in each night for their safety.
Egg Strike – Chickens don’t lay 365 days a year. So, you may have to return to store-bought eggs during the off peaks. In the winter months or hot weather, your hens may not lay at all.
Special Diets – Throughout different stages of their life, chickens need specialized diets. Without the proper nutrition, they will develop health problems like soft shell eggs or breaking feathers.
Chickens and Salmonella – Chickens have the potential of carrying Salmonella germs in their droppings and on their feathers, feet, and beaks. It’s important to wash your hands after handling chickens or touching places where they live to avoid the risk of illness. Training for proper handling of live poultry will help reduce the number of people becoming ill.
Chickens Require Healthcare – Chickens can get sick or injured, and may require professional pet care. The most common chicken illnesses include poultry bumblefoot, a prolapsed vent, mites, and respiratory problems.
What Can I Do About Salmonella?
While salmonella doesn’t usually make the birds sick, it can cause serious illness when it’s passed to people. Flock owners can get sick when salmonella bacteria from feathers, coop bedding, water buckets, or even coop dust from a doorknob or bucket or some other surface travel from hand to mouth.
1. Wash your hands – Hands down, the number one way to stay healthy is to wash your hands EVERY TIME you come back in from the coop or handle chicken food or water containers, eggs, or the chickens themselves.
2. No Coop Items In-door – Keep your coop shoes, water buckets, food containers, and chickens, out of your house.
3. Keep Kids Safe – Young children are even more likely to put their hands in their mouths than adults, so the risk of salmonella may be higher with kids. Supervise them carefully and be sure they wash their hands.
4. No Kisses – Chickens are cute, and yes, it’s nice to pick them up sometimes, but don’t kiss your chickens. This includes baby chicks. As sweet as they may be, baby chicks from a mail-order hatchery are a significant carrier of salmonella infections and cause multi-state salmonella outbreaks annually.
5. No food Anywhere Near The Coop – Don’t eat in or around the coop.
Raising chickens is not for everyone, and whether you’re an animal lover or not, it is vital that you understand and take into consideration the steps that are involved.
One of the most important decisions you will have to make is providing your beloved chickens with a high-quality, safe, and sturdy coop as well as ensuring that you and your family are taking all safety and health precautions.
There are a number of sources online that can help you get the most knowledgeable and up-to-date information on raising backyard chickens. Good luck! And happy chicken keeping 🙂
- 20 Convincing Reasons To Keep Backyard Chickens. (2017, March 13). Retrieved from https://www.naturallivingideas.com/20-convincing-reasons-to-keep-backyard-chickens/
- 5 Ways to Prevent Salmonella from Backyard Chickens. (2017, November 28). Retrieved from http://www.wideopenpets.com/5-ways-prevent-salmonella-backyard-chickens/
- Marr, K. (2016, March 04). Five Reasons to Not Keep Chickens. Retrieved from https://livesimply.me/2014/02/12/five-reasons-keep-chickens/
- McWilliams, J. (2013, November 22). Five Reasons Why Owning Backyard Chickens Is For The Birds. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesmcwilliams/2013/11/21/five-reasons-why-owning-backyard-chickens-is-for-the-birds/#4d21e3b27f44
- Pros and Cons of Raising Backyard Chickens. (2018, February 15). Retrieved from http://www.grangecoop.com/pros-cons-raising-backyard-chickens/
- N. (2015, March 04). Reasons for Not Raising Backyard Chickens. Retrieved from https://thebackyardchickenfarmer.com/reasons-for-not-raising-backyard-chickens/
- The Pros and Cons of Raising Chickens. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.backyardchickens.com/articles/the-pros-and-cons-of-raising-chickens.64359/
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