Republished with permission from naturallivingideas.com.
The trend of keeping backyard chickens has been on the rise over the past number of years, and it’s easy to see why. Of course, there are the fresh eggs to look forward to, but did you know that chickens have a lot else going for them?
From free therapy to learning about self-sustainability, here are 16 great reasons to keep your own backyard chickens:
1. Fresh Eggs
This is the obvious reason – you’ll have a supply of fresh eggs on hand. Not to mention the convenience, as you’ll have absolutely no need to get out of your pajamas and head to the store to make a fresh, healthy breakfast.
2. Organic & Non-GMO
Caged hens are fed a diet of corn, soy and cottonseed meals … three huge GMO crops. If you really take the old saying ‘you are what you eat’ to heart, then you’ll be wary of eggs which come from these hens. By keeping your own, you know exactly what they’re eating and can avoid feeding them engineered and antibiotic laden crops.
3. Greater Nutrition
Free range eggs from your backyard have been shown to have a far greater nutritional value than nasty battery eggs.
There is more than seven times the Vitamin A and Beta Carotene (essential for good eyesight) and almost double the Vitamin E in free range eggs. When it comes to the essential fatty acid Omega 3 (which is necessary for heart health, healthy cholesterol levels and positive mental and behavioral health) the free range variety win again with an incredible 292mg, versus a pitiful 0.033mg in battery eggs. You’ll also get less saturated fat in free range eggs.
For your health, and the chickens, consider getting some backyard hens.
4. Cruelty Free
Not only will you get nutritious, organic eggs, but you can be safe in the knowledge that your omelet is served up cruelty free. You may think you’re already supporting a cruelty free life for farmed chickens by buying free range but, the truth is, commercially marketed ‘free range’ eggs don’t have the happy origins that the industry would like you to believe. There is actually no definite description of what ‘free range’ is and, even then, less than 1% of chickens in the US are considered to be free range.
5. Educational Value
Did you know chickens have a great memory and can differentiate between over 100 human or animal faces? They love to play, they dream, they mourn for each other and they feel pain and distress. They also make great mothers – they talk to their chicks while still in the egg, and turn the eggs about 50 times a day.
The term ‘pecking order’ didn’t come out of nowhere – hens have an ordered social structure based on a hierarchy. If you make room for them in your back garden, you and your family will get to learn all about these fascinating creatures up close. Have a look here for even more amazing facts about chickens.
6. Save a Life
Be a hero and save ex-battery hens from the slaughterhouse. 300 million birds each year are crammed into cages that are far too small. All birds—egg-laying hens, meat chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and others—are excluded from all federal animal protection laws. Additionally, meat and egg-laying birds are strategically bred for hyper-production: egg-laying hens for high egg volume, and “meat” chickens for maximum breast meat. Why not play a part in giving some a second chance? They’ll reward you with their protein rich eggs and companionship.
7. Free Fertilizer
Maybe free chicken manure isn’t something to get too excited about, but if you’re proud of your garden it can work wonders. Chicken manure is actually classed as being one of the most desirable manures due to its high nutrient level. Utilizing this is an important part of sustainable and organic agriculture.
Check out these 6 great ways that can even use your eggshells in the garden!
8. Pest Control
When you get your backyard chickens, you’ll have a great excuse to ditch the pesticides and chemical-laden bug killers. Your chickens will do that job for you. They eat pretty much any bug including beetles, slugs, ticks and grasshoppers.
Between a steady supply of fertilizer and a newly slug-free garden, your roses will never have looked so good.
9. Cut Down on Food Waste
Nationwide, food scraps make up about 17% (29 million tons) of what is sent to landfills, and yard waste is slightly more at 33 million tons. Your chickens can help you out here too!
In addition to some chicken food, they’ll eat pretty much most kitchen scraps – fruit and vegetable peelings, bread, cooked beans, cooked rice, oatmeal, pasta … and the list goes on. They can’t have all foods though so make sure you know what’s bad for them too. Meat and other animal products are best avoided.
10. Save Heritage Breeds
Because only certain chickens are good for meat, and others are specially bred for maximum egg production, today’s chickens look significantly different from their ancestors.
You could take on the role of conservationist by adding a few rare heritage breeds to your yard. Different breeds have different characteristics so choose which breed is right for you based on their temperament, and your location and available space.
11. Weed Control
Chickens may just be the perfect sidekick for every gardener. A source of pest control and manure all in one, they also will rid your garden of those invasive weeds that pop up all over the place.
As they scratch and claw the ground, they eat and disperse all those weed seeds that have blown in. Next year, you’ll be amazed at your neat and tidy garden.
Recommended Reading: Garden Weeds: 8 Of The Most Effective Ways To Get Rid Of Them For Good
12. A Source of Therapy
Move over cats and dogs, these beautiful creatures could be the next therapy animals! They’re already being used to help those with autism as well as the elderly.
Keeping chickens is seen as therapeutic for children on the autism spectrum by getting the kids involved in feeding and caring for the chickens, thereby promoting independent living skills.
They have also been used for patients with dementia and other psychiatric disorders. Because chickens are always moving around, pecking and socializing, they’re seen as calming.
13. Learn Where Food Comes From
Keeping chickens is a great way for kids to learn about nature, agriculture and the responsibility of caring for animals. It’s also a fantastic way for both kids and adults to gain respect for these intelligent creatures that produce food for us.
14. Entertainment Value
Because chickens are clever creatures, each occupying a different role in the pecking order, keeping them in your backyard gives you a chance to see the individual personalities and quirks of each of your new pets.
15. Down on Food Miles
We’ve all heard of food miles – the distance over which a food item is transported from producer to consumer. Well, you can’t cut down on this particular type of environmental impact much more than keeping a source of food in your own back garden.
As you also clock up miles getting waste foods away from you and to the landfill, it seems these useful creatures save you miles twice when they gobble up your table scraps too!
16. A Lesson in Self-Sustainability
If you already grow your own vegetables and keep a compost heap then you’re heading in the right direction to becoming self-sustaining.
Keeping your own chickens is the next step – for the eggs, the pest and weed control and the simple source of fertilizer.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about egg shortages or recalls due to salmonella outbreaks!