If you have the space in your backyard and the approval of your homeowner’s association or city ordinances, you might have considered raising chickens. Recent trends towards being more self-sufficient have included increased interest in keeping chickens by the average homeowner—not just on large-scale factory farms.
As you decide whether to take the plunge yourself, here are 10 benefits of raising backyard chickens that might help you make up your mind.
The 10 Great Benefits of Raising Backyard Chickens
1. Knowing Where Your Food Comes From
When you raise backyard chickens for eggs or meat, you’re in complete control of the process. You know what the birds are eating, how well taken care of they are, and how clean their space is. With store-bought eggs and meat, you have no such knowledge and are taking your chances a little bit. With all the ethical and health concerns surrounding factory farms and commercial poultry operations, a major benefit of raising backyard chickens is knowing exactly where your food comes from.
2. Natural Fertilizer
If you’re able to keep backyard chickens free-range, they serve as a source of natural fertilizer and contribute to soil health. As they scratch and forage for food, chickens help till and aerate the soil. At the same time, their poop fertilizes the grass or crops as they range across the ground. Even if you have to keep your chickens confined to a small space due to local regulations, you can still collect their poop to mix into your garden soil.
Chances are you aren’t the only one excited about eating fresh eggs. Raising backyard chickens offers the chance to earn extra income by selling your extra eggs or even meat. Depending on the breed and quality of food and care, a single chicken could produce hundreds of eggs in a year. Even if you love omelets, that may be more than you and your family can eat! Selling the extra eggs allows your chickens to help pay for themselves. It could also be a fun way to introduce early business and financial concepts to your kids.
Speaking of kids, raising backyard chickens provides a range of educational opportunities they can take advantage of. Get your kids involved with the whole project early, allowing them to help you research breeds, plan and build the chicken space, raise the chicks, and more. The whole family can work together to care for the chickens, collect eggs, and sell them. Taking care of any pet can help kids learn responsibility, and backyard chickens are no different.
Observing a backyard chicken flock can provide entertainment as well as education. Well-socialized chickens develop unique personalities and can form attachments to their human families. Some breeds are more playful and can entertain for hours with their daily antics. Others enjoy cuddling and sitting in your lap. Keeping a smaller, backyard flock offers you a chance to appreciate how much personality a chicken actually has. Take the time to get to know your backyard chickens and you’ll find them even more enjoyable and entertaining.
6. Less Waste
Backyard chickens can essentially serve as walking, pecking compost piles while helping reduce the amount of waste you produce at home. Chickens will happily gobble up many types of kitchen waste, converting the nutrients into even more eggs for you. Supplementing your chicken’s regular feed with a variety of human scraps helps ensure they get all the nutrition they need to stay healthy. Most vegetables, fruits, and even some animal products are safe for chickens to eat. Double-check with your vet if you have a question about whether something is okay to feed.
7. Weed Control
Free-ranging backyard chickens are an excellent organic weed control method. Chickens are happy to snack on all the greens they can find sprouting, saving you the hassle of yanking them out yourself or using toxic weed-killing chemicals. Without supervision, however, they won’t discriminate between weeds and your garden plants. Keep an eye on the birds while they’re in the garden or consider using chicken wire to protect the useful plants while still allowing access to the nuisance ones.
8. Pest Control
Omnivore chickens won’t just help keep weeds under control. They’re also happy to make a meal out of pesky insects that plague your yard or garden. Chickens eat many different pests, including those that can be dangerous to humans, like ticks. Free-range chickens will be most useful for this task. Chemical pesticides can be problematic for the environment, so using backyard chickens as pest control specialists is just one more way to live a more earth-friendly lifestyle.
9. Family Bonding
Raising backyard chickens provides an opportunity for family bonding, with everyone working together to keep the birds healthy and productive. Even the smallest children can enjoy learning to collect eggs. Older children can assist in cleaning the coop, monitoring the chickens as they roam free, and even helping run an egg-selling business. If your family always seems to be too busy to spend time together, maybe a backyard chicken project will help you all slow down and enjoy life together.
10. Outdoor Activities
For many families, getting outside can be a struggle thanks to the lure of screen time. If you have backyard chickens, staying inside all the time isn’t an option. Somebody has to care for the chickens after all. Watching and playing with the chickens also provide an incentive to get kids to come outside. Their friends may enjoy coming over to see the chickens too, helping even more people enjoy time outdoors. Both our physical and mental well-being benefit from time spent outside, and raising backyard chickens is one of the more unique outdoor activities you can take part in.
As you can see, raising backyard chickens offers many benefits—both to your family and to the health of the earth itself. If you’re ready to get started, first make sure you’re allowed to have backyard chickens in your town or neighborhood, as we mentioned in the introduction. Research chicken breeds carefully to find the ones best suited to small spaces, and prepare the appropriate shelter before bringing your birds home.
Featured Image Credit: Jen Watson, Shutterstock