Raising backyard chickens has gained a lot of popularity over the past decade. Many large cities allow backyard flocks already and committees are petitioning their local governments all across the United States to allow the practice within their city limits as well. As more people learn about sustainability, the environment, and what is really in the food they eat, the backyard chicken trend will only increase. Whether you own a small plot of land in a city, a decent-sized suburban backyard, or a sprawling country estate, a chicken coop and small flock of poultry may be the perfect addition to your property. The benefits of raising your own chickens are many.
1. Fresh, Nutritious Eggs
The most well-known benefit of raising chickens is the constant supply of healthy, organic eggs. Nothing beats fresh eggs! Free-range eggs have less cholesterol than commercially raised eggs, according to a 2007 study by Mother Earth News. They also have more vitamin A and E, less saturated fat, and extra omega 3’s. Eggs are an excellent source of protein. Free-range chickens produce eggs with a deep orange yolk, far different from the eggs one buys in a store. They taste delicious and are healthy for the entire family. With the price of organic eggs at a premium, raising your own chickens for eggs is an economical way to provide your family with nutritious, organic food.
2. Chemical Free Pest Control
Chickens love scavenging and are bug connoisseurs. These protein-rich bugs provide chickens a tasty treat while also ridding your yard of pests. Chickens make a quick meal of grasshoppers, lawn grubs, ants, ticks, termites, and even scorpions. They also enjoy slugs. Rather than spraying your lawn and garden with toxic insecticides, chickens will rid your property of pests and keep it pest free without harmful chemicals and at minimal cost. They’re certainly much less expensive than a commercial bug-control company!
3. Healthy Soil
Chicken waste is a phenomenal fertilizer and raising chickens will provide you with a constant supply of fertilizer with which to grace your lawn and gardens. Chicken fertilizer can transform weak topsoil into a fertile garden, capable of growing healthy vegetables and strong flowers. Let the fertilizer compost before applying it to your plants, because fresh manure is quite high in nitrogen and this may actually harm your plants.
Chickens are also natural diggers and they will aerate your soil, increasing your soils’ health.
4. Preventing Extinction
Large-scale commercial chicken farms prefer certain chicken breeds. Many wonderful chicken breeds, called Heritage Breeds, now risk extinction. These three-dozen or so breeds were sidelined for quick-growing birds raised in huge chicken farms. Small-scale and backyard farmers have an amazing opportunity to keep these breeds alive in their own yards, preserving the genetic diversity of these beautiful, productive chickens. Heritage chickens are old-fashioned breeds with a slow and natural growth rate and a long lifespan of 5-7 years. They mate naturally and are recognized by the American Poultry Association. Several popular heritage breeds are the Rhode Island Red, Wyandotte, Old English Game, Brahma, and Buckeye. For a complete list of heritage chicken breeds, check out: http://www.albc-usa.org/heritagechicken/cpl_chickenbreeds.html.
5. Money Making Opportunities
Organic eggs cost a premium. Raising your own chickens will not only provide your own family with a supply of fresh eggs, but if you have a surplus you could easily make a profit by selling your eggs. You could sell your eggs or chicken meat by word of mouth, at your local farmer’s market, or through a local health food store. Be sure to look up your city’s rules and regulations to make sure it’s legal. Organic chicken meat and eggs are profitable and there is a large market for these products.