Fresh Eggs

Backyard Chickens?

When people think of chickens, they picture tractors and ploughed land as far as the eye can see. Well, I’m here to paint you a different picture. Chickens are one of the easiest animals to raise and care for on any size land.

They require much less space than you would think to be healthy and happy, and are what we animal people refer to as, “easy keepers,” that is, they don’t need a lot of food or labour-intensive tending.

Chickens make charming pets and are easy for every family member to handle. Ask around, you’ll be surprised at all the suburbanites that have a few feathered friends out back.

The primary reason to keep chickens in your backyard is to gather farm- fresh eggs. Free-range chickens lay eggs free of hormones, antibiotics, and don’t suffer from inhumane practices such as body-sized cages in overcrowded chicken ranches, cut-off beaks, and round the clock lighting that encourages more egg production.

Commercially raised chickens lay eggs artificially low in omega 3s because they are deprived the greens that free-range chickens enjoy. Eggs laid by free-range chickens also contain more vitamin A, beta-carotene, folic acid, and vitamin B-12.

The second reason chickens come in handy is for the “other” stuff they leave behind. I’m talking about chicken manure. Chicken manure is a wonderful resource for farmers as a fertilizer. It provides more nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to plants than horse, cow or steer manures. As a soil amendment, it adds organic matter while increasing beneficial biota in the soil.

Backyard chickens will not only provide your family with eggs as a food source, but provide a source of necessary organic fertilizer for your plants and crops. When you clean out the hen house, use all the waste gathered there and throw it onto your compost heap. Chicken manure is too strong to be used raw on plants. It needs to compost into “black gold” before it is used on the soil around plants and crops.

Another important benefit of keeping your own chickens is the price of eggs. Let’s say you have two hens. Most days, those hens will give you one egg per hen per day, give or take. So, you’d have about dozen eggs per week for you and your family. With four hens, you could double that and sell some eggs to friends and family.  When comparing egg prices between weekly purchases and gathering your own , don’t forget to make all things equal and compare your savings with organic, free-range eggs.

Naturally curious and generally docile, chickens also make great family pets with some breeds being more friendly than others. Chicken owners often remark on how relaxing it is to watch the steady pace of their hens with their soft clucking as they peck and scratch for food.

Owners also find the ticks disappear almost entirely from their yards as ticks, fly larva and bugs are a favorite snack for chickens. Chickens will also clear any area of weeds (and indeed, most small vegetation, including newly planted seedlings).

There’s really nothing quite as satisfying as gathering your own eggs from your own hen house or cracking an egg for your family’s breakfast and  knowing just how fresh and wholesome that egg is. If you’re interested in keeping backyard chickens, check with your municipality first. However, I have found that most municipalities take a relaxed view of suburban chickens.

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