It seems like keeping a backyard flock has become a commonplace for many US suburban families, and even quite a lot urban ones. While we live close to all the things we like doing in the cities, we secretly want to escape to a simpler way of life without giving up the city convenience. City peeps raise chickens for many reasons that can vary from one backyard coop to the next. If you’re thinking about taking on a flock of your own, give serious consideration to the benefits it will bring to you and your homestead.
You have heard all the worrywarts’ complaints—chickens are a smelly and loud nuisance—but there’s still a part of you who wants to learn first-hand if there is truth behind those rumors.
If you’re on the fence about setting up the coop and you are looking for someone to push you over into the chicken keeping hobby, you’ve come to the right place. We have come up with a list of some obvious and some not-so obvious points for the positive side of your pro-con list. Making the final decision—well, that’s up to you.
Here are the reasons why I think chicken coops are so great:
1. Fresh eggs
Once you have put fresh chicken eggs in your doughs and dishes, you simply cannot step back! The taste is so much richer and fuller! The yolks are darker and stand up taller. Many people (baker men especially) say that their baked stuff is lighter and fluffier. But, you cannot know for sure until you get some chickens and test out their eggs!
2. Healthier eggs
Research has shown that eggs from free-range chickens are lower in cholesterol and higher in vitamins and minerals. Eggs from pastured hens have 4 to 6 times as much vitamin D compared with chickens raised in confinement (aka the chickens that lay conventional grocery store eggs). These healthy eggs also have 7 times more beta-carotene, 3 times more vitamin E and 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids. That’s a lot more health in a single shell, right?
3. Fewer bugs
Our visitors are always taken by surprise as we do not have many bugs that are flying and biting around the house. Chickens are omnivores just like humans, but their tastes are a little less refined. They’ll eat what you won’t, like mosquitos, crickets, slugs, grubs and spiders. So, the mystery of the disappearing mosquitoes is no mystery to us any longer: no doubt these pests are on hiatus because the chickens are doing their instinctual job – eating them and their larvae. We also don’t have a problem with fleas.
If you are a gardener and if you want an organic way to keep pest populations down, the solution is simple: raise chickens! Pests provide nutritious food that supplements your flock’s diet. When your flock dines on these pests, the yard becomes a bug-reduced oasis, sprinkled with chicken manure.
4. Preserving genetic diversity
Large factory farms use a breed of hybrid chicken to achieve the best feed-to-egg production ratio possible. Unfortunately that means that many breeds of heritage chickens could become extinct without the help of backyard chicken keepers like you, who choose to raise them.
5. Eating locally grown food
At a time when most food items travel an average of 1,500 miles to get to our plates, it is such a good change to be able to eat something that has traveled only a few yards, doesn’t it?
6. Look at them as your pets with a purpose
If your children want pets, but you aren’t crazy about the idea of a dog or cat or small rodent around your house and kitchen especially, chickens can do double-duty as pets. Chickens are friendly domestic animals, just like any other pet handled daily from the time it was hatched. They also eat less than a dog—an added bonus for your budget pocketbook.
7. Getting in touch with your daily food
Most people have no idea where any of their food comes from. By having a few backyard hens, you will be taking a small step toward food independence and empowerment.
8. Free compost
Chicken manure is great for the garden plants. And if your chickens run and chase around your backyard, they will fertilize it, naturally. Say “so long” to lawn-care services!
9. Great chicken soup
When hens get older and their laying slows down, you can butcher them for stew meat, which is so delicious and can’t be found in stores. All grandmothers will consistently tell you that chicken soup is really good for a cold and flu.
The idea that chicken soup, often dubbed as the “Jewish penicillin,” has medicinal effects dates back to ancient times, but modern scientists have never fully deciphered the reasons.
Some doctors believe that the soup’s benefits are mainly psychosomatic, that it is the ultimate comfort food. Others say the steaming hot soup clears congestion and provides the body with necessary hydration to flush out viral bugs. Researchers believe colds are caused by viral infections in the upper respiratory tract. The body responds with inflammation, which triggers white blood cells to migrate to the area.
Yet, the biological basis is still unclear. A researcher tested a family recipe passed down from his wife’s Lithuanian grandmother that contained chicken, onions, sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, carrots, celery, parsley, salt and pepper.
The white blood cells migrated less often in the presence of each of the tasty ingredients. His theory is that some ingredient in the chicken soup blocks or slows the amount of cells congregating in the lung area, possibly relieving the development of these cold symptoms. But it remains unclear what chemical compound within the ingredients prevented their motion.
- Free amusement
Chickens are endlessly amusing. They give you the real taste of being somewhere in the country. You can’t watch them running around the yard for more than a few minutes without laughing or being surprised about something they’re doing. Children will burst with excitement when they see a chicken catching a frog for example, or when they see a chicken laying an egg for the first time, or the hatching of a baby chicken!
We hope this was convincing enough for you. And if someone still needs convincing to build their backyard coop ask them this: “Have you heard of chicken math?”
The chicken hobby starts out modestly with few chickens to produce just enough eggs for the family. But, before you know it, you want eggs of every color and different breeds to adorn your landscape and Easter baskets. Suddenly the flock has tripled in size and you have more eggs than anyone (but a bodybuilder) can eat.
However, urban chicken keepers usually can’t produce enough to sell at a farmers’ market, but the coolest solution to backyard overabundance I’ve seen is “the honor box.” Whether sold from a cooler or a fancy, permanent yard stand, the chicken farmer posts a price and current inventory. Then neighbors and friends can help themselves to your extra eggs, and on their honor, they leave the correct amount of cash for your extra goods. That’s, at least, the idea.