You need chickens. You really do. Why? Because chickens are awesome. Why are they awesome? They eat bugs, lay eggs, and they look hilarious when they run. What other reasons do you need? I mean we could mention the fact that fresh eggs taste better than store bought eggs, and that chickens in factory farms lead terrible lives. Raising your own food is always a good idea. But just in case you aren’t convinced, let’s take a look at some reasons why you need chickens. (Did I mention they look funny when they run? Because they do.)
It’s the ethical thing to do
Factory farmed chickens have a terrible life. Even when you try to get high quality eggs, labels are tricky and hard to read. If you don’t know the farmer personally, there’s really no for sure way to know that the hens weren’t abused. If the eggs were cheap, chances are they were laid by a very sad bird. By raising your own hens you know for sure they had happy lives where they were free to roost, scratch, dust bathe, and do their chicken thing (like running). Large scale farmers tend to keep just a few breeds. Because of that, a lot of breeds can be lost. Backyard producers are in a better position to raise and preserve heritage breeds that have more genetic diversity and are more resilient against disease, and they can even prevent the most critically endangered ones from going extinct.
A hyper local food economy is better for the environment. By raising your own hens you cut down on the distance your food travels, which reduces emissions from vehicles. Have you ever been to a chicken farm? They seriously stink! By raising your own you also reduce pollution depending on how you handle the waste. If you sell your eggs then you are also contributing to the economic well being of your community as well as giving people an ethical and healthier option. (And if you really think keeping chickens isn’t for you, buying direct from a farmer helps out too. Of course chickens themselves reduce waste. Instead of sending your food scraps off to the dump you can feed them to your hens. They will happily convert them into eggs and fertilizer.
It’s the self-sufficient thing to do
Whether you consider yourself a prepper or just like being prepared, raising your own eggs is a way of becoming more self-reliant and increasing your self-sufficiency. Producing your own food is a good idea for emergency situations. Sometimes those emergency situations are as simple and common as limited cash flow. When money is tight it’s nice to be able to trim down the budget without compromising on nutrition. While hens will still need some supplemental feed, you can cut down on feed costs by letting them roam as much as possible. They will eat insects and pests from your garden, and clean up weeds and fallen fruit. Each hen only needs 200 square feet of pasture for fresh greens (and for running).
In turn their bedding and waste will feed your garden and improve the soil. It’s that much closer to a closed loop cycle. Some city folk may not be able to keep a rooster (don’t worry, you can still get eggs), but if you are able you can hatch out your own new stock, and provide a steady source of meat for yourself.
It’s the healthy thing to do
Have you seen the beautiful bright orange of the yolk from a well fed hen? Those eggs contain more nutrients than the conventional kind you can purchase from the store, such as vitamin a, vitamin e, beta carotene, folate, and omega-3s as well as less cholesterol and saturated fat. When the hens are your own you can have a lot more control about what type of feed they eat; if your family has highly sensitive food intolerances you can even choose a feed without that component. You pick out the feed, so you don’t need to worry about if there is high levels of arsenic or antibiotics being used for the flock.
Chickens can also provide all the stress relief benefits of having a pet, with the added bonus of not barking incessantly in the middle of the night, needing long walks, or chewing your house to ribbons. They need a minimal amount of daily care, but still provide entertainment (in case you haven’t guessed, I’m highly entertained when they run), and a reason to get outside for some extra sunshine (or “cloudshine” here in Oregon). Chickens even have been used as therapy animals because of their calming effect.
There are so many benefits to raising chickens! I know my life would not be as sparkly and awesome without a few hens in it. They are good for society, good for the earth, and good for our souls, and in most cases require just some simple care. I love chickens.
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