I love my backyard chickens! They’re often not in the backyard of course. Sometimes they’re in the side yard, the front yard, or even under the house! Wherever they are, they are so much fun to have around and have so many wonderful uses. I can’t imagine my homestead without a flock of backyard chickens.
I was so scared that I would mess up when I first got chickens. What I realized was that I was definitely going to mess up, but anything I could do with good intentions would be better for the chickens than a life in a factory farm. So I learned as I went and am so glad I gave it a go because there are so many amazing benefits to having backyard chickens!
Here are 6 reasons you should give it a shot:
1. Fresh Eggs
Of course, the eggs! I almost forgot about this one because I don’t eat eggs currently (I hope to soon though!). Eggs are a cheap form of protein and when they are fresh from your healthy flock, they are even more nutritious (and delicious!). A study found that the vitamin A, E, and fatty acid (like omega-3) content of pastured eggs was much higher than conventional eggs.
But at $6 a dozen for pastured chicken eggs you’re better off growing your own. This is especially true if you find creative ways to feed your flock for less (or zero).
There’s something profound about a child fully understanding where their food comes from. I think it’s funny when adults assume that I don’t let my kids know that chicken does indeed come from chickens. I mean, I do get it, that may have been me a number of years ago, worried that the truth would scar them.
However, we decided that if we were going to have livestock we would not hide what that means from our kids. If we are going to eat it, it’s important that we know where it comes from. I want my kids to be grateful for their food, and I feel that gratitude begins by knowing that it doesn’t just come from a shelf at the store.
It’s also really great to watch your kids learn through farming. OG knows so much about science just by observing her backyard chickens. She knows that baby chicks come from eggs, but baby people don’t come from eggs. She knows that they stay warm because of their feathers. She knows that foxes like to eat chickens! It’s amazing what they can learn through immersion.
She also learns about responsibility and what it means to care for someone or something else.
3. Garden Help
Chickens are an excellent help in the garden. I’ve let my backyard chickens run through the garden at different times of the season for different kinds of help.
I don’t let them in the garden when new plants are growing because they’ll decimate them. But I have let them in the garden once the plants are large enough to not be killed easily. The chickens may take a few bites of kale but they’ll also eat the bugs that might otherwise eat the garden.
You do have to be careful doing this because you’ll be surprised what your chickens will eat. If you’re concerned they’ll eat too much, you can just let them into the garden at the beginning and end of the growing season to get bugs and pests at that time. I’ve done it this way too and found it very helpful in keeping pests down.
Chickens will also help till. If you put your chickens into the garden just before planting they can help loosen the top layer of soil. They can also till in any soil amendments you need to be added to your soil.
Their manure helps fertilize the garden and they can eat weeds. So the garden gets manured and weeded while backyard chickens get fed, win-win!
4. Free Fertilizer
No need to go and buy manure for your garden, just head to the compost pile! In our current coop, we use the deep litter method, which means the manure decomposes in the coop and we add more bedding to continue the decomposition as needed. In the spring we remove the bedding and manure to a compost pile to continue decomposing.
I don’t typically do a hot compost because it takes some attention to get it right (monitoring temperature and water), but a hot compost system would create finished manure in just a few weeks. I usually just let the manure sit until the fall and then throw it on the garden for the following spring.
Additionally, you can let your chickens into the garden to eat bugs and weeds. While they’re at it they’ll manure the garden too!
5. Chicken TV
When you have chickens you don’t need TV! They are so stinkin’ fun to watch. I really can’t explain it, but it’s true. Everyone who has come to visit has mentioned how fun the chickens are to watch. My kids like trying to hold them and pet them too. I think OG feels especially proud when she’s able to catch one, so there’s another benefit!
6. Self Sustainability
With chickens and eggs right in your backyard, you can theoretically keep yourself in chicken and eggs indefinitely. Not to mention you’re eliminating the fossil fuels needed to transport chicken and eggs to the grocery store for you.
I always like knowing that if we’re snowed in, or there’s a flood or something else that keeps us from leaving our home, we at least have eggs (and usually much more via the garden).
You’re also opting out of participating in the conventional food supply chain where animals are mistreated, and the food is sub-optimal.
1 Reason Not to Get Backyard Chickens
They’re a commitment. Plain and simple. Even with automation like an automatic chicken coop door, you have to check in on them once in a while, feed and water them daily, and collect eggs at least once a day.
If one gets sick you have to figure out how to help her or decide to cull her — no waiting until you have more time.
All of this is worth it to me. I like being home, playing with my chickens, and watching my kids play with my chickens.
If you don’t like being home much and want the freedom to be able to go on impromptu trips, then chickens may not be right for you.
That being said, I don’t want to discourage anyone from pursuing a more self-sufficient life and I think that many people will find that even though chickens are a commitment, they don’t take that much time on the day-to-day.
Plus you can usually find someone willing to feed your chickens for a few days if need be.
Ready to Get Started, But Don’t Know Where to Begin?
There’s a lot of information out there on caring for chickens, and people do it in many different ways. It can be overwhelming. In my ebook Raising Chickens Naturally, I go into detail on how to raise chickens in a natural and sustainable way. I also give you all the natural options you have to choose from and the pros and cons to them.
Now It’s Your Turn
Are backyard chickens right for you? What are your concerns?