Updated: Apr 2
Are you considering getting chickens? With soaring egg prices and food shortages, many people are considering starting their own flock of laying hens.
We've been keeping chickens for over 10 years and we love it! We're happy to share with you the top 10 reasons for keeping chickens.
Top 10 Reasons to Keep Chickens
Recycling food scraps into eggs
Life skills for children
Fun and beauty
Eggs to sell
By keeping chickens and feeding them well, you can harvest the Best.Eggs.Ever from your own backyard flock. Our chickens' eggs have rich orange yolks and delicious flavor that puts storebought eggs to shame.
What makes our homegrown eggs taste so good? It's all about the feed and the environment.
Conventional chicken feed is filled with genetically modified corn and soy. Typical organic chicken feeds are also soy-based. My family generally avoids soy because of its phytoestrogens, and we don't feed our chickens soy either.
For 5+ years, we made our own custom whole grain chicken feed. Now, for the last few years, we have been using fermented Scratch and Peck organic feed. (Our most cost-effective way to obtain Scratch and Peck feed has been through Azure Standard.)
We also grow fresh greens for our hens. Many of these greens are actually just weeds, which the hens happily consume. Our chickens also have a large outdoor area with plenty of room to scratch, graze, and hunt for bugs. They live happy lives and this surely contributes to their delicious eggs.
2. Self Sufficiency
We've all seen over the last few years that the centralized food system is vulnerable. Chicken keeping can help you gain some self sufficiency and control over your own food availability.
With a well-managed flock of hens, you can ensure that your family has plenty of eggs to eat year-round. In case of emergency, your backyard flock can also become a valuable source of meat for feeding your family.
There are a few important factors to having a steady supply of eggs year-round, so make sure to check out this article:
3. Healthier Eggs
Homegrown eggs have superior nutrition compared to store eggs. By feeding your chickens a healthy diet and making sure they have plenty of fresh greens, you can maximize the nutrition in your eggs.
A study from Penn State found that, "compared to eggs of the commercial hens, eggs from pastured hens eggs had twice as much vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats, more than double the total omega-3 fatty acids, and less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids."
A study by Mother Earth News found that, when compared to commercial eggs, "pastured eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:
1/3 less cholesterol
1/4 less saturated fat
2/3 more vitamin A
2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
3 times more vitamin E
7 times more beta carotene"
4. Recycling Food Scraps Into Eggs
Chickens will eat most of your kitchen scraps and recycle them into delicious eggs! Chickens will eat almost any fruit and vegetable scraps, meats, cheese, dairy, cooked beans, grains, etc. You can also feed them stale bread, tortillas, or crackers; just make sure to moisten them with water.
The only food scraps that we don't give to our chickens are citrus, banana peels, and avocado pits and skins.
5. Amazing Compost
Composted chicken manure is full of nutrients that help plants thrive. And, if you use the deep litter method in your chicken coop, your chickens can make amazing, nutrient-rich compost for your garden or yard.
We've been using the deep litter method for 5+ years, and it allows us to harvest 8-10 full wheelbarrows of rich compost every Spring. This chicken coop compost has been a wonderful soil amendment for increasing the productivity in our vegetable garden.
Bonus: The deep litter method also works to minimize any odors from your chicken coop and you will only have to clean out your chicken coop to harvest the compost once or twice a year!
6. Life Skills for Children
Keeping chickens is a hands-on way to teach your children valuable life skills. Through chicken keeping, kids can build a daily work ethic, learn how to be responsible, understand how to produce their own food, and learn much about animal care and health.
Growing up with chickens, my two kids have taken on more and more responsibility over time. They have are now responsible for all aspects of chicken care, including:
Raising chicks from fluffballs to adults
Giving chickens food and water
Managing the mulch in the coop
Cleaning and refreshing the nest boxes
Collecting and labeling eggs
Ensuring the chickens have free-access calcium
Fermenting the chicken feed
Clipping wing feathers
Supervising free-range grazing
7. Fun and Beauty
Having your own chickens gives you a fun source of backyard entertainment. You can watch the chickens forage for food, chase each other for tasty morsels, have dirt-bath parties, and squawk when they celebrate the laying of their daily eggs. There is something very peaceful about watching beautiful chickens contentedly grazing on lush grasses and weeds.
8. Garden Helpers
With careful management, chickens can be great helpers for your garden. They can help you by mixing in soil amendments, turning over your compost pile, eating weeds, providing nutrient-rich fertilizer, and cleaning up the garden at the end of the season.
Chickens can be destructive in the garden, so watch for a future post where I'll share the nitty gritty details of how we have successfully used our chickens as garden helpers.
9. Eggs to Sell
To ensure a steady supply of eggs in the winter (when egg production naturally slows down), you'll probably want to keep a few more chickens than you may have anticipated. This means you will likely have extra eggs that you can sell for at least a few months each year. Selling eggs allows you to share the bounty of super-nutrition and also offset some of your ongoing feed costs.
My kids decided to take our flock to the next level by starting a small egg business. Owning their own business has given my kids the opportunity to learn much about raising and caring for animals, handling and saving money, profit vs. loss, the value of hard work, perseverance, and long-term commitments. They're becoming experts in management of the flock, and they make the hard decisions about keeping their business viable throughout the productive and unproductive egg laying years of their hens.
Just like many other animals, chickens have distinct personalities and can make great companions. They will greet you at feeding time and follow you around in the garden or yard. Some chickens even like being carried around.
My kids consider their chickens to be friends. They take their chickens for gentle swings on the swingset, slow rides on the 4-wheeler, and even hand-carried on short walks. Some of our chickens have been downright cuddly and snuggly, including Cupcake the Ameracauna who likes to come visit us in the house and demands snuggle time from Ian. 🤣
I hope this post helps you see that there are many more benefits to chicken-keeping besides the delicious eggs. Make sure to read 6 Crucial Things to Know Before You Get Chickens for more information on how to make your flock a success. My favorite book about chicken keeping is The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery.
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