Raising just a few chickens can benefit you, your family and your garden by leaps and bounds. When we first started raising chickens in our backyard, most of our friends and family couldn’t quite understand it – it was just too old fashion. Why go back in time when there’s a grocery store around every corner?
But that’s the problem – a grocery store around every corner has us so spoiled that many of us don’t even realize that growing or raising our own food is even an option. (Don’t worry, I’m not about to go all prepper on you!) But, there are benefits to raising your own chickens both health-wise and wealth-wise, that most people don’t even think about. Today, I’ll share a few for you to consider.
Top 5 Benefits of raising chickens in your backyard
1. (Almost) Free Organic Eggs
It’s easy to solve the “what’s for breakfast?” problem in our home. We have eight hens, and as you can see, I haven’t been to the grocery store for eggs in almost 2 years. Eggs are one thing that we never run out of – but these are not just any old eggs, they are beautiful, healthy and the most delicious eggs we’ve ever tasted.
Our family doesn’t have to wonder about the horrible conditions the caged chickens may have had to endure at the poultry factory and neither do we have to wonder about what they were fed. We don’t use any pesticides or chemicals in our yard and we give them quality feed. So these eggs are good for our health and our wallet. They aren’t completely free if we factor in how much it costs to feed them. When we factor in feed, we average around 73 cents per dozen – not too bad if you consider the $4 of $5 a dozen of organic free range eggs costs in the store.
2. Free Organic Fertilizer
The soil in a garden is always loosing nutrients as plants fruits and veggies grow so to help with the deficiency, chickens have some of the best natural fertilizer in the business. YUP THATS RIGHT!!! Poop! Believe it or not, you will pay a pretty penny in your local garden centers for this stuff. I had a hard time pulling out my wallet to pay for poop, literally – this is actually what motivated me to start raising chickens initially. I wanted to be able to fertilize my garden and I didn’t want to pay retail prices.
My trees and plants love the stuff – they grow out of control when they get a dose of composted chicken poop. (Note: it must be allowed to compost, fresh chicken poop will kill plants. Believe me, I learned this the hard way, so you won’t have to!)
3. Free Labor – they can help work the soil!
When you let chickens out into the yard, you’ll notice that they often stop to scratch at the dirt with their feet. As they look for food, plants, insects and even small rocks (they need grit to help digest their food), they use their claws to pierce the soil. They don’t realize it, but when they do this, they help aerate and loosen the dirt.
4. Free weed and pest control
Chickens love dandelions and other random weeds they find in the yard. Whenever I pull weeds from my vegetable garden, I make sure to toss them to the birds – they love it!
They also eat insects, including the super-annoying red fire ants, and grubs. This keeps the bug population under control in the summer. They eat the very pests that can eat or even destroy your plants. Since we don’t believe in spraying chemicals on our yard, this is actually a very good benefit. Every time I found a bug gnawing at something in my garden, I’d pick it up and take it over to my chickens. The more bugs they eat, the less feed they need to consume – it’s a win/win.
5. Free Entertainment
No, you won’t find these chicken soap operas on TV – they are not televised, but they are live in our backyard! It is nothing less than pure entertainment to watch chickens establish their pecking order… to watch the roosters strut around like he owns the place… to watch that same rooster claim hen after hen (who needs viagra?). Each bird has its own personality and it’s just plain hilarious to watch their antics.
On top of that, the kids love them. During this strange time in history when kids don’t want to go outside because they’re too busy playing video games, it’s amazing how quickly the chickens can draw the kids outside to play. The kids love tossing chicken snacks (kitchen scraps) at them and watching them gather around to eat.
These are just a few benefits of raising chickens – these are not the only benefits, of course.
What about the space and the noise?
You don’t need a lot of land to be able to keep chickens, but you do need enough room for a pen and enough yard for them to walk around at least a few hours a day. Roosters can make a lot of noise and if you have neighbors, they may complain about this – but you don’t need to keep a rooster to benefit from raising hens. They’ll lay eggs without the rooster, so just get a few hens and call it a day!
We’re fortunate enough to live in a rare part of the city where we only have a few neighbors whose houses are far enough away that we rarely cross paths. We’re not in a rural area, we’re just situated very nicely and we live on about 1/2 of an acre.
If you live in a suburban area, be sure to check your local laws and rules to see if it’s legal for you to own a few of these little rascals. All you need is two or three hens and they will help make your gardening experience one for the books.
How to protect your garden from being devoured by chickens
Yeah, I did say chickens eat plants, and they don’t discriminate between your beautiful broccoli and the dandelions you hope they’d eat. So, if you’re going to let them roam freely around the yard, make sure you protect your plants. Place a gate around your plants to keep them out or you can make use of chicken tractors. Tractors are actually a great way to keep your garden weed free – place the chickens inside and move them only along the path that you want them to clear.
The benefits of keeping chickens definitely outweigh the disadvantages. I recommend starting small with just a few laying hens. Before you know it, you’ll have enough eggs and fertilizer to keep and to give away. So, what do you think? What’s holding you back from raising your own chickens? Share your thoughts in the comments section.