Almost 15 years ago, we built our little house in the country. We were DINKs with grandiose plans to create a charming homestead, and we’d start with our own flock of chickens. We’d do this, we decided, just as soon as we’d had our first child.
Right. Child one had colic, then came child two, then I became a SAHM, then we started homeschooling, then… Three years ago, we finally installed a chicken coop and procured 13 chicks, which have grown into the sweet hens we enjoy.
My point? Don’t wait. Had we utilized that (relatively) carefree DINK season to handle the lion’s share of the work, then our girls would have already been an established part of our family routine. The startup is labor- and time-intensive. The maintenance is not.
Dreaming of a feathered flock of your own? If you have the space (or, if you’re a city dweller, the permission), then here are ten reasons why you absolutely need chickens in your life:
This one’s obvious but, I promise you, once you’ve eaten eggs from your backyard flock, that’s it. You’ll scoff in the store each time you pass the bleach-white Styrofoam cartons.
Depending on your flock size, you’ll have eggs to spare, which with both provide deliciousness to your family and friends and also will raise awareness. It’s nice to know your breakfast came from happy, healthy chickens and not, well, a warehouse.
We’re a single-income household on a budget, so we were a little concerned about the added expense of feed and other chicken-rearing supplies. Turns out, when folks learned we had chickens, they lined up to buy them. Our girls now earn their keep, as they say. We make a point to keep eggs for ourselves, or they would all go.
This builds on “breaking even”. We’re not hard-core organic consumers, but we do what we can. Once our flock was established, we knew we wanted them to have organic feed, and to supplement with free ranging. However, organic feed is significantly more expensive than traditional, and we knew we’d have to raise our per-dozen prices to compensate. I worried that folks would balk, but no one did.
There’s a reason why farmers call chicken manure “black gold.” If you keep a garden, then your chickens will provide a built-in source for high-quality, nutritious compost. But we don’t, I repeat, we don’t apply said manure directly to our gardens. Here’s how to make it.
The Bug Control
Each day, we free-range our hens. They have free reign to wander the land, scratching, weeding, pecking and consuming countless bugs that would otherwise pester us and infest our garden. As a result, since our girls joined us, we’ve seen an increase in our garden’s health and a decrease in pesky insects – especially mosquitoes.
While we choose to free-range, another method is to employ a chicken coop on wheels. The idea is to contain the chickens to one area of land, on which they will weed, aerate and, ahem, fertilize for a day or two (any more, and they will consume all the grass. That’s how they roll. Pardon the pun), and then simply roll them to then next space. It’s like a big Roomba for your yard.
One of my favorite things is to pour a glass of wine, settle into my patio chair, and watch my girls. They chat with each other, chase bugs, and dust-bathe. They strut and flap their wings, just in case we’d forgotten what a big deal they are. Someone should really pitch a Chicken Cam show to Netflix. Instant hit.
This one’s my favorite. From the way they all come running when my son calls, to how they fall asleep in my daughter’s arms, to the way their contented clucks lull me as I work in my garden, these girls have become a part of our family.
Overall, there’s just something fulfilling about managing our own little flock. I like to say we take care of each other. And, really, isn’t that what homesteading is truly all about?
So there you have it. 10 reasons why you absolutely need chickens in your life. We don’t raise ours for meat – that went out the window the second my son named them – but I know many folks that do. It’s a personal preference, really.
Now, lest I lead you to believe that chicken-rearing is all moonlight and roses, there are some things to consider beforehand. Today, I’ve given you the pros. Next week, the cons. In the interim, if you have any questions, just give me a shout.