So, you are thinking about getting chickens.  I could take the short approach and just say, go get them you won’t regret it.

No seriously go.

Still here?  Well, I guess you want to more details and information why.  Maybe you have a reluctant spouse that you need to get on board.  Maybe you just feel like you need to justify to yourself or to the neighbours why you have some cute feathery girls running around the yard instead of (or in addition to) the usual flight of acceptable suburban pets.  Whatever your hold up is right now, my mission is to get you to welcome these delightful little critters into your yard.  If every home in America had a chicken or two in the back yard, this would be a happier healthier place.

Chicken Flock

See, the advantage I have, is that I was originally the reluctant spouse.  My wife came to this whole homesteading idea much faster than I did, and as the ladies in the audience can attest to, nothing is harder than bringing along a husband who has assumed the mental equivalent of a three year old laying limp on the floor.  You will wear yourself out much faster trying to drag him, than just leaving him on the floor.  So whatever your particular hurdle is, I will try to give you the informational arrows to fill your quiver.  Where you go play cupid is up to you.

To me, there are three main benefits to owning chickens, healthy bodies, healthy gardens, and healthy souls.  Owning chickens can address all three of these needs, in ways that I never would have imagined before I owned them.

The first benefit of chickens is the health benefit they bring to you.  Almost all Americans eat eggs on a regular basis, so that is an incredibly easy way to boost the level of nutrition coming into your body.  Look at the difference between a store egg, and a fresh egg from the yard.

Store egg versus farm egg

The egg in the front is straight from a chicken.  Notice the darker orange colour of the yolk, and the much whiter look of the egg whites.  That store bought egg in the back will seem pale and insipid once you have eaten some high quality eggs from your own yard.  The flavor can’t even begin to compare.  Real eggs actually have a flavor all their own, and the texture is so much better to eat.  Plus, with fresh eggs from your yard, you can bring back all of those raw egg culinary creations that are basically lost to time at this point.  You can make fresh Mayo, or egg cremes or meringue.  With a flock you own, as long as you never feed them raw chicken or eggs, there is zero danger of salmonella.  Ever.

The chicken meat from a fresh chicken is equally superior to its pale store bought counterpart, but visually you can’t tell as much, so I didn’t include a pic.  We successfully slaughtered one of our roosters, and he was very flavorful, thought somewhat skinny.  However, we are lucky enough to have a local butcher shop in the area where we can get free range natural chicken.  It does cost more, but its vastly superior meat.  The texture is much denser and juicier, and has an actual flavor.  You can eat this chicken with just salt and pepper, and its GOOD.  It isn’t slimy like store chicken, and it doesn’t stink.  In our current flock and setup, harvesting our own chickens for meat isn’t in the cards, but if you can, I would recommend it.  If you can’t, take the extra time to find a local source.  Go to a local butcher, or trade with a neighbour.  Its a great way to build community, and eat healthier.

The next benefit is healthy gardens.  Chickens are living, clucking, adorable compost factories.  They will eat just about anything that you throw out into the yard for them, and within 24 hours.  It’s compost.  If you use the deep little method, which I will cover later in the week, they can be creating huge piles of compost in their coop constantly as well.

Chickens in Litter

Chickens are great at cleaning out areas of dense weeds as well.  Have an overgrown area you want to plant a garden on?  Throw down some fencing and release some chickens.  Finished with a raised bed?  Let the chickens on it to remove the finished plants.  Less chicken feed to buy, and instant fertilizer for your cover crops.  Have tall weeds that grow in your backyard each year?  Once we let our chickens loose, they never got more than an inch high.  Geoff Lawton actually did a great video on using chickens to clear out space for future growth, you can watch it here if you like, or view the chicken only excerpt here.

All plants need animal inputs at some point, so if you have any interest in gardening at all, get some chickens.  Certainly it’s better to have a living, friendly, egg producing source of compost than to drive to Home Depot every spring and plunk down your money for compost from a bag.  Its cheaper, and you know where its coming from.  Your plants will thank you.

Raised Garden Bed

The last benefit to owning chickens is honestly the one I expected the least.  They just bring happiness wherever they go.  They are like owning a cat that actually gives something back to you.  My favourite part of the day, is getting home from work, saying hello to my lovely wife, and going out to pet my chickens.  I can just feel the stress melting away as they scamper over to say hello.  Their cute little feathers blowing in the wind, and they squat down so you can pick em up.

My rooster Wolfie, peeking into the house.

My rooster Wolfie, peeking into the house.

On weekends, there is nothing more relaxing than sitting on the porch watching the chickens playing in the yard.  They scamper happily on the secondary coop I built them out of pallets. and the former goat feeder that’s now a hen hay holder.

Chickens playing

I can look out any random window in my house, preferably while holding a cup of coffee, and watch what my wife and I call “Chick TV”.   Something about being able to watch them at all times, just makes owning them very beneficial to my well being, and I know it would be to yours too.

Chickens in the Yard

I hope, if you were on the fence about getting chickens, this helped to sway you towards buying one.  Their are a ton of benefits to owning chickens, for your body, your garden, and your soul.  Yet for me, the most important thing that I learned, is that owning chickens is satisfying and fun.  There is a reason backyard chickens are taking off, so experience it for yourself.