6 Benefits of Backyard Chickens
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Homesteading is rising in popularity across the US, especially since the beginning of the recent pandemic. Eco-conscious homeowners suddenly had more time to invest in their properties, and raising or growing their own food was an attainable way to impact climate change. It’s also a great hobby that can help fill your spare time in a very fulfilling way.
If you’re one of the many turning to homesteading as a hobby or way of life, you’ve probably considered getting some backyard chickens. Compared to other animals, they’re pretty low-maintenance and bring a host of benefits.
1. Organic Food
The most apparent benefit of backyard chickens is their use as a food source. Eggs and chicken you buy from a store are typically full of antibiotics, preservatives and added hormones, which can wreak havoc on your body.
With your own chickens, you decide how they’re cared for and what they eat. Fresh eggs are larger and more nutritious. Also, if you want to have a little extra fun, buy chickens that lay different colored eggs — like olive, brown and light blue.
If you or your family eat meat, raising chickens gives you a renewable source of healthy, lean protein. Butchering your own poultry instead of buying it from a grocery store also helps reduce the environmental impact of meat production.
2. Gardening Help
Let your backyard chickens wander through your garden while you reap the benefits. Your chickens will love the extra room to run around, and they’ll reduce your workload. As chickens scratch and peck the ground for worms, they naturally till and aerate the soil, which improves the quality of your plants.
Many gardeners also use chicken manure as a fertilizer, but you need to proceed with caution. Bagged manure from a store is free of salmonella and e.coli and has a lower acidity than fresh. Using droppings fresh from the coop can be unsafe for your health and your garden’s welfare. Instead, age the manure by composting it.
3. Natural Pest Control
Backyard chickens can help keep down the bug population, making outdoor entertaining more enjoyable and protecting your yard and garden from pests. They’ll eat just about any bug, including snails, grasshoppers, flies, mealworms, mosquitos, termites and ticks. Gardeners aren’t the only ones who benefit from these insect-loving creatures. Beekeepers love chickens because they don’t eat bees but will eat colony-threatening hive beetles.
4. Low Maintenance Livestock
Chickens are one of the easiest animals for aspiring homesteaders to own. They require very little maintenance compared to the benefits of owning them. All they need is shelter from the weather, plenty of good food and a space to run. You’ll also want to install a chicken swing or other form of entertainment to keep them from picking fights with each other.
5. Use Up Kitchen Scraps
Chickens can eat just about any scraps from your kitchen. They’re omnivorous, so they’ll eat meat and plants. Toss leftovers to your chickens to keep them from sitting in a landfill, taking up space and releasing methane gas, which is even more potent than carbon dioxide for our environment.
6. Leads to Outdoor Lifestyle
While chickens are decently low maintenance, you’ll still need to check their health frequently and change out their water and food. Collecting their eggs each day will give you a supply to use in your home or sell.
Chickens are also a great source of entertainment. If you observe them for any amount of time, you’ll see how funny they are — each one with its own personality. You could spend hours outside just watching them.
Check Your Local Ordinances
Having chickens can be really fun and beneficial, but before you go out and buy your first chicks, you need to check with your local government for any specific requirements or prohibitions.
Depending on where you live, local ordinances may limit the number of chickens you can have and what kinds you’re allowed to own. You’ll also need to follow any policies about the type of enclosure, distance from property lines and necessary lot size. Keep in mind in some areas, you may not be able to have backyard chickens at all.
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About the author
Rachel serves as the Assistant Editor of Environment.co. A true foodie and activist at heart, she loves covering topics ranging from veganism to off grid living.