I like to imagine a world where every home with a backyard has at least a couple of chooks scratching around. Sustainability’s pin-up farmer, Joel Salatin, goes so far as to say that even apartment dwellers could go a couple of feathered friends on the balcony, and while I get what he’s saying, somehow I don’t think it’s gonna fly (geddit?).
Anyway, if you’re considering getting some backyard chickens but haven’t yet taken the plunge, read on for six reasons why they’re a great idea, plus some reasons you definitely shouldn’t get chooks.
1. Healthy eggs!
If you’ve never eaten a chicken egg fresh from the cloaca, then you haven’t lived! Seriously, even after a few days your eggs are perkier than a 20-year-old’s boob, and there’s the added advantage of knowing they are truly free-range, what the chickens are fed and how they’re treated for mites, worms etc.
2. Food miles
Not only do you save on the food miles from farmed eggs, but you will save yourself trips to the shops. I can’t tell you how many times my kitchen has been bare and I’ve managed to make a meal from some herbs, a handful of leafy greens and a egg from the chook pen.
3. Food scraps
Cooked food can’t go into worm farms and can attract mice and other unwanted visitors to your compost, but chickens will make a meal out of whatever you scrape off the highchair. We give our girls everything from porridge to bones and they love it. Diverting food from landfill was the main reason I wanted backyard chickens.
4. Compost and nutrients
Straw and chook poo are like a compost bin’s wet dream. And when you have backyard chickens, you have plenty of both! Allowing chooks to scratch at the ground and deposit their poo all over the garden is a great way to give back nutrients to the soil.
5. Fun for the kids
Most kids absolutely love to chase chickens, look for eggs and “help” muck out their pen. Raising chooks is a much more humane and holistic way to teach children about the life cycles of animals, as well as how to care for these friendly creatures, than day-care hatching schemes.
6. A happy home
I love seeing the fluffy tail feathers of Henny, Penny, Victoria and Elizabeth flitting around our garden, I find it calming and puts me in the moment. The little noises they make, their individual personalities all make it really fun to live with chickens.
That’s all the good stuff, now here are three reasons not to get backyard chickens:
1. You think they pretty much “look after themselves”
Chickens definitely require more care than most people realise. As well as feeding and watering them twice a day, you need to clean out their house at least once a week, rake up any food scraps left lying around and check them for mites and worms. You should also lock them into their house at night to protect them from foxes and other predators.
My girls are also quite demanding of my attention. If one of them lays an egg, she’ll go on and on about it until I go down and congratulate her. Seriously. Also, if you don’t have them free ranging all the time, it’s important to let them out during the day to get access to fresh greens and worms.
2. You want free eggs
So maybe they’re not quite as expensive as bought organic eggs, but your chooks eggs are definitely not free when you factor in the cost of their feed (around $40 per month for organic feed) and the cost to set up their enclosure.
3. You intend to keep them in a small space
Chickens are foraging creatures, not to mention incredibly curious. If you don’t have a decent area for them to live, it’s best not to get backyard chickens. When our girls manage to outwit the chicken-proof fence around my veggie patch, they get locked up until we can build a new one, so I can say from experience that they are definitely happier and lay better when they are free ranging.
Do you have chooks, don’t you just love them?