Even urban homesteaders are getting in on raising chickens

Raising Chickens

by Derek Thompson

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Is a chicken a valuable commodity or a beloved pet? Either way, it can be hard to explain to those who aren't in the know exactly why you're raising chickens. So, here's are a few reasons not to chicken out!

1. Eggs

They're delicious and nutritious and you'll know exactly what's gone into making them. If you get your chickens at point-of-lay, they'll keep you in eggs for most of the year, depending on the breed or hybrid you select (it's worth doing some research before you buy). And once you've tasted eggs that are fresh from the nesting box, you'll never go back.

2. Recycling

You'll be surprised at all the leftover vegetable and cereal scraps that your chickens will happily devour. It adds some variety to their diet and you'll be doing your bit to cut down on waste too. Spinach and chard are definite favorites. Be sure to let hot food like porridge or rice cool first and cut up any pieces of fruit to avoid choking hazards.

3. Pest removal

Chickens will reduce your garden pests for free! The snail population will magically dwindle. Our two aren't so keen on slugs though, but do monitor this as too many snails may upset their digestive system. Chickens are usually sensible enough to know what they can safely eat in the garden, but check with an expert if you have concerns about any of your plants.

4. Entertainment

Chickens are social creatures with great curiosity. They will happily co-exist with dogs and cats although they can become moody when they're broody, as our cat has found out to its cost! They will also get into trees, but in our experience, they always find their way back down again. Their "chicken yoga" wing stretching can be very relaxing for both participants and observers!

5. Educational

You'll quickly notice with a mixed coop how each species or hybrid has different foibles. For example, our Rhode Island/Plymouth is much more boisterous than the Rhode Island/Maran and is very much the leader of the pair. She's also faster, less prone to going broody, and much more assertive when it comes to getting scraps or corn.

6. Compost

Chicken poop is a great accelerant for the compost bin or it can be composted down on its own, delivering valuable nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to the soil. You can also dry it out, but this takes practice. Do not dig uncomposted chicken poop straight into the soil, as it may be harmful to roots.

7. Low maintenance

Raising chickens is simple; it's mostly commonsense. They need a safe, clean place to sleep and feed and that's resistant to predators. Lock them in at dusk (they'll go in when they're ready) and let them out in the morning. Make sure the garden or field is secure (you may consider clipping their wings to thwart the escape committee) and that there is always food, fresh water and grit available.

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