More people are enjoying raising chickens as part of a move toward sustainable living. Not only do chickens make wonderful pets and provide you with fresh eggs year-round, but these low maintenance birds also offer several other benefits for your household.
Chicken coops are quick and easy to set up and there are many stylish and affordable chicken coop kits listed online at Foter.com for inspiration.
If you are on the fence about owning chickens, here are 11 convincing reasons why you should consider it.
1. Fresh Eggs
One of the best reasons to keep chickens is a supply of delicious eggs for your breakfast. The laying frequency varies from breed to breed and depends on the chicken's reproductive cycle and temperament, but you can expect one egg per chicken per day on average if they are well-cared for.
Moreover, with a backyard chicken coop, you can raise your chicken on an organic, non-GMO diet and allow them to roam freely for happier birds and cruelty-free eggs.
2. More Nutritious Eggs
Happier chickens fed on a high-quality diet with plenty of access to grass and wild greens means better egg production and higher quality eggs.
Compared with eggs from battery-raised hens, free-range eggs are higher in essential nutrients including vitamin A and E, and omega fatty acids necessary for good heart health and lower cholesterol levels.
Raising chickens is a wonderful family activity and provides parents with ample opportunities to educate their kids about where their food comes from, sustainability and nature.
Chickens themselves are also highly intelligent creatures. You can learn a lot by observing and researching chickens including nurturing behaviors, social hierarchies, and emotional intelligence.
4. Minimize Food Waste
Chickens eat almost any food scraps and some scraps can even promote healthier chickens and eggs. Reduce your food waste by keeping a separate trash can to collect fruit and vegetable peelings, pasta, cooked rice, beans, and other plant-based scraps.
It is best to avoid animal products like meat and dairy, as well as citrus peelings and moldy or rotten food which can cause digestive issues in chickens.
There are also some food scraps that are harmful to your chickens including avocado pits and peels, uncooked legumes, green potato skins, chocolate, and processed junk food.
5. Free Fertilizer
Chicken manure is sold at garden stores as one of the best sources of nitrogen and other essential nutrients for soil. The average hen produces up to two cubic feet of manure per year. By having your own chickens, you can collect their manure along with bedding, such as sawdust or straw used to control odors and pests, when you clean their coop. This not only keeps their living conditions hygienic but also provides you with a source of fertilizer for your garden.
It is important to compost and cure your manure before adding it to your soil. Add the manure and bedding to a compost bin and dampen with a little water. Leave in the direct sun for 3-5 days to allow the high temperatures to kill off any pathogens. Toss with a garden shovel and repeat three more times. Then leave the compost to cure for 45-60 days until it resembles crumbled soil.
6. Pest Control
In addition to chicken feed and food scraps, chickens love to chow down on insects and spiders. If you have a garden, you can avoid using chemical pesticides by letting your chickens roam free along the rows to eat any slugs, caterpillars, aphids, and beetles they can find.
To protect the roots of your plants from scratching chickens searching for pests, you can place rocks or branches along your plant rows, or alternatively give your chickens their own garden and dust bath inside their chicken coop.
7. Promote Genetic Diversity
Chickens commercially bred for eggs and meat are limited to a few select breeds known for their size and egg-laying capacity. But there are hundreds of different domestic chicken breeds. Incorporating new breeds into your flock can promote better genetic diversity, revive heritage breeds, and encourage hardier birds.
8. Encourage Sustainable Living
If you already grow your own vegetables and compost your scraps, chickens are the next step in building a sustainable home. Chickens can contribute to nearly all parts of self-sustainability from reducing waste and reliance on gardening chemicals to limiting your home's carbon footprint by reducing food miles. Composting chicken manure also decreases the impact of methane and nitrous oxide emissions on the atmosphere.
9. Improve Mental Health
Cats and dogs are frequently used as therapy animals to promote better mental health in patients suffering from depression, anxiety, and dementia-related disorders. But studies have shown that caring for and breeding chickens can also improve mental health outcomes for people of all ages.
Chickens have been shown to reduce heart rate and blood pressure, as well as encourage more positive mental attitudes. This has been attributed to the chicken's naturally social temperament, the structure provided by chickens' daily care routine, and the sensory input from petting the chicken's feathers.
10. It's Affordable
While there may be an initial investment required to set up a chicken coop, buying chickens is relatively inexpensive with baby chicks available for $3-$5 and adolescent laying hens for $15-$25.
A chicken coop kit is an affordable and quick way to set up a living space for your chickens. They come in a wide variety of styles to suit your exterior and available space. Make sure you select a chicken coop kit and outside run that can accommodate the number of chickens you plan to raise. The coop should offer 2-3 sq. ft. of space per chicken and the outside run should have 8-10 sq. ft. of area for every chicken.
Chickens are also very low maintenance pets. Once you have the coop and run set up, all your chickens need is food, water, and love and they'll flourish.
11. Added Income
Creating a flock of laying hens as part of a smallholding can generate income for your household. Organic, cruelty-free eggs can be sold at the farmer's market for up to $5 per dozen as more people are motivated to buy sustainably sourced produce.
The income gained by selling any eggs you don't eat can help offset the costs of feeding and caring for your chickens.
Tips for Setting Up a Chicken Coop
Before setting up your chicken coop kit,check local zoning laws as to whether you are permitted to have livestock in your backyard. There may also be a limit as to how many chickens you can keep at home.
You will also need to find the right site for your coop. Ensure that the area is relatively flat with good drainage to avoid muddiness after rain. You can position the coop close to a tree to provide shade, but be aware that some plants are poisonous for chickens.
The coop also needs to be enclosed to protect your flock from predators (this includes any pets you have) while providing ample space for your chickens to run.
Ensure your coop has at least one nesting box per three chickens and 8" of roosting space for each chicken. This prevents them from contaminating nesting areas with manure and allows them to snuggle together for warmth when it's cold.
The coop must have adequate ventilation to eliminate ammonia fumes from manure and prevent eye and respiratory irritation.
Chickens are fun and intelligent companions that can contribute to a more sustainable household by reducing your reliance on outside food sources and decreasing your carbon footprint by encouraging composting and organic pest control.
While there are some important factors to consider when setting up your chicken coop kit including the site and predator protection, ultimately, chickens are a low-maintenance, affordable pet that can enrich the life of your family.