Been thinking about getting backyard chickens? There are many other questions that accompany the answer and we can start with the big one: WHY?
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Are you considering keeping your own backyard flock of laying hens? Or even meat chickens? These are some reasons for why you should keep your own backyard flock (and a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t).
Would you like to produce your own eggs (or meat)?
The biggest reason you should keep chickens for meat or eggs. Especially if you can safely let your animals free range they plus any kitchen scraps that are safe for them, then they’re eggs or meat will be of better quality and far fresher than anything you would purchase at the store. Definitely consider them if you would like to be hyperlocal!
Do you want alternate companionship besides cats and dogs?
They make pretty good pets. Even if you plan to keep them for meat they’re pretty interesting animals with hierarchy and particular behaviors. They have personalities and preferences. Especially if you are keeping laying hens, which you may care for for many year. Chickens have entertaining mannerisms, quirky dispositions and are entertaining.
Are you interested in an animal that is easy to care for?
One of the great parts of owning this small livestock is you are becoming the producer of their own food. Also, similarly to cats, they are rather self sufficient in and of themselves. They run their own little group, with a hierarchy they establish. They need food, water, shelter and companions and they’re pretty good on their own. Pretty easy to care for animals. However, like all animals, beware that they can get sick or infested and you will need to make decisions about treatment or dispatching.
Do you want to keep chickens for humane reasons?
My background is in animal husbandry. I have worked with many species, including chimpanzees, monkeys, lemurs, pigs, chickens, mice, rats, etc., in several different locations and capacities. I care deeply about treating the animals in my care as humanely and respectfully as possible. Given that, I felt like keeping chickens that get to see the sun, experience wind, forage on fresh grass and get yummy kitchen scraps and treats was definitely better than purchasing eggs from the restrictive factory farm industry.
Does your city allow them?
Many cities are removing older laws prohibiting small backyard flocks but be sure to do your research. I looked up the city ordinances then I called both animal control and the zoning commission because it really depends on what zone your house is in as to whether you can have chickens within the city limits. Do your homework and make sure it is allowed in your area. Some places have limits on the number of hens and/or limit to only hens, no rooster.
Are you willing to shoulder the costs?
Compared to cats and dogs, chickens can be quite cheap and give you eggs! However, they are not going to be cheaper than the 99 cent eggs at the grocery store. Sure your hens will, most likely, have happier lives but they need things such as a coop, feed, watering system and medications (if sick).
If you answered yes to all the above questions, then go for it! Get backyard chickens! They have been a delightful addition to our homestead. We have four laying hens in the middle of the city. They’re pretty quiet, relatively neat and are easy to care for. They live in a mobile coop that I move around the yard in order to help the soil but also protect the birds. You can read more about how having them in a chicken tractor is going and how I winterized it.
Forbes has an interesting article about 5 reasons NOT to raise backyard chickens and it is definitely worth considering if you are looking into chicken keeping.
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