In the BellyBelly Forums, many members spoke of feeling very disturbed by Jamie Oliver's special presentation on the chicken industry – and while I grudgingly watched half of it with my eyes shut, I decided I wanted to get my own chooks. At first I thought the fresh, healthy free range eggs would be the main perk, but I did a bit of reading and chatting to a good friend and realised that there are so many benefits to keeping your own backyard chickens – and you don't need loads of space to do it in.
So what are the benefits and why are backyard chickens a great option for you?
As any parent will attest, having children can result in much food waste going in the bin.
On our environmentally friendly journey, we started with a worm farm for composting food scraps, which was all good and fun, but soon we just had too much waste for it to cater for, so its not been a complete solution (I highly recommend it though!).
So enter the backyard chicken who will eat foodscraps, (with the exception of one or two foods you can't give them). Keeping chickens has greatly reduced our trips outside to put the bin out, we have so much less rubbish. Having just three chickens has been perfect for getting rid of vegetable peelings, crusts, left over dinner, fruits and more. Chickens aren't fussy, they'll even go the soggy weetbix or stale biscuits.
Kids Love It…
… and the big kids too! You've probably seen the joy on a child's face from going to the park and feeding the ducks – well they can feed the chickens in their own home and enjoy every minute! It also helps them learn about the responsibility of pets. My daughter's job is to let the girls out in the morning and to put them to bed at night, and she loves it!
They Love Eating Bugs
Chickens love eating bugs and insects. They wont eat all of them of course, but they will keep many bug numbers in check. They especially love grubs!
They Keep The Weeds In Check
Chickens love seed heads on weeds, so if you let your chooks out during the day, they'll help with weed control – you wont need weed killer!
An Endless Supply of Fertiliser!
Chicken manure is great for your garden. Your chooks will provide you with an endless supply of chook poo for your garden, free of other contaminants or chemicals which is again great for the environment and safer for pets and children.
They are Great Entertainment
Chooks are great entertainment for kids and adults alike. There's nothing like having a cuppa outside on a sunny day watching the girls scratch around, chase insects, make funny noises and have their dirt baths. My daughter and I were in hysterics the other day when a small black bird flew into the garden, and everytime it would come down to the ground or within the reach of one of the chickens, the chicken would chase it so fast, zipping around like it was going to attack it! It was so hilarious watching this chook hurtle itself around our garden, full throttle, trying to chase off this little bird and my daughter and I had a great bonding moment too.
The chickens also jump up on the window sills which is very cute and they all like to come up the stairs of our backdoor and sit on the top step. The door has glass panels so we can see them all huddled up there, catching flies that land on the glass and watching them checking us out. They are so much fun!
Chickens are Great Composters
Even if your chickens don't eat all of their food scraps, they will end up in your garden or in the pen bed. Chickens spend their day scratching around, so before you know it the scraps are gone. There have been times I have thrown out scraps to the chickens and they haven't gone for them right away, but I will come back later and look for them and they aren't there, but scratched into the litter all broken down.
FRESH, HEALTHY EGGS!!!
This is a great benefit – healthy, fresh eggs everyday – which the kids LOVE collecting. You need to buy ‘point-of-lay' chooks meaning they are ready to lay, however when you take them home, they can take some weeks to settle in and produce eggs, but they will all the same.
Some people I know who keep chooks even sell or give away their fresh eggs to their friends or workmates – who doesn't love a fresh egg! And you can do it with a clear conscience knowing that you haven't bought or sold supermarket eggs which are often caged birds – and if you saw the Jamie Oliver show you would well know that even the term ‘free range' is used freely amongst egg producers and is a concern as to what that really means.
There are some downsides to keeping chooks:
- Chickens can make a mess in the garden
- They may dig up plants, eat flowers and vegies planted in the garden in their reach
- They can attract rats and mice if your cage isn't rat or mouse proof, and if you leave chook food and scraps lying around (this isn't a problem for us, we also have three outdoor cats!
- Foxes can be a problem if you don't lock your chickens up overnight
- Most chook suppliers live in the outer suburban areas or further
But I am sure you would agree that many pet could do this – but we find the positives greatly outweigh this. We have so much fun watching our chooks and its added a new dimension to the kids lives – they are infatuated!
For more information, check out the following websites and books: