The Joys & Rewards of Raising Chickens

While there is no argument that keeping chickens can be messy and dirty work at times, the joys and rewards far outweigh any downsides. Yes, chickens are prolific dust-makers, especially when molting. The fine white powder seems to permeate everywhere and covers everything with a fine layer of white dust. And, they are the poop champions of the world. Since they are constantly eating and have high metabolisms, they poop often, and they are not too picky where they drop it. These two aspects of raising chickens turn some people off to them, but there are ways to minimize, control and deal with these situations so they are not so offensive or bothersome, and once you begin to experience the positive upsides of keeping chickens, these two downsides pale in comparison to the joys and benefits these birds can bring to you and your family.

First and foremost, chickens lay eggs. And eggs from hens that are well-cared-for and allowed to peck on the land are nutritionally superior and healthier than eggs that are factory farmed and shipped to your local supermarket. These factory farmed chickens are raised invery very tight quarters, fed an unnatural commercial diet and are never allowed to freely roam over pasture eating plants, bugs and other natural "tid-bits" that go into producing a nutritionally packed egg. True, they produce an abundance of eggs at a very economical price, but their living conditions result in eggs that are much less nutritious. On average, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain one quarter less saturated fat, two thirds more vitamin A, three times more vitamin E, seven times more beta carotene, two times more omega-3 fatty acids, 4 to 6 times more Vitamin D and only about one third less cholesterol.

Not only are these eggs more nutritious, they taste better than store bought, factory farmed eggs. Like most unprocessed foods we eat, the sooner we eat them, the fresher and better they tatse. Do you like your tomatoes fresh from the backyord garden or picked, stored in a refrigerator, put on a truck and shipped, stored in a refrigerator again, put out in the produce section under an unnatural light that makes them look redder? Eggs you buy in the gocery store can be weeks old. By this time the egg shell has admitted enough air to make the egg less nutritious, somewhat degraded and not full of flavor. Home produced eggs, on the other hand, are fresher, firmer, have bright orange yolks and a taste that makes them incredible. Once you've had home-grown, you'll always want them.

Being poop factories is also a plus. Chickens produce some of the most nitrogen-rich manure of all farm animals that once composted makes a super, natural fertilizer for all of your trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables. When was the last time you bought a natural fertilizer? Not cheap, huh? And, if you have enough chickens, and more manure than you can handle, you can even sell it!

Chickens are natural "bug zappers". All that scratching they do? They are constantly on the hunt for any little creepy, crawly critter they can find including ticks, grubs, scorpions, grasshoppers, flies, fleas, earwigs and many other bugs as well. These are treats for chickens. If you have other animals, the chickens will "clean up" any fallen feed which helps to cut down on any mouse or rat problem. Chickens eat the bugs and seeds that many other pests feed on thus causing these pests to vacate the area in search of food.

Scratching comes natural to a chicken. And, with those sharp talons, they are good soil aerators and compost turners. Many people use them to "turn" their garden and break down rotting materials into fine soil.

Chickens can provide valuable lessons for children. Unlike a dog, you don't have to give chickens as much attention. Daily fresh water, food and egg collecting with an occassionally cleaning of the coop are chores that can help teach children responsibility.

Finally, at least for now, chickens are fun and a source of cheap entertainment. While they are not the brightest of animals, but they can be socialized, are friendly and can be devoted to you. They can be trained to do simple tricks. They will come running when you call them. And, they will engage in antics that are just part of chicken life, but us humans seem to be able to enjoy for hours on end. Chickens can be a great way to start the day and a great source of relaxation after a hard day. Chickens are just that way!