We are all familiar with the concept of Victory Gardens, but did you realize that backyard chickens were also important in the “fight on the home front” during WWI and WWII? In fact, suburban chicken-keeping was highly encouraged!
A Brief History of Backyard Chickens:
During WWI and WWII, those on the home front joined the effort to win the war by doing anything they could to support the war efforts. Resources were limited, so every person was expected to do their part by conserving and producing valuable resources. Anyone who was physically able was encouraged to grow food to help support themselves and their community.
As Victory Gardens sprang up in yards all across the country, backyard chickens began appearing as well! Many governments even produced posters that encouraged people to keep a flock of chickens! That’s right: backyard chickens, often thought of as noisy and smelly in today’s world, were actually superstars of the suburban war effort!
After WWII, the government stopped encouraging people to grow victory gardens. Backyard chicken keeping also decreased without social encouragement. Over the next few decades, America also saw a big shift in agriculture.
The industrialization of agriculture led many small, diversified family farms to contract with larger corporate-owned farms. To increase efficiency, most of these farms began specializing in producing just one crop or raising one type of livestock. Over the years, it also became more and more common for the average person to rely on the grocery store for their food.
With all these changes, backyard chicken keeping almost became extinct. But, we suddenly saw a resurgence in the last decade!! Many backyard chicken keepers even worked to change rules and regulations in order to keep flocks in their suburban homes. It became evident that backyard chicken keeping was back in a big way!
Now, as we find ourselves in hard times yet again due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I have already begun to see another increase in the amount of people returning to backyard chicken keeping! Perhaps people are once again starting to see the value of keeping a backyard chicken flock.
The Benefits of Backyard Chickens:
So, what exactly can backyard chickens do for you? Here are just some of the benefits that you will gain by keeping a backyard chicken flock!
- Chickens can help ensure a fresh supply of eggs (or even meat) to sustain yourself and your neighborhood. This helps reduce dependence on grocery stores and supply chains that may be compromised during hard times.
- Backyard chickens reduce food waste by eating kitchen scraps.
- Chickens produce manure that can be used as a natural fertilizer and can be turned into compost for gardens.
- Chickens aid in the garden by eating insects.
- If your chickens have access to your compost or garden, they will scratch, till and turn compost or soil. This helps to break down and mix together the components while also introducing oxygen to the soil or compost.
- Backyard chickens are educational! Children will learn how to care for animals, where their food comes from and about the life cycle.
- A backyard flock can make you happy! Chickens can be very enjoyable and personable! They also allow you to have a greater connection with nature as you care for them.
- Chickens are relatively easy and affordable to care for. They make a great starter animal for people who don’t have a lot of time or money to invest in other forms of livestock.
- Chickens do not require a lot of space. Even small backyards can usually accommodate a small flock! For even smaller spaces, quail make a great alternative and offer many of the same benefits.
Are you doing your part by keeping a backyard flock? If so, I’m sure you’ve seen firsthand many of the benefits of backyard chickens!
Kaylee Vaughn is a suburban homesteader, caring for chickens, goats, and a large garden on a little less than an acre. She and her family strive to create the most efficient homestead possible in the small space we have available. Her chickens are not only beautiful yard ornaments, but also a vital part of their homestead management practices! “We utilize them to produce manure, control pests, turn compost, and more.” Kaylee’s nick-named them “the gardeners” because they are always in the garden, working hard – and redecorating on occasion, too! You can follow Kaylee through her website.