By Krislee Johnson
Beyond what might be obvious, chickens can be quite the addition to your lifestyle no matter where you live. Here are the top 5 reasons why I think raising chickens should be something everyone should try.
EGGS, EGGS, EGGS
If there is one thing we all know about chickens it is this, they lay eggs. For many folks this is reason enough to raise birds. Nothing beats the flavor and nutrition of fresh eggs. Furthermore, nothing trumps the fact that you raised them yourself.
If your ultimate objective is collecting eggs you must also consider the old adage, ‘you are what you eat’. Eggs taste best when hens are allowed room to forage for bugs. This extra dose of protein will enrich the egg and boost the flavor to another level. Good quality eggs are an excellent and inexpensive source of protein.
Eggs can also be a great money maker or a welcomed gift to friends and family. Ideally, most folks like to have enough eggs for their family to consume along with a few extra to sell. Utilizing eggs as a money maker can aid in reducing or eliminating feed costs. Essentially, chickens can pay for themselves given an entrepreneurial owner.
If you purchase your birds as chicks, eggs can be expected in approximately 4 months. No rooster is required. During the first two years most hens will lay one egg per day. Egg production will slowly taper off as your chickens get older. Egg numbers will also be reduced if they are molting, stressed or as daylight hours shorten during winter.
THEY REQUIRE A SMALL FOOTPRINT
Chickens are quite adaptable to living in small spaces. Compact coop and run combinations come in all different shapes and sizes. If you have a 5ft x 5ft space in your back yard begging to be filled, chickens might be an option. Small coops such as the one shown here can house anywhere from 2-4 chickens with the attached run.
A great rule of thumb is to allow a minimum of 2-4 square feet per bird inside the coop. For happy and healthy birds it’s best to have a larger, almost triple the size run for outside space. Obviously, the more space the better. If you only intend to raise a few birds, they don’t need acres to roam.
By keeping in mind your area’s seasonal weather you can find a coop to suit your needs. Just make sure it has adequate ventilation, protection from the elements, roosting bars, nesting boxes and an easy way for a full-grown adult to access all areas for daily feeding and cleaning.
EASE OF CARE
Compared to other “farm” related animals chickens are easy to care for. As with any animal they require food, water and waste management from you as their provider. Beyond that and as long as they have adequate shelter, little else is needed.
If you aren’t the type to coddle a pet, no need to worry about your chickens. They do wonderfully on their own as long as they have another feathery friend or two to hang with.
Of course, if you are the type that likes to cozy up to your pets, chickens like that too. They will eagerly await feeding time, love receiving treats or being held if that is how you raise them. Birds can be extremely personable if they are use to being handled and have no fear of you.
Little upkeep is required to keep them satisfied and healthy. No shots, no feather trimming, tolerant to cool temperatures and they put themselves to bed. Just realize that a proper living environment can make or break the overall wellbeing of your flock.
LOW COST CARE
Once you have made the initial investment of purchasing or making a coop for your birds, the cost goes down from there. On average, a 50-pound bag of feed runs around $15. If you have only 4 birds, they can live off that for quite a while.
Table scraps, bugs and even mice are some favored freebies your chickens will love. Summer months generally have lower overall feed costs due to the increased access to fresh eats.
There are various forms of treats and scratch that can also be purchased. Many of them are relatively inexpensive blends of grain, cracked corn and so on. Things such as dried meal worms tend to be a bit more expensive but specialty treats high in protein usually are. I find most of my treat bargains online, such as this huge 5lb bag of mealworms! Click HERE for the deal!
Additions such as grit to aid in digestion average out around $10 for 25 to 30 pounds. Again, those amounts would last you a long time, 6 months to a year if you only have 4 birds.
Your bedding costs for a small coop could be next to nothing if you have a removable tray to collect bird droppings. However, pine shavings are affordable and cost approximately $5-$6 per block. This product can be used to line nesting boxes and on the floor inside your coop.
A TEACHING TOOL
I’m a firm believer that you are never too old to learn new things. As an adult, chickens can help teach you the skill of becoming more self-sufficient. So many of us have lost touch with how our ancestors once lived. In a world full of strife, it is a great feeling to directly provide for yourself and your family.
If you have young children this lesson may be one of the most important things you can teach them. A grocery store doesn’t have to be the only place they can find food.
Through the process of feeding and caring for chickens, children can develop a greater appreciation for the food on their plate. Responsibility breeds pride in the hard work they do, just as it supports the idea that hard work will give birth favorable end results.
FINAL THINGS TO CONSIDER
Each day more cities across the country are allowing people to own and raise chickens. Be sure to check with your local city ordinances before making a purchase. Some may have set standards on coop sizes and the maximum number of birds you can own.
Start off with a few birds in a coop large enough to accommodate more. You can always add more birds later and your birds will be thankful for the added space.
Have fun with the process while keeping an eye on your goal. If eggs are your priority, research breeds known for their egg laying ability. White leghorns for instance lay big beautiful eggs. Due to their small body, they require less feed therefore reducing your overall costs to get you to your goal.