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Chickens- They really earn their keep!
A Few Great Reasons to Raise Chickens
If you have been hesitant about chicken ownership - maybe now is the time to bite the bullet and give urban poultry a go.
Poultry, and chickens in particular, are easier to care for than you may think. Many people think raising poultry is very time consuming and takes a lot of hard work. This is not true. Most urban backyards are large enough to keep a few hens. After the cost of the initial setup, raising poultry is very inexpensive opposed to raising cats or dogs.
Chickens are very sociable birds and are at their happiest when surrounded by other chickens. Most cities will not allow you to keep a rooster because of their crowing, so you will have to purchase hens (or pullets). It is a myth that roosters only crow at sunrise. They crow any time they feel like it. Don't worry if you are unable to keep a rooster. It is also a common misconception that hens will not lay eggs unless there is a rooster around. Hen's lay eggs regardless, however the eggs will not be fertilized.
They are fascinating to watch! Mine have always been very friendly. Generally chickens are very social with people, provided they have been hand reared. They will follow you around, allow you to carry or hold them, and enjoy a good petting. They are great to have around and really bring the garden to life.
Urban yard raised chickens will provide you with the best eggs (and even meat if you can stomach it!) If hens are happy, fed a good diet, and have room for exercise they will lay eggs that taste way better than those you purchase from the market. Eggs from free range hens have a higher level of Omega-3 and vitamin A and E. They also contain lower levels of cholesterol and saturated fat. Read more about the health benefits of free range eggs.
Chickens love to eat, and spend most of their day roaming around searching for bugs and hoping for handouts. You can feed them most fruit and vegetable scraps. They also love to eat meat scraps. Ants, snails, slugs, worms and spiders are particularly delicious to a hen. They will eat all of your garden pests. Protein helps maintain good egg laying. If you need your garden prepared for planting just send in your flock. They will weed, clear and fertilize the area for you, while you sit back with a glass of lemonade and watch.
As far as needs for adult chickens, an enclosed area attached to a shelter or a movable pen (otherwise known as a tractor) will provide them with dirt to scratch in and greenery to eat. You now need only provide water and food containers and you are all set.
Living More Sustainably
Our earth's population is now nearing 7 billion. If everyone continues to live as they do now, we will soon need two or more of our planets to supply our demand for food and goods. The earth simply cannot regenerate fast enough for us at this point. Once we have exhausted her, there will be no way back. The solution is that we all need to reduce our demand.
How can keeping a few chickens help?
All around the world, half the human population now lives in urban areas. For those of us who are in that category, a great weight falls on our shoulders. We need each do our part to reduce the amount of energy and resources it takes for food and goods to reach our homes.
Enter the chicken.
It may seem like a small step, but walking out in your yard to collect a few eggs each day is helping to conserve energy. How many miles, and how much packaging are you saving (not to mention to fuel used by the packaging plant, etc. the list can go on), for each egg that you collect from a chicken you raise? If everyone did this, the results would be enormously beneficial.
If you would like more information on living more sustainably, or the footprints you are leaving on the earth, read the article "What is an ecological footprint?" at Down 2 Earth Living.