Why keep chickens?
The trend of keeping chickens is on the rise and because not much space is needed, it’s no longer a hobby just for people living in the country. Many city dwellers are also enjoying their own free range eggs from their very own backyard chickens. But why keep chickens? Well, there’s far more than just free eggs to gain from these fascinating creatures.
One of the most healthiest ways to start your day is with fresh eggs. The beauty of keeping your own chickens means that you don’t even need to get out of your pyjamas to collect your breakfast eggs.
More importantly, you know exactly what you are eating. No more will your eggs come from chickens who have been fed engineered and antibiotic laden crops. Both of which are designed to force chickens to grow larger and lay more eggs while compromising the health of us eating them.
Also, the nutritional values of freshly laid eggs from keeping your own chickens far outweigh those bought from shops. Your chickens’ eggs will have more than seven times the vitamin A and Beta Carotene of shop bought eggs. They will also have double the amount of vitamin E and they contain far less saturated fat. So keeping your own chickens is an excellent way to ensure a far healthier diet.
Ok, so there is an initial cost of keeping chickens, unless you are particularly good at DIY and can build your own chicken coop and fencing to ensure your chickens are safe from predators. You will also need to buy the feeding equipment and provide them with a bathing area. But once this is set up, keeping chickens is relatively inexpensive and can in fact save you money:
I know this might not be the most exciting news to some, but if you have green fingers and love your garden then chicken manure is exactly what you need. It is one of the most desirable manures you can get due to its high nutrient levels.
It is estimated that keeping between five and ten chickens will produce enough fertiliser to take care of your vegetable garden or yard for an entire year.
Plus chickens will rid your garden of weeds, as they scratch and claw the ground. They will also eat and disperse weed seeds that have blown in, so keeping chickens will save you a lot of backache from pulling up unwanted weeds as well as saving you money on manure.
Ethical Reasons to keep chickens – Preventing cruelty:
Many of us believe that if we buy a box of eggs with ‘Free Range’ slapped across it, we are buying the eggs of happy chickens. Sadly we are not. In fact there is no definite description of what constitutes ‘Free Range.’ At the minute chicken sheds are considered ‘free range’ if they adhere to the following guidelines:
- no more than 9 birds per square metre
- 10cm of feeder per bird
- 1 drinker per 10 birds
- ability to go outdoors at some point in a 12 week period
So not very ‘free’ then. In fact some multi-tiered sheds that abide to these guidelines and are therefore classed as ‘free range’ house up to 16000 hens. And while these poor birds can theoretically go outdoors, the truth is most are too crammed in and traumatised to even find the few exit holes they are provided with.
Because of these horribly cramped conditions, even more cruelty is inflicted upon them. Beak trimming is extremely commonplace in the UK and almost all young hens have part of their beaks burned off, without anaesthetic, to stop them pecking each other while living in such awfully restricted conditions.
We wouldn’t dream of treating dogs or cats in the vile way that too many chickens are kept in this country. Yet chickens are also emotional and intelligent animals just like cats and dogs . They love to play, exercise and are incredibly social. Chickens have a great memory and can differentiate between 100+ human or animal faces. Hens make great mothers and ‘talk’ to their chicks while they are still in the egg. They also turn their eggs over 50 times a day to care for their unhatched offspring. Chickens, like humans, have their own individual personalities. Some are chatty, some are quiet, some are playful and some are serious, but all are a lot brighter than we give them credit for.
Sadly but also importantly, chickens feel pain and distress and mourn for each other, just like us humans. This means they are deeply affected by the conditions in which they live. So keeping chickens of your own in a loving and happy environment is a very ethical thing to do.
Ethical Reasons – Cutting down on Landfill:
Food scraps make up 17 % (20 million tons) of what is sent to landfill. Keeping chickens helps us drastically improve this, as they will eat pretty much most kitchen scraps. They love fruit and veg peelings, bread, leftover beans and rice, oatmeal and pasta, etc. Make sure you know what is bad for them though. Meat and other animal products are best avoided. Their love of eating scraps is also one of the reasons keeping chickens is fairly cheap.
Our Own Mental Health and Emotional Wellbeing:
It has been proved that chickens are very effective at improving our own emotional well being and are extremely successful when used as part of therapy.
Chickens have been successfully used to help children with autism, patients suffering with PTSD and the elderly suffering with dementia. This is down to their calm nature and love of interacting with humans.
Children with autism love getting involved with feeding and caring for chickens and it has been proved that watching chickens’ routines and heirarchies actually promotes independent living skills.
It has also been proven that watching chicken’s movements and the way they socialise is calming for patients suffering with PTSD, dementia and other psychiatric disorders.
Finally, all of us can benefit from watching their individual personalities and social heirarchies, which is not only fascinating but combats loneliness and depression.
So why keep chickens? As you can see there is a whole multitude of reasons but to sum it up: they are good for us and we are good for them.