What You Must Know About Raising Chickens
If you’ve ever considered raising chickens, you no doubt have considered the benefits and challenges associated with doing so. Chickens are a great addition to any homestead—large or small, urban or rural—because they provide so many benefits. They aren’t just a great source of nutrition—they also help your garden and, most importantly, are a whole lot of fun! Here are a few reasons why you should raise chickens, and tips on how to do it!
1. Chickens=lots of food
Obviously, chickens lay eggs, and obviously, chickens can be eaten. What some people don’t know is that there are breeds of chicken that are known as “dual-purpose,” meaning they can be raised for both eggs and meat. On average, a chicken lays about an egg a day (this varies by breed, age, and time of year), and these eggs are full of vitamins A, D, E, B1, B2, B6, and B12. Pasture-raised eggs are a great source of nutrients and a surplus can even be fed to dogs, pigs, or other farm critters.
2. Chickens=not expensive
They don’t cost a lot to feed. A fifty-pound sack of grain, on average, costs less than fifteen dollars, and this will feed a flock of twenty-five chickens for at least a week. If you’re able to supplement your chickens’ diets with plenty of pasture, scraps, and other forage, you’ll spend even less.
Even better? Chickens won’t cost you your time, either. They take about five minutes to feed and water every day. This is a task that can be easily completed by your kids. Even better, if you have the skills to rig up automatic feed and water systems, which you can preload with several bags of feed and several gallons of water at a time, you may only have to tend to them once a week or less.
Sheltering chickens is easy, too. If you choose to free-range your chickens, all you need is a simple little coop that you can bed with straw, shredded paper, or even dirt. No pen required! Just make sure you have every hole and entry point of the coop enclosed so you don’t attract sneaky predators like weasels or raccoons! I made one of my first chicken coops out of an old plastic kids playhouse I bought used for $25. I will blog on that in the near future. You can even make this aspect of raising chickens easier by installing an automatic coop door opener/closer on a timer. This means you don’t even have to go out and shut the chickens in at night! But again, if you do have to go out, it’s minimal time—maybe five minutes or so a day.
3. Chickens=garden saviors
Chickens can work wonders on your garden. Everybody knows chicken manure is a great source of concentrated nitrogen. Spread some on your garden in the fall, and you’ll see an explosion of life in the spring. Work it into your compost and you’ll see even greater benefits.
Chickens also help to control pests such as scorpions, ticks, and mosquitoes. As they peck and forage in the dirt, they are able to stir up and feast upon these nasty little buggers.
I have never needed to use flea or tick treatment on my farm dogs thanks to my wonderful bug loving chickens!
4. Chickens=free entertainment
This last one is a simple one. Chickens are hilarious! Whatever time you spend tending to your chickens, you’ll get back in endless hours of side-stitching hilarity. Even better, if you have kids, raising chickens (especially if you’re able to hatch your own eggs) can be a great lesson about sustainability and the circle of life.
While there is certainly more to discuss about raising chickens (and, in truth, this topic could go on for several hundred pages!) the takeaway here is that if you are considering raising chickens, don’t hesitate! They are a great investment for your homestead, whether you’re well-established or just beginning. Don’t be a chicken…get some chickens!