Mankind has domesticated dogs for hunting, cats for pest-control, horses for transportation, cows for meat and dairy, and chickens for omelets. The chicken is a truly remarkable bird with many praise-worthy qualities. Here are several benefits of keeping chickens in your own back-yard.
You may choose to house a few hens in a small pen, or you can have an entire free-ranging flock. No matter how many chickens your property can accommodate, with a little time and effort, you will soon be gathering eggs and smiling at their amusing antics. Chickens require little maintenance other than a coop to roost in at night, clean water and fresh food daily. Look in your local news-paper for chickens for sale, or visit the feed-stores during the spring to purchase a few either pullets (young hens) or newly-hatched chicks. If you are interested in starting a flock of ornamental breeds, you can mail order them online from websites such as McMurrayHatchery.com.
Chickens grow quickly and can be fed a variety of diets. If you purchase newly-hatched chicks, you should feed them chick-starter for 6 – 7 weeks until they are large enough to eat laying-pellets. Always keep newly-hatched chicks warm and protected by using a box and a heat-lamp. It is important to keep the living area clean for the chicks so they do not contract coccidiosis. Once your chickens are full-grown, you can feed them your compost scraps, sun-flower seeds, cracked-corn, wild-bird seed, flax seeds and more. If your birds are free-ranged, they will dig up delicacies on their own! Chickens are a wonderful option for keeping insects and pests at bay because they eat spiders, scorpions, snakes, mice, wasps, and crickets.
A full grown hen will lay one egg every day during the spring and summer. Laying production decreases during the winter months due to lack of sun-light. Organically grown eggs have many health-benefits such as more vitamin A, less cholesterol, and twice as much omega-3 fatty acids as store-bought eggs. These eggs will contain fewer chemicals and will taste much better, and plus, you can put your children to work by picking up eggs every morning!
You may choose to keep meat-birds, which are heavier breeds that you will raise for slaughter. This may sound like a cruel option, but keep in mind that raising your own poultry for meat is more humane than buying it from factory-farmed sources (the majority of meats in the grocery stores are processed this way). Breeds such as Cornish and Brahmas are heavier birds that will grow at a normal rate but will put on more meat than other breeds during that time. Raising chickens for the dinner table is a healthy and exciting way to provide delicious meals for you and your family.
No matter what your reason is for keeping chickens in your back-yard, you will not regret the decision. Waking up to the crow of a rooster at the crack of dawn has something infinitely timeless about it and having a couple fresh eggs for breakfast is a good way to begin the day. When you peer out the window and see a chicken chasing a bug across the yard, it might just bring a smile to your face!