For the family who is looking for a new pet that is not only friendly and engaging but useful as well, let me recommend the chicken, or more exactly, let me recommend two – five laying hens. Chickens are wonderful social birds that are incredibly useful and have many more purposes besides just laying eggs.
Chickens are wonderful with children
At the slam of our back door and the sound of my children’s voices, our laying hens come running. Chickens are social creatures that enjoy time with each other and enjoy spending time with their humans.
Our hens are easy to manage even for young children. They willingly will follow the kids in and out of the chicken coop. They allow my seven and three year old to pick them up and carry them around without much fuss and, on occasion, I have even caught our hens sitting patiently on the laps of both children while the kids stroke their feathers.
Chickens teach children responsibility, compassion and are educational
With a little help from the adults in her life, our daughter has been put in charge of the daily feeding and watering of our hens. Each morning, she checks on the chickens, making sure their water container is full and that they have food to eat, while opening the door to their chicken coop and allowing them out in their yard for the day. In the afternoon she returns to the yard to check for eggs, and to feed and provide fresh water and bedding to their coop. And in the evening, our daughter puts the chickens in their coop and closes their door.
This has been a responsibility that our daughter has embraced and it has allowed her to share in knowledge that formally was only known to children raised on farms. The common egg no longer is an impersonal object or something that is picked up at the grocery store for our children. They have learned that eggs come as a gift from the chickens for their hard work and care that is provided.
Chickens eat practically all of your table scraps
With a chicken on hand, you will have little use for your trash can or garbage disposal to get rid of extra food. Chickens are not picky and, in my household, will eat all of our leftover fruit and vegetable, breads and pasta that my family will waste.
Our chickens also help with weed control in our back yard and in the fall, when the leaves drop from our trees, I have been able to use the leaves from the trees as bedding in their coop.
Chickens help control insects
Chickens are omnivores. Not only will they help eat your extra vegetation, but they also will eat a few of the meaty ones as well. Laying hens that are allowed to patrol the family backyard become natural predators and can be very entertaining to watch when they are in pursuit of a bug. Many reports have credited a flock of hens with the decrease of grasshoppers, mosquitoes and other pesky bugs that often plague our backyards.
Chicken manure makes wonderful compost
Your typical chicken is able to produce one cubic foot of manure every six months. Left alone, sitting in the chicken coop, this manure can begin to stink and form ammonia which is not healthy for your chickens to breathe or pleasant for you or your neighbors to smell. But, for those chicken coops that are well maintain and cleaned out, this manure can be converted into compost for your yard and garden in a little over a month’s time.
And last but not least, chickens lay homegrown eggs
There is nothing more satisfying then watching my daughter appear on our back doorstep, egg in hand, with the announcement, “Mommy, Mrs. Rose Chicken laid another egg.” The average young laying hen produces roughly one egg each day, for most of the year. For a household that has four or five hens, that works out to being three dozen eggs each week, more than enough eggs for a typical family. In a time when there are egg recalls and a lot concern about our food production, it is a comfort knowing exactly when and where our eggs come from.
For those families looking for a little adventure in a backyard pet that is not only useful as well as friendly, I hope you will consider a laying hen. You won’t regret it!