(n.) Vastly underrated members of the urban, suburban, and rural food chains who deserve a more prominent place in hyperlocal (backyard) food production.
(Gabe made a “Murder Most Fowl” joke. Just gonna let the internet know forever.)
Use #1: Eggs.
Animal protein delivered in serving-sized capsules daily? No slaughter or boob squish necessary? Yes please! Plus they come in pretty colors, from pastel pink and aqua to soft brown to dark cocoa and pure white and everywhere in between (with speckles!).
Use #2: Pest control.
Chickens will eat up any insects or worms or even spiders that scuttle by when they’re hungry!
Use #3: Weed control.
Excess vegetation is just extra snacking for a chicken! As long as it hasn’t been sprayed with toxins, a chicken will happily munch down dandelion, chickweed, even certain yellow leaves in the autumn!
Use #4: Fertilizer.
Chicken poop is fantastic for your soil! It’s very high in nitrogen, an essential building block for plants to absorb and grow with.
Use #5: Soil massage.
Okay, ‘massage’ might be a weird word, but chickens love to scratch the dirt and peck at it looking for tasty bugs and wrigglers! Given a dry patch of hard dirt, a few chickens could scratch and poop and possibly even seed it to much more fertile land in a year or two by breaking the surface and depositing nutrients and moisture.
Use #6: Feathers.
Chickens are so wildly different in their coloration between breeds! Our first round of baby chicks included a Welsummer, a Silver-Laced Wyandotte, a Golden Sexlinks, and an Ameracauna, giving us black & white, soft brown, chocolate, coppery golden, blue-peacock shimmer, all kinds of different feathers to play with! You can use them for crafts like jewelry, decor, or just letting them be pretty in the roost.
If you have the space and are interested in harvesting food from your backyard, chickens are a wonderful place to start! They’ll control your pests and weeds, work fertilizer into your soil, and give you perfect little protein bundles every day.
Start with 4 chicks if you can, they’ll be fine with 3-6 in a flock but don’t just get 1-2 (they get lonely! Much better experience for everyone with more friends than that). One will usually become the alpha female of the pack, take responsibility for protecting the others, and may be more aggressive than the rest–it’s normal and just a personality quirk.
I’ll do a post about our experience raising chickens next week, but for now just take to heart that it’s easy enough to do that we did it (saying something) and it’s worth your time and effort if you have the resources and inclination! They’re a wonderful addition to a home and are minimal enough effort that most people with a reasonable fenced yard should be able to keep healthy, thriving chickens!