It's not for everyone, but taking care of chickens can be pretty rewarding. Beyond the fresh eggs, there are a lot of benefits to keeping chickens in your backyard. They're great for gardens, they're surprisingly good with kids, and they can be very affectionate.
Thinking of embarking on the journey that is raising backyard chickens in Australia? Here are some of the benefits of keeping chickens—or why you should have a chook for your nook.
1. Fresh Eggs
One of the best of many benefits to a backyard flock—newly laid eggs. Free-range chickens lay eggs that taste, frankly, amazing more so than caged chickens. They're also nutritionally better, with more vitamins and beta carotene but less saturated fat.
Collecting eggs can also become family bonding time, as you teach your kids about chickens and egg-laying.
Raising chickens on your own also means you're not contributing to factory farming. You'll enjoy your breakfast more knowing that your eggs came from safe, happy, comfortable hens.
2. Organic Fertiliser
You may not appreciate chicken manure, but your plants will love it. Those of us with gardens know the benefits of good compost—and chicken litter is one of the best available organic compost for gardens.
To compost chicken manure, mix two parts "brown matter" to one part "green matter". Brown matter consists of yard debris such as leaves, small sticks, and grass clippings. Green matter, on the other hand, includes manure and kitchen scraps. Place them all in your compost bin and leave it to do its work, while stirring and mixing occasionally.
If you keep your feathery friends in a chicken coop, just take out the bottom and dump it straight in the compost pit. Free-range chickens may pose a bigger challenge when it comes to picking up their poop, but your plants will reward you for the effort!
3. Help in the Garden
To you, bugs and snails may be pests. To your chicken, though, they're a lovely, protein-packed lunch. Your backyard flock will hunt all over your garden for yummy snacks in between feedings, making them all-natural pest control.
A regular backyard chicken will also eat different types of weeds that can harm your garden beds. They'll also "mow" the garden for you post-harvest. As a result, your plants stay healthy, and your chickens stay happy—wins all around!
4. Reduced Food Waste
Lessen the food waste you produce by saving kitchen scraps for your chickens! You should never use these as a substitute for chicken feed, but there's no harm in mixing them in as an extra treat. Just make sure you feed them only in moderation.
Do not feed food scraps to chicks, as these are not nutritionally balanced and may affect their growth.
Some food scraps you can feed your backyard chickens include:
- Bread—avoid mouldy pieces, and always in moderation
- Small amounts of cooked meats
- Corn and other grains
- Fruits such as apples, berries, and melons (watermelon rinds are a favourite)
- Peas and most cooked or raw vegetables (carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, kale, spinach, and sweet potatoes, to name a few)
On the flip side, some foods you should avoid feeding to chickens include:
- Overly salty food
- Processed food such as pizza
- Raw potato peels (these contain solanine, which is toxic to chickens)
- Coffee and chocolate
- Greasy food
- Spoiled or rotten food
- Raw meat
Just keep in mind: garlic, onions, and other food with strong foods can cause undesirable tastes in your eggs, so avoid those too!
5. Minimised Carbon Footprint
Chicken keepers can lower their carbon footprint by raising backyard birds! It's one less reason to pop down to the shops (even more if you start growing your own produce) since you have all the eggs you want. No need to drive anywhere—just walk on down to the coop.
6. Personal Well-Being
Few things are more adorable than a fat, fluffy flock of chickens following you with little clucks. Their quirky antics can be a source of fun and amusement. Meanwhile, they can hop up onto your lap for a poofy cuddle. Chickens are highly affectionate when they become attached to their keepers—just imagine a flock of happy backyard chickens walking towards you during feeding time!
Raising chickens is exceptionally rewarding for your well-being in the same way most pets are. We get our doses of oxytocin (the happy chemical) from playing and bonding with them. Just make sure you keep your chickens happy and healthy with the proper coop, correct feed, and plenty of ventilation.
The benefits of raising chickens are plenty, more than just fresh eggs to eat. They're excellent pets, and make themselves well worth the cost. Chickens are wonderful animals, perfect for any backyard—be ready to get hooked on chooks!