Ten Reasons to Keep Backyard Chickens

October 16, 2012 3:00 am
Posted in: Food For Thought
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Kim Burnell is a Southern California-based event hostess, recipe developer (and curator), edible-garden keeper, and backyard-chicken warrior at the Rustic Garden Bistro. In between hosting cookbook/author launch parties, supper club dinners, and living room jazz concerts, Kim blogs about her latest recipe triumphs, gardening gems, and fourteen chickens. Behind the scenes, she’s scouting properties to run a Bed and Breakfast, complete with a gourmet brunch, cozy bistro, edible landscaping and… backyard chickens! Connect with Kim on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Ten Reasons to Keep Backyard Chickens

10. To broaden your culinary arsenal.

Let’s face it, when you have a flock of chickens, you’re rollin’ in the eggs. Take me, for example. I have flock of 14 hens. In a typical day, one’s broody, one’s molting, and a couple of others are otherwise takin’ the day off. I’m still collecting about ten eggs per day. That’s a heck of a lot of eggs for a family of two to work with. So in the past year, I’ve done the following: scramble eggs, fry eggs, poach eggs, four-minute eggs, whip eggs, coddle eggs, quiche eggs, six-minute eggs, soufflé eggs, freeze eggs, temper eggs… you get the point. I promise you, I wouldn’t have mastered the five-minute #unprocessed hollandaise sauce if I didn’t have my chickens. With your own flock, you too, can be master of the egg.

Soufflé

9. To eat fresh food.

So to reiterate: commercially packaged chicken eggs are already 3-4 weeks old by the time you buy them. Then think about how long they sit in your fridge before you actually eat them. Tip: Check for a three-digit number printed on the side of your commercially packaged carton. That number corresponds to the calendar day that the eggs were collected. 001 = January 1, 002 = January 2, and so on. Do a Google search to see what day that number corresponds to, then determine how “fresh” your eggs really are. In summary, backyard chicken eggs are the freshest eggs you’ll ever get your hands on.

8. To flex your entrepreneurial skills.

So maybe you don’t have the time or desire to make 1,001 things with chicken eggs… So how ‘bout makin’ some money with your surplus?! When I started out, the goal was to have three chickens. I won’t tell you how I got to fourteen (#chickenmathfail), but that’s how many I‘ve got, so at the end of every week, I usually have about five dozen eggs. Keeping one dozen for myself, I still have four dozen eggs to offload. Then I tell everyone I know that the eggs they bought from the market are likely already a month old (See also: To eat fresh food). After I let them process the surprise, I slide into my sales pitch: “You can buy my pastured, free range, not to mention FRESH!!! and colorful chicken eggs for just $5/dozen. I collected them this morning. All proceeds go towards feeding and housing the ladies.” Then I mention my eggs are cheaper than Whole Foods. BOOM, sale! Done. And as of today, $190 cash in the basket.

Dozen Eggs

7. To supplement your doggie’s diet.

If you have a dog, and you’re all crazy-balls over her diet like I am with mine, you’ll want to save your eggshells. And if you keep chickens, you’ll have lots. Toast the eggshells in the oven, grind them down, then add a tablespoon to Fido’s #unprocessed dinner, and KA-POW! Your dog has all the calcium she needs for strong, healthy bones. Then experiment on how to make dog treats using eggshell powder. Or, ask me for the recipe. (See also: broadening culinary arsenal).

6. To give your kids responsibility.

In my kingdom, it’s never too early to teach a kid about responsibility, and egg collection is a wonderful daily (or twice daily) chore. Should you choose to pay your kid five, or even ten cents an egg, you’ll still come out ahead. Want to dish out more responsibility? Teach ‘em about gardening. Get together to fill some empty eggshells… Add soil, plant seeds, give them some water, and watch something grow.

Chicken Egg Crafts

5. To fuel your compost bin.

If you compost, you know you need poop. Lots and lots of poop. Most people get it by buying bags of cow poop, but if you have chickens… guess what?! They poop! They poop a lot… So all you gotta do is scoop it up and add it to your pile. Done, BAM, ecology at its finest.

4. To cure you of the blues.

The next time you have a bad day, go outside and pull up a stool. Then just watch your chickens for a bit. Better, stick an iPhone in their faces and watch them ham it up for the camera. At my house, observing the fluffy butts is called “chicken tee-vee.” An episode of just 10-15 minutes is enough to free me from all of my woes. Bonus: it’s cheaper than cable and available all day. Unfortunately, DVR doesn’t work here.

Chicken TV!

3. To source your own protein.

An average-sized egg contains about 6 grams of protein. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could get this out of your own backyard? And if you also have a produce garden, think of the combinations and permutations of food ingredients you could put together to make something edible. Then challenge yourself to see what you come up with (See also: broadening culinary arsenal), and take pride in knowing just how much you’ve reduced your grocery bill.

2. To cut back on your landscaping expenses.

Chickens spend all day pecking and scratching… pecking and scratching. In the process, they have a magical ability to eradicate any garden of the peskiest weeds. So give your gardener a day off, and put your chickens to work. In just a short amount of time, your weedy patch will become a barren brownscape. When you’re ready to re-plant, skip the dirt turning and the fertilizing; the chickens will have done all that already. Bonus: the extra chlorophyll in their diet (from eating all the greens) will turn your egg yolks from medium yellow to dark orange.

First two backyard chicken eggs

1. To be the coolest kid on the block.

It’s true. Once you’re in the club, you’ll be everyone’s best friend. Long-lost family members will show up on your doorstep, friends will surface from the shadows, neighbors will lurk over their fences. And everyone will ask the same question: Can we have some chicken eggs?! (See also: flex your entrepreneurial skills.) Feel free to impress everyone with all of your chicken-keeping trivia. Did you know that a chicken’s earlobes determined their eggshell color? Red lobes = brown eggs. White lobes = white eggs. Blue lobes = blue eggs. Or that Roosters are so chivalrous that they stand-by at feeding time to let the ladies eat first, or that they’ll throw their bodies down over a hen to protect her when a hawk is flying overhead? Did you know you could even clicker-train a chicken to recognize shapes and colors? Or how about the fact that their pecking order is so well-established that they roost in the same spot, every single night?

Finally, let me reiterate that chickens are all-around awesome to keep around the yard. Want some eggs?! I’ll be happy to sell them to ya for $5/dozen. You should know that they were collected this morning.

Morning Eggs

Want more chicken fun? Check out this guest post from the 2010 challenge: Backyard Chickens Have the Good Life.

October Unprocessed2012

This guest post was part of the October Unprocessed 2012 Challenge, in which more than 6,000 people pledged to eat no processed food for the month. Learn More.

60 Comments on "Ten Reasons to Keep Backyard Chickens"
  1. Comment left on:
    October 29, 2012 at 8:57 pm
    Tanya says:

    Can I have your dog treat recipe, please? =)

    And thanks for the awesome post!

  2. Comment left on:
    October 31, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I just wrote about our fall chicken harvest, in case anyone is interested in what happens …later to the hens.

    http://www.simplebites.net/our-fall-chicken-harvest-boo-contains-real-life-farm-to-table-images/

    • Comment left on:
      November 8, 2012 at 6:46 am
      Laurah Graham says:

      There are far more humane ways to deal with harvesting chickens. The pictures of the little bitty house and the men smiling while they hold them by their legs before killing them makes me sick…let alone the thought that someone actually SLEEPS with either of them.

    • Comment left on:
      January 27, 2013 at 6:24 am
      t says:

      Absolutely disgusting !

      Aimee your post is absolutely disgusting !

      How evil can people be ? What is there to smile about slaughtering living beings who have been supplying you with food for months.

      Unbelievable !

      • Comment left on:
        February 1, 2013 at 1:44 pm
        Kelsie says:

        When your starving and have no way of obtaining any food you’ll be glad if you have a chicken cow or pig to harvest.

    • Comment left on:
      April 14, 2013 at 10:20 am
      Susi says:

      Aimee we just started our chicken journey and this was very informative thank you.

    • Comment left on:
      April 7, 2014 at 4:52 am
      SDR says:

      Awesome article Aimee. We all need to understand where our food comes from. Those chickens lived a much richer, more comfortable life than many do in large scale farms. Holding them by their feet does not hurt them. A very quick end (as opposed to some agribusiness methods which are much more slow and painful) is a blessing.

      We have to stop knee jerking with our emotions and instead say “Ok, now let’s look at this rationally. Where did I think meat came from? The chicken dies, but everything dies. The chicken had a great life of being pampered by a human. The chicken died super quickly and did not realize a thing. They did not die by disease or more cruel methods of harvesting.”

      I understand that some people are extremely tenderhearted, but other people are practical and understand where meat comes from. They are brave enough to take emotional and physical responsibility for their food instead of buying meat in tidy little cellophane packages from large farms that cannot give the care that a small operation can to the chickens during their lives.

  3. Comment left on:
    November 2, 2012 at 3:24 pm
    Elisabeth says:

    I had no idea how peaceful it was to watch chickens scratch until we started raising our small flock. I could literally spend hours watching them scratch and peck–the most peaceful hours of my day.

  4. .
    November 3, 2012 at 9:37 am

    [...] Ten Reasons to Keep Backyard Chickens :: by Kim [...]

  5. Comment left on:
    November 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm
    Natalie says:

    Fantastic article. We have 5 chickens in our backyard and it was the best decision ever. My kids love it! Their friends love it. It saves us a ton of money as we eat many, many eggs in a week.

  6. Comment left on:
    January 2, 2013 at 8:03 am
    Rebecca says:

    We have chickens, not enough to sell the eggs just yet. But do people complain about buying a dozen eggs for $5? My boyfriend thinks that we should charge $3 a dozen. Do you find it is easy to sell them?

    • Comment left on:
      January 2, 2013 at 9:02 am
      Tanya says:

      I don’t have my own chickens, but I always try to buy from a local farmer if possible. I think $5/dozen is a great deal if you know the farmer’s practices and the chickens are healthy free-range birds. $3/dozen would seriously make me wonder what’s wrong with the eggs since I’ve paid up to $8/dozen, and I’m pretty sure our grocery store sells their ‘cage-free’ eggs for over $4/dozen, and they aren’t even free-range. I live in California so my prices are probably more expensive than other states, but I’d consider charging more than $3/dozen if you want to make up some cost of raising the chickens.

  7. .
    June 3, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    [...] 9. Ten reasons to keep backyard chickens. Can’t wait to have my own someday (sigh) that produce beautiful colored eggs like these! {here} [...]

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