Its been a while since I waxed poetic about backyard chickens. But yesterday a friend FB'd that she may be adopting a couple . Then I remembered the excitement of our first flock. In the beginning it seemed like there was so much to learn and now its old hat. Chickens integrated into our lives so easily I couldn't figure out why everyone doesn't have them..... especially gardeners. The benefits are many and the drawbacks are few. the first benefit of course is the eggs. Nothing tastes better than a fresh egg from a healthy free range chicken and the nutrition is very high. Grocery store eggs are an average of 2 months old by the time you get them home. Many commercially produced eggs are as old as four months before getting to your fridge. I don't want to eat old eggs. I'm not gonna. You cant make me.
Chickens are great gardeners. They forage through the yard and keep the bugs way down. They dig through garden beds all winter and keep the soil turned over looking for yummy things to snack on.
They dig up and eat your weeds. We have the most beautiful well fertilized lawn in our back yard. And all Jimmy does is mow. When we first moved in here the lawn was a sea of waving dandelions. Now after two wintered of free ranging the girls, their scratching, aerating and pooing have left only the occasional weed popping up. And its all organic with no watershed damage. And we get eggs.
They love the compost pile. Year before last they took an 8 foot by 8 foot area piled up 3 feet high with organic materials and reduced it to a stunning rich garden bed ready for planting in 6 months. They did all the work between October and March while Jimmy and I were sitting warm and toasty in the house in front of a fire. And we get eggs.
They make great pets. After a while they recognize you as one of their flock and treat you accordingly. They live well with cats. And as long as you have chickens.... crows and blue jays will avoid your yard and sparrows , hummingbirds and other songbirds will visit daily and play with the chickens. They are a viable part of any backyard ecosystem.
And the poop. You will never buy fertilizer again and everything you pull out of the coop can be composted or used to make 'hot' beds for growing peppers and other vegetables that need warmer soil.
The drawbacks? They get up at the crack of dawn. They argue over the nests (even if you provide one nest per bird they will have a favorite and fight over it). Any unprotected garden greens are just snacks to them. (we fence off the winter beds when free ranging them.). They will poop on the patio cuz they don't care. And they will hang out on the back porch under the dryer vent in the winter to get warm. And when it snows they will bitch at you like YOU did it to be mean. And when it rains hard they will give you dirty looks. In the end they are delightful creatures and provide a grounding that one can only strive for in yoga class.
Now if I could just talk Jimmy into one of those miniature cows for the front yard! I just have to figure out a way that mini cows could be useful during the zombie apocalypse