10 great reasons to unleash your inner chicken farmer!
No farm is really a farm without a few hens scratching through loose hay in the yard and the iconic rooster crowing to the sunrise upon his picket-fence pedestal… It just wouldn’t be right! Although most farms are a far cry from what they used to be (you only need to type CAFO or chicken farm into Google to confirm this), the chicken still does, and has always represented the quintessential farm. There is something simple, sunny and inviting about chickens wandering a property in search of something tasty. But chickens need not be a feature of faraway farmlands and way-out rural regions - the urban chicken has earned its rightful place within the city limits of many capitals around the world.
So why are chickens such good urban companions, and why should we keep them in suburbia? Here are 10 great reasons!
You know where your eggs are from
I’ll get straight to the point - there is no better tasting egg than a home-ranged egg. The rich golden-yellow yolk and superior taste truly are like no other. More and more, there are any number of reasons why even the best ‘free range’ supermarket eggs are not as good as they should be. (Remember is woolworths just another bad egg?). Diets supplemented by hormones, potent antibiotics and animal by-products are linked to many illnesses and diseases including various cancers. Worryingly, on average only one in every 18 million eggs consumed globally is tested by food standard inspectors. Your own eggs ensure you know exactly where they come from and because you know the diets, living conditions and health of your flock you are able to access natural, wholesome and healthy eggs. Healthy, happy hens equal great eggs!
Become a producer!
Producing one’s own goods and becoming more sustainable is pride instilling, exciting and extremely rewarding. By becoming a food producer and not only a food consumer you help correct the huge imbalance that characterises the modern (industrial) food system. Before long, you may also be selling your eggs to neighbours and friends, or even at local markets. Reducing your own consumer needs is a step in the sustainable direction and is an inspirational path for others to follow.
Become a reducer!
Chickens have an extensive diet range and will happily eat many scraps. They can easily reduce your organic waste by consuming vegetable peelings, bread crusts and crumbs and even cooked items such as pasta. By offering your chicken flock food waste you greatly reduce your organic waste content and contribute positively to closing the waste-cycle. Think about all the organic content that ends up in landfill sites, as well as the fuel, time, energy and money needed to facilitate it!
Chickens don’t need large amounts of space or attention
A small flock of chickens does not require a huge area to roam and they can be kept in relative comfort with about two square metres per chicken. Larger areas are, however, more desirable and free-ranging chickens are almost completely independent. Provided they have access to clean water and some food when needed, your flock will be quite happy going about their daily activities and require very little attention.
Employ natural and thorough pest controllers
Chickens love the pests you hate! It is a common misconception that chickens only eat grain and seeds where in fact they actively seek out insects and other food sources. They enjoy snails, cockroaches, rose beetles and many other common pests they come across. Naturally controlling pests, chickens will remove the need for horrid and damaging chemicals. Best of all, chickens will not consume many of the ‘good-guys’ (including lady beetles).
Chicken excrements are a good fertiliser and will provide your garden with natural enrichers. It contains good levels of nitrogen and phosphorus and can be added to potting mix or placed in areas of your garden where a nutrient boost is most needed. Be careful not to over-use the manure as it can be quite strong. Rather mix with other composting soils or apply carefully to avoid burning plants.
Play your part in Commercial Animal Welfare
By practising urban agriculture you do make a difference! Commercially farmed animals are by far the worst treated animals on the planet. Our modern food system is largely corrupt, unsustainable and void of the morals or ethics required to sustain the animals of our earth. Keeping your own chickens eliminates your need to buy eggs, thereby reducing the number of fowl that spend their short and miserable life confined to spaces that, in many cases, are so small that they cannot even turn around.
Chickens are fun, entertaining and manageable pets
Despite the ‘farm animal’ stigma attached to keeping chickens, they really do make fun, interesting and entertaining pets. Just like cats and dogs, each has their own unique character and with time you will be drawn to their individual personalities. You will learn to love each and they will reward your care and enthusiasm with fresh eggs and a pest free garden. Chickens are also very manageable and do not require a lot of time or effort for general upkeep. Unlike many domestic pets, chickens do not require special foods, grooming and regular veterinary consultations.
You will learn, learn again and learn some more
If you’ve never handled a live chicken before, you will learn something new. If you’ve never built one of your pets a home, you will learn again. There is something about keeping chickens that allows a continual train of knowledge and new learning to evolve. It's fantastic!
Keeping chickens may open a door to other urban agricultural practices
Because keeping chickens is relatively easy, you may master the skills and find yourself looking for even more to do in the field of urban agriculture. This may include beekeeping, growing fruits or even rearing other commercial animals. Through your experience with home-farming practices, you are also sure to meet many like-minded people with whom you may trade, swap ideas and build community-based urban projects.
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