Most slow food journeys twist and turn with pit stops at travel, gardens, farmers markets, and even smart buys at your local grocery store. However, for many DIY enthusiasts, livestock can present a significant hurdle on your path to ever-increasing quality experiences.
Now to be clear, you probably already have a source of quality eggs, they aren’t hard to find locally, off the farm, or at a market. Even your grocery store probably carries some options, although perhaps they’re more spendy. But if you are ready to go next-level with your food connections, chickens present a logical rung up the ladder.
Chickens Provide Eggs, a Complete Protein
First and foremost, chickens lay eggs (duh!) But, did you know they are the complete protein?
Meaning, all necessary amino acids are present for your body to use! While concerns were historically raised about cholesterol in eggs, there’s plenty of evidence that chickens allowed to range outside (free-range) produce eggs with significantly less of said cholesterol increasing substance in their yolks.
In fact, there is a noticeable difference in the eggs produced from outside chickens. The yolk will be a deeper yellow and the whites will appear crisp and clean. The cracked egg will seem to “stand up” out of your pan, instead of running to the side like a puddle of spilled goo. But don’t take my word for it, buy a couple dozen, and compare for yourself!
Chickens Turn Garbage Back Into Food
Plenty of other animals seems to always take center stage for their devotion or service to humans. You have man’s-best-friend (dog), man’s-best-transportation (horse), or even man’s-best-vermin eradicator (cat).
But quite honestly, I think chickens deserve a place at the table (literally) for their abilities as man’s-best-recycler! In the right environment, chickens can obtain up to 50% of their food from scavenging. And what helps this out considerably are table scraps to share with them. Chickens will eat almost anything that comes from your countertop, as long as they can break it up with their beaks.
At our house we routinely go over a week without taking the garbage out because it never smells, all of the food goes straight outside to the chicken coop!
At our farm, I’ve decided there are three top things that rank above all others as satisfying to watch:
1) Cows eating grass
2) Sleeping kittens
and 3) Chickens eating potato peels.
Get a few chickens and see for yourself how much time you can spend watching an animal make food out of your garbage.
Chicken Interactions are Fun to Watch
Chickens are incredibly social animals, with their favorite attitude being indignant. This attitude allows for hours of entertainment for the humans who manage them.
If you have already worked through all seasons of Friends 4 or 5 times and are looking for a new comedic-themed drama, chickens might be for you.
Typically a flock of chickens will develop a social order with leaders and followers, managers and clowns, rebels and followers. After a hard day’s work, you can come home to a group of ladies that are always busy and always have an idea of the way things should be done. For added fun get a rooster who will see your yard as his estate to manage and protect. (Note: hens don’t need a rooster to lay eggs.)
They are Easier to Care For and Leave Than Other Pets
Chickens require very little management. If you keep them locked, fed and watered in their coop for a week or two, they will learn this is their home and return every night. They can even be trained to a new coop if need be!
They aren’t picky about how their food is placed or what their water comes in. Simply fill a pan and they will be happy to drink from it. Be ready to clean their droppings out of the coop, but know that with enough bedding these droppings will be dry and relatively odor-free. An added bonus here is the nitrogen-rich fertilizer you can use in your garden.
Finally, chickens, like other birds, are ok without you. Unlike pouty cats and begging dogs, chickens just go on with life when you take a vacation. With enough fresh water, food, and space they can be left in their coop overnight or for a weekend without problems. They are also easy for a neighbor to check on if you are gone for an extended period of time. And if you give the eggs to their temporary caregiver, most people are glad to stop in and check while you are away!
- Check your local ordinances to see if chickens are an option… alternatively, get the ordinances changed to allow chickens!
- Pro tip- use this link, click on your city, type CTRL+F and a search bar opens up. Type “chickens” and that should bring you to the right page!
- Build a chicken coop (yes, this can potentially be as small as a dog house).
- Order some chicks (or buy direct from a farmer or farm store.)
- Procure some food and bedding from a pet store or farm store.
- Be ready to keep chicks under a light until they are older (refresh bedding every week.)
- Let your chicks out into a fenced area, or if your neighbors are understanding, let them roam the neighborhood!
- Feed your compost (along with regular feed) and collect the eggs!
- Repeat and enjoy.
If you have any questions about starting your own egg operation, feel free to reach out! We are more than happy to help you create the best chicken situation for your home! Email Annie at firstname.lastname@example.org! Or message us on Instagram or Facebook.
This post was written by Nick Schmitz, September 2020.