“Why can’t we just buy eggs from the store like everyone else? No mess, no fuss, no inconvenience. Why do we have to raise them?!”
This was the question posed to me by my husband as we were getting ready to go pick up the 20 Barred Rock chicks that I had ordered. It’s not like it was a surprise to him. He’s had 15 years of preparation for this day. That’s how long ago we met, and that’s how long I’ve been talking about getting chickens.
He’s not opposed… he just genuinely doesn’t see the point. He grew up in the city, with no pets, and all their food came from the store… which seems like a perfect arrangement in his mind.
My response was a bit more heated and emotional than would have been best. You see, for me, chickens are an emotional, nostalgic thing. I grew up on a hobby farm surrounded by a menagerie of animals. Memories of raising chickens and ducks are part of some of my fondest childhood moments. I didn’t really give him a rational response at the time… but the truth is that we are getting chickens for many, many reasons other than just nostalgia.
Why I Want to Raise Chickens:
1. I will know exactly what is in my food.
I feed them all the scraps from the kitchen, and they serve as my composting facility, so they get all the garden trimmings as well. I also provide hen scratch or a commercial feed when I choose. And when it is a commercial feed, I get to read the label and decide which brand. They also eat all the lovely bugs and seeds and whatnot they find when free ranging.
2. I will know exactly what is NOT in my food.
They will not be fed fillers, chemicals, cross-species by products, or laboratory guarded “secret ingredients”.
3. My children will learn compassion and respect.
The process of caring for an animal from the time it is a baby until it has to give up its life for food is full of emotion and truly teaches the circle of life. Farm kids to not have a disconnect from their food… these kids know exactly where their food came from, and what it took to take its life and turn it into food. Compare this to a child who thinks chicken nuggets are an actual chicken part and that chicken breasts come in plastic wrapped containers, and that death takes place all the time in a video game, but its never permanent – you always get to try again. No, real life is different. My kids will experience that mixed relationship – the love that can grow from raising their own chickens, the devotion it takes, and the compassion it stirs up… and the sorrow, pain and empathy that can arise when it comes time to make some tough life/death decisions.
4. Food storage.
I store food so that if (no, when) the time comes when I cannot buy as easily from stores, I will be able to feed my family without interruption. What better food storage method than perpetual egg and meat production from your hens?
5. Emergency Preparedness and Self-Reliance.
Much like #4, having chickens is a way of protecting against those inevitable catastrophes. Having our own means of egg and meat production means one less thing that we need to rely on the stores, or neighbors for. In a true emergency, resources are spread fairly thin and food is scarce. Absolute societal breakdown can occur. This is one more way of protecting ourselves against that.
6. My children will learn country skills that are mostly lost on this generation.
Raising birds, building a coop, watching for and preventing disease, collecting eggs, cooking with them, butchering, using all parts of a carcass, making homemade chicken stock, raising chicks, caring for them… these skills may seem unnecessary today… but life can change at any moment, and if you don’t have these skills now, it’s too late to learn when they are demanded of you. I don’t want those old fashioned skills to die out and be lost. I believe in homeschooling to provide wholistic education… and that involves raising chickens, not just learning how to spell c-h-i-c-k-e-n.
Yes, most certainly there is a high nostalgia factor involved. In my mind’s eye, rural living is synonymous with having a tiny flock. It’s like peanut butter and jam. Macaroni and cheese. Potatoes and gravy. Land and chickens.
As a mother with 2 children who lives at least 30 minutes from the nearest grocery store and an hour from a city, it helps greatly if I can reduce the amount of groceries that I need to haul home each trip. If my eggs and chicken are already at home, that’s one less thing we need to put in our cart. And we eat alot of eggs… each grocery trip I used to purchase 3 dozen… so yes, I am very glad when I don’t have to get those from the store.
9. To aid me in gardening.
How can chickens help in the garden? Well, they are my composters for starters. Every scrap, garden waste, weed, etc gets consumed or scratched to hell by them and then turned into wonderful fertilizer and compost. I also dry the used eggshells and crush them to provide calcium when I plant my tomatoes. And all for free!
Photo by Prairie Girl, All rights reserved
10. Enriched Play
Anyone who has ever watched a child interacting with chickens can see that they are getting way more enrichment out of that experience than any toy from the store can ever provide. Children naturally adore chickens, and tame birds are wonderful with kids.
To be truthful, I can’t think of any reasons NOT to have chickens. Well, maybe coop cleaning.
So what about my big, tough, “chickens-are-nasty” husband? Last night as I was putting the kids to bed he went out and actually touched them and put them in the brooder all by himself. And this morning he got up early and gave them fresh food and water.