When my family moved to the east Tennessee mountains 7-years ago, I was determined to learn all I could about country living. I'm still learning and I have a ways to go, but I'm enjoying every minute of it.
One of the first things we did when we moved to Tennessee was buy chickens. We decided on Rhode Island Reds because of the superior brown eggs they produced. Needless to say, we had a lot to learn about raising chickens but we learned a lot fast. Within 6 months of getting our little chicks, we were enjoying big, brown delicious fresh eggs. I've never tasted better eggs in my life! And these were the best eggs for baking too. Sadly, after a year and a half, my husband entered a 6-month para-military style police academy in order to join the police force and we had to give our chickens away. The good news is, now that the kids are older and we've adjusted to our country lifestyle, we're going to get more chickens.
These days, even city folks can raise chickens right in their backyard and enjoy the benefit of fresh eggs or fresh meat, depending on what you decide to raise your birds for. Our chickens became pets so we only raised them for the eggs, but many people raise them for both.
Chickens come in handy for a few things.
1. They help you become a little bit more self-sufficient by providing you with healthy, non chemical or steroid injected eggs. Add up the amount of money it would cost you to buy free-range, organic eggs and compare it to the cost of raising your own. In most cases you come out ahead and in the rare case that you decide to raise fancy birds or spend more on a coop, etc. it's worth the extra cost to know that what your eating is way healthier than the stuff you buy in the grocery store.
2. Chicken droppings make excellent compost and natural fertilizer for your garden! Talk to anyone who uses chicken droppings for fertilizer and they'll tell you, it works better than the chemical laden fertilizers you buy at your local garden center. It's cheaper too!
Chicken droppings are high in nitrogen, adding it to the compost pile will turn it into a rich addition that adds organic matter and increases the water holding capacity and biota in your soil. Aged chicken manure can also act as a good fertilizer, providing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium to help your plants grow.
3. Chickens are good for pest control. As they hunt and peck around the yard they devour all those pesky insects eliminating the need for toxic pest controls or at least less of them. Always be sure to use natural pest controls.
4. Their hunting and pecking is good for the soil. As they search for bugs, grubs and worms, they break down the leaves and large pieces of soil debris and aerate the soil.
Some of the benefits of farm fresh eggs are:
Thanks to a 2007 study by Mother Earth News that took egg samples from 14 different flocks, we have some pretty good data to back up the claim that free range or pastured eggs are better for you. Here are some of the benefits:
1) Less Cholesterol: According to the study there was 1/3 less cholesterol in the free-range eggs. This is good news for an egg lover like me who also has a family history of high cholesterol.
2) Less Saturated Fat: Mother Earth News found 25% less saturated fat in the pastured chicken eggs. Saturated fat is a buzz word in the food world now, with reason, so anything with less is always a plus.
3) More Vitamin A and E: Vitamin A helps in all sorts of areas including vision, skin health, immune function, and so much more. There isn't as much information out there on Vitamin E, but I think we can assume it does have a purpose.
4) Extra Omega-3s: We are constantly learning more about the Omega-3s, but there has already been a lot of research pointing to benefits for people with heart concerns. Double the Omega-3s is a good thing!
5) They Just Taste Great: I suppose this is more of an anecdotal thing, but I believe pastured eggs just plain taste better.
** The above information was found at the article: The Health Benefits of Farm Fresh Eggs" http://astrology.yahoo.com/channel/food/the-health-benefits-of-farm-fresh-eggs-237375/
So many people are starting to realize that our world is spinning out of control, being self sufficient is going to be a necessity. Not everyone can afford to or wants to live in the country on a farm. The good thing is, raising chickens in the city and in urban areas is becoming more and more common. The first thing you need to do is contact your local zoning department to learn about the rules and regulations for keeping livestock in your area.
For more information on raising chickens visit the resources below:
Back Yard Chickens - http://www.backyardchickens.com/
The BEST online resource for raising backyard chickens, including breeds, hatcheries, and more.
DIY Chicken Coops http://www.diychickencoops.com/raising-chickens
Excellent information for beginner backyard chicken raisers.
The Country Chicken - http://www.cyndilou6.com/
Information and resources for raising backyard chickens.
Stay tuned for more backyard chicken and urban livestock articles. As Under the Willow Tree grows we'll be adding more to these sections. Feel free to leave questions, etc. in the comment area. We'd love to hear from you.