Backyard Chickens

There was a great article about raising backyard chickens in the San Francisco Chronicle today – here is the link.  There a a lot of good information about the fun and benefits of having chickens in your backyard.  Chickens actually make great pets and I would call them some of the “green”est pets.  Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Chickens are great at bug and grub control!  They will eat ants, rolly pollies, slugs, snails, crickets, and other forms of creepy crawly creatures.  Just think if everyone had backyard chickens how much less pesticides and sprays would be needed in residential neighborhoods.
  • Chickens provide fertilizer.  Roaming chickens distribute the fertilizer themselves (sometimes in unwanted places like your lawn chair but mostly on the ground).  Fertilizer from the coop can be composted and used in gardens and flower beds.
  • Chickens provide eggs.  The environmental benefit of stepping into your backyard to get fresh eggs cannot be understated.  Collecting your own eggs has eliminated transport of feed to CAFO hen houses, eggs from CAFO to distribution center and then on to stores and then on to your home.  CAFOs produce a lot of waste that, due to its volume, becomes hazardous waste.  If everyone got their eggs from their backyward we would need no CAFOs and that hazardous waste simply disappears.

There are some downsides that need to be considered with backyard chickens such as:

  • They till the soil which in some cases can be great but is not so great in new flower beds and gardens that have just been seeded or have small plants.
  • Part of their “fertilizer distribution” strategy includes fertilizer placement in undesireable locations like on the porch, lawn furniture, lawn mower, kids bikes….anything you might have left within their reach.
  • The curiosity and constant drive to “turn over the soil” also leads them to knock items off shelves and tables to see what is underneath them.  A trash can without a lid is too much temptation for a chicken – she will HAVE to see what is in that can at the very bottom.

Of course chickens require care – good housing, food, fresh water – like any other pet.  And they are good pets!  They have interesting and different personalities, interact with people, and form bonds with their favorite people.  Some people even put little “chicken diapers” on their chickens and let them roam the house.  I think people who cannot make the 40 year commitment required for a parrot might want to consider a chicken.  Of course they are not as smart as a parrot but certainly are smart enough and their 10 to 12 year lifespan is a much easier commitment to make.