Backyard Chickens – More than just eggs!

In April, we packed the kids into the car and headed over to Osborne’s Agway in Concord (one of my favorite places) to pick up six adorable balls of fluff, which would eventually become laying hens. Affectionately named Rufflet, Buttercup, Nita Chick, Piplup, Betty, and Cutie Pie (if you know my children, you can probably guess who named whom), these six chicks will hopefully keep us in eggs for many years to come. But that’s not all!

Even though our chickens haven’t started laying eggs yet, they are already working hard for our family. They are turning our food and garden waste into new food. They are scratching up grubs and fertilizing our dead lawn so we can reseed it with clover. And, perhaps most importantly, they are providing us with hours and hours of good, old-fashioned entertainment.

Chickens taking care of leftovers for us.

CHICKENS AS COMPOSTERS

Food waste is a big problem, and backyard composting or composting through a service is a great way to turn your food scraps into compost to renew your garden soil and grow new food. However, chickens allow you to skip the middle man and turn your food scraps directly into new food – in this case, eggs! Chickens will eat almost any food scraps or garden weeds (and make the most amusing noises while doing so). They are as excited to get a lettuce gone to seed as they are to get watermelon rinds and all those good kitchen and garden waste will become fresh, organic eggs for your family.

We offer the chickens most of our kitchen and garden waste. In the background, you can see the pea plants I pulled this morning and some onion stems.

CHICKENS AS LAWN MAINTENANCE CREWS

And, while they are turning food waste into eggs, our chickens are also making natural fertilizer. What’s not to love? Their poop is great for the soil, and they do an excellent job working it into the ground as they scratch for bugs. And all that scratching is great for aerating the soil and helping us reseed our lawn with clover, which is part of my Green the Yard Project. Thanks to a portable chicken tractor, we can move our little lawn maintenance crew around the yard so they can do their magic wherever we need it. We usually leave them in one spot for one to three days (depending on the height of the weeds). When we move their tractor, they leave behind aerated, fertilized soil, ready for seeding.

Chickens are natural lawn mowers. Not as good as goats, but we are working our way there. 🙂

CHICKENS AS ENTERTAINMENT

We let the chickens out to roam the yard for an hour or two every day while we do outdoor chores or play with the kids, but sometimes we just sit around and watch them. Honestly, you don’t know comedy until you have watched a group of chickens for an hour on a lazy afternoon. They are hilarious. I cannot do justice to describing their antics, but suffice it to say, you will not be disappointed. And watching the kids or my husband attempt to wrangle our flock back into the tractor at the end of their recess is the perfect encore performance.

Headed home after recess.

We are placing bets on who will lay the first egg (for the record, my money is on Rufflet) and I will definitely check back in at that point AND share how my husband built our awesome chicken tractor almost entirely from reclaimed materials, but for now, I hope these three reasons, plus the eggs, will be enough to convince you to add some hens to your life.

– Hannah

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