For several years I’ve been dreaming of having fat, healthy hens running around in my vegetable garden. My dream is about to come true. Why would I want to keep chickens you may ask. Here are a few reasons.
Fresh organic eggs are my prime motivation. To eat a flavorful egg with a deep orange yolk (that’s the beta-carotene) seems the epitome of haute cuisine to me. I have gardened for years with the purpose of putting delicious and nutritious vegetables on my family’s table. Why not add a source of protein and fat to our home-grown diet?
Insect pest reduction – Chickens are hungry gobblers of all kinds of nasty garden pests, like Japanese beetles, grubs, squash bugs, Colorado potato beetles, tomato hornworms, slugs, and snails to name a few. The insects provide chickens with healthful protein.
Nitrogen-rich fertilizer deposited directly into my garden or added to my compost pile. Chicken droppings are said to be one of the most valuable of manures.
Veggie waste re-cycling – Feed the girls vegetable peelings, pulp from the juicer, weeds you pull out of the garden, or anything of the like, and the result will be better eggs and healthier chickens.
The aerated garden soil is a side benefit of all the scratching chickens do in search of insects.
Entertainment – Every hen has a unique personality. Their antics and interactions with each other in a flock can be quite amusing. My friend has even trained one of her chickens to do tricks!
Make new friends – Chicken-raising seems to be a source of interest for most people from the grocery store clerk to the meter reader. Those who do it will offer helpful suggestions, and those who don’t will have questions for you.
Show kids where their food comes from – Anything we can do to connect children to the land and nature is a good thing in my book.
I’m sure there will be a number of challenges to face in my chicken-raising enterprise, but none that I won’t be able to meet as long as I have a positive can-do attitude. I’m busy searching for a suitable chicken tractor (portable coop), organic feed, accessories like a waterer, and more. I’ll keep you posted on what I find.