There are many benefits of keeping chickens at home and you are not on your own if you are considering making your back garden home to a small flock. Over the last decade the UK has seen a huge increase in chicken keeping – currently it is estimated that there are around 750,000 hen keepers in the country. So, why has chicken keeping become so popular? Here are some of the reasons why:
Benefits of keeping chickens
- 1) Free eggs
One obvious reason is that you get a constant supply of free eggs that you know are fresh you don’t need to keep looking at the use by date on the box any more. They’re fresher and tastier than supermarket eggs and because you’ve produced them yourself you know exactly what’s gone into the chicken that’s laid them.
2) Make extra by selling eggs
chickens can actually save and even make you money. You can feed 3 hens for around 25p a day and between them they will lay you up to 800 eggs a year – to buy that many in a supermarket would cost around £250 or more. If you can’t eat that many, you can always sell them on to your family or friends and make a little extra for yourself.
3) Healthier food
You can guarantee that the eggs you eat come from well looked after, healthy chickens, not from hens who live in batteries or are kept in cramped, unnatural settings like huge factory farm sheds where they only have a few feet of space and only ever get electric lighting. Hens that live in a stress free, natural environment in small flocks, like you can provide, will produce the most nutritional and tastiest eggs and live a better life.
4) Rewarding hobby
Keeping chickens is a hobby. It will get you out of the house and more connected to nature – even if you live in a city. It’s enjoyable, rewarding and can be really stimulating. There’s lots of new things you can learn and it can open the doors to new opportunities such as entering you hens for local and regional poultry shows.
For many people hen keeping is about doing things for themselves and taking control of their own lives. It brings you a genuine sense of self-fulfilment and makes you less reliant on big business. A real taste of the ‘Good Life’, not just in the Richard Briers and Felicity Kendall way, either.
6) A different type of pet
Chickens are great pets. I started looking after chickens when I was 9 and within a few years I was rearing them from the day they hatched. They had names and each bird had it’s own personality. It’s easy to get attached to these wonderful animals.
7) Good for children
Looking after chickens can help your children become more responsible and caring. For me, as a 9 year old, it gave me the responsibility of feeding them, mucking out, collecting the eggs and checking them for health problems. It was something, as a young boy that I was proud of. I used to take my hens into school and give talks about how to look after them. To this day, I have had a real connection with animal welfare and a respect or nature. This can benefit your children too.
8) Inexpensive conservation
There are some quite rare breeds out there and there’s a need for people to take up keeping them to keep the breed going. If you are a budding conservationist you can do this relatively cheaply. You can purchase three hens for approximately thirty pounds, buy a ready made, quality chicken coop and run for a couple of hundred pounds and you can feed them all for around 25p a day. So if you were thinking about taking on a rare breed but were put off by idea it would be expensive, then don’t. Essentially, the money you save on eggs, means they pay for themselves.
9) Home raised meat
If you’re so inclined you can also raise chickens for meat as well as eggs. You won’t be able to do this if you become too attached to your hens, but many people do raise chickens for the table. Once again, you’ll be eating meat that you know has been raised well and whose diet and health you are familiar with. It won’t be full of hormones, have been stuffed with fattening corn and had the meat pumped with water in a factory to make it heavier and more expensive. Though there is the issue of having to kill the bird – which is something you would need to resolve to go through.
10) Raise and sell chickens to others
Buy yourself a cockerel and you could raise and sell chickens to others. Without a cockerel, the eggs that are produced are unfertilised and can’t be hatched. However, if you introduce a male to the flock, you can then raise chickens from the egg. You can do this by letting a broody hen sit on the eggs until hatched, or by using an incubator. Once the chickens are reared and about a year old you can sell them. Be wary though, whilst pullets ( young females) can be easy to sell because they lay eggs, young males find a much harder time finding a home. Unfortunately, you can’t tell the sex of the chick when it’s in the egg so you never know what you will get until they hatch. It may be that the young cockerels end up being shipped to the butchers if you cannot find a home.
Can you think of other benefits of keeping chickens? If so let us know in the comments and share your ideas with our other readers.