For me, there is nothing quite like having your very own backyard chickens. And I’m a big advocate for other Aussie families, from the burbs to the green belts, having hens of their own.
Why? Let’s explore the many benefits of backyard chickens:
1. Backyard chickens are great pets
Mention the word “pets” and people generally think of cats and dogs. But most people who have a few backyard chickens consider them just as much a part of the family as any other type of pet.
Depending on the breed, they can be very friendly – especially if handled from a young age. They are surprisingly intelligent. And they each have their own quirky personality. My girls even respond to me when I call them by name!
They are so much fun to watch and spend time with in the fresh outdoor air. And kids absolutely love them too.
2. Low maintenance
Part of what makes chickens great pets is that they are fairly low maintenance.
No brushing or bathing, no nail clipping, no cleaning out their ears. And unlike dog or cat hair, their feathers don’t wind up forever stuck to your clothes, furniture, car… everything!
Instead, chickens largely take care of themselves. Give them fresh food and water, of course, and regular treatment for worms and mites just like any furbaby. And ensure they have a secure, fox-proof coop to roost in (foxes roam many parts of Australia, including metropolitan areas).
But other than that, they will happily entertain themselves in your backyard during the day. They preen themselves. And even put themselves to bed each night!
3. Fresh eggs rule!
As a kid, I would never eat eggs. Not interested at all! That was until around age 10. We rescued a small flock of chickens from a commercial farm that had gone out of business.
Tasting that first home-grown egg, fresh from the nest, completely changed my outlook!
Fresh eggs have a much nicer flavour. They also poach so much better than store-bought ones, which can be several weeks old. Plus, you have some control as to how rich the yolks are – add corn to their diet and watch the yolks turn a deep, rich orange.
As an extra special treat, you may every now and then come across a double yolker egg – twice the golden goodness in a single shell!
4. Natural pest control
Slugs, snails, spiders, grubs are a thing of the past since our backyard chickens arrived.
They love picking caterpillars off low-hanging branches on the fruit trees. Dandelions and other broad-leaf weeds simply don’t exist. Curl grubs are a delicacy they dig up from the garden beds.
It sure beats spraying nasty chemicals around the yard!
5. Chemical-free fertiliser
Like all animals, chickens poop. A lot. And yes, sometimes on paths and patios where you really don’t them to.
But these little poop machines fertilise everywhere else they go too – fertilising the lawn, among the fruit trees, underneath the hedges… the works. Just water it in regularly and the magic happens below the surface.
Cleaning out their coop provides rich organic matter that goes into our compost, along with kitchen scraps and garden prunings.
Then, once nicely broken down, out it all comes to be turned through the garden beds. Backyard chicken fertiliser is great for providing flowering plants, fruit trees and veggies with loads of nutrients – without costing a cent!
6. Sustainable living
Free fertiliser isn’t the only role backyard chickens play in your own little ecosystem. Chickens eat just about anything, which means very little food waste going to landfill!
Virtually all our waste stays on our own property. Everything from fruit or veggie scraps and unused leftovers to stale bread or biscuits and hardened cheese can be sent their way. The few things they can’t or won’t eat, like banana peels, go into the compost instead.
You can even use oats to soak up fat in the frying pan then feed that to your girls. It’s a treat for them and a saviour for your sinks and drains.
Also, eggs sourced from your own backyard reduce fossil fuel consumption.
Think how much diesel was used to transport those eggs: from farm to distribution centre; distribution centre to supermarket; supermarket to your home. Not to mention the energy used in sorting, packing and refrigerating them.
7. Barter system
Our backyard chickens produce far more eggs than we use (thank you girls!). So we started supplying our neighbours with fresh eggs.
In gratitude, they began giving us things in return – baked goods made from the eggs; seasonal fruit and veggies from their own gardens; homemade cocktails, jams and even full meals… you name it!
We now effectively have a bartering system in our local community, where we share the spoils from living off the (suburban) land.
There is little waste since surpluses are distributed among our neighbours. And each household saves a few dollars by not having to buy those items. Everyone wins!