The sun is just kissing the horizon and there he goes. That bold rooster, letting the world know he is there! Cacadoooodledoooooo!!! A lovely reminder that today is a new day and there are things to do! A reminder that you have a little flock of chickens and that hopefully they have left you a little present. This present is an amazing gift that empowers your day! Nothing is more satisfying than walking outside to see your cheery birds; reaching into the nest box and grabbing out a warm, freshly laid egg. Then, cracking this egg into your skillet to see a bright orange, perky egg yolk standing up saying, “Good morning!!!” is the only way to start your day.
My first exposure to chickens was when I met my boyfriend, Joe. He and some roommates were renting a house a little way away from our college campus. They raised their six Jersey Giants from chicks and I met them while they were just starting to lay eggs. They all laid an egg every single day! Once spring came around we not only enjoyed their eggs, but also enjoyed spending the afternoons with them. We set up some lawn couches outside and let the chickens run free. And run free they did. One second they were climbing on the lawn sofas and taking dirt baths, then sprinting in unison across the entire yard in hopes of finding a worm. I am extremely fond of watching feathery butts waddle franticly away from me. It is definitely one of my favorite forms of entertainment. Chickens are not only great friends to have around, but they provide you with food, pest control, fertilizer, and more.
Right now my partner Joe and I are living at Sparkroot Farm, a microfarm near coastal North Carolina, where we get to spend time with all kinds of animals, including eighteen chickens. You can’t have a permaculture homestead without some chickens!
As a food source, chickens provide super nutritious eggs every day, and once they stop laying, at roughly three years of age, they go great in the crock pot.
The great thing about having your own chickens is that you get to control their diet and their lifestyle. You have the assurance that your chickens are happy chickens, and that they are getting the kind of food a chicken should eat. Here at Sparkroot, we keep the chickens in movable “tractors,” which are large fenced-in cages. We move them every day so they get plenty of bugs and grasses. We also toss them out to poke around on our compost, which they spread out and kick around, eating any left overs they want. They also get grain as a supplement on top of all that.
When, or if, you harvest chickens for meat, you get to collect some feathers, which I love using in all kinds of crafts. You can even use rooster feathers to make fly fishing lures. The day you harvest the chickens, you also get some amazing paté from the livers, you get some hearts, and you get gizzards, a treat prized by many. You also have the assurance that your chickens had a swift, clean death.
It makes you appreciate the food you are eating so much more when you know what goes into the animal’s life. You value the meat you are eating, rather than just buying a slab of meat from the grocery that doesn’t even look like an animal had to die in order for you to get it into your shopping cart. You become connected to your food! Imagine that!
Also, chickens are an amazing pest control. We keep them in movable tractors so they don’t bother the garden, but they are controlling the bugs nonetheless. With ticks being everywhere, it’s comforting to know you have little minions on patrol keeping the numbers down. And all the bugs they eat get turned into protein in your eggs and meat! A win-win!
Joe and I came to Sparkroot from a farm out in Oregon where we were planting on a larger scale. To build their soils, the farmers there ordered and applied pallet loads of organic fertilizer by the bag – chicken poop in pellet form. Well, on a small homestead or in a backyard chicken coop, you get plenty of nitrogen-filled fertilizer all the time, as a byproduct!
We get the best compost during the winter, when we keep the chickens in one spot. We throw all our compost to them, and toss in some straw at the same time. The chickens are like a well-lubricated machine, turning the compost with their little clawed feet, eating and pooping and pecking. All this builds up and up, providing the chickens with a heated floor all winter, and providing us with rich fertilizer to spread all over the garden beds, come spring time. You could barely find a shred of food in the new soil – an avocado pit here and there, but the worms were endless. It’s great when you let nature do all the work for you.
So when all is said and done, and you’re asking yourself if chickens are right for you, I think you should really consider the wonders these animals provide, simply by existing. Not only can you say you own little dinosaurs, but you also have a reliable food source, a steady source of fertilizer, a garbage disposal, pest control, and a new form of entertainment! I highly recommend watching them run around the yard every once in a while so you can share in the love of feathery butts waddling at high speed – a sight to behold! Having backyard chickens will add color to an already beautiful day.
Want to keep a flock of girls all your own? Sign up for the upcoming Intro to Backyard Poultry DIY Workshop with Audrey Williams & Amy Crawford at Crawford Dairy, Chapel Hill, NC.
There you will learn all you need to know to get started, including all the basics, such as differences between breeds, habitat and feed requirements, coop styles and seasonal concerns. Learn from experienced teachers and see a small scale flock in action. Find out what makes chickens happy. With a little knowledge, you can easily care for chickens and enjoy an abundance of delicious eggs.
About the Author:
Sarah Anne Rohlfing has a BS in Marine Biology from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. She decided she likes farming better than fish. Her blog at www.lifecycle108.blogspot.com chronicles her travels around the United States, wwoofing, farming and exploring with her other half, Joe. She enjoys listening to podcasts, cooking, learning about the upsides of rewilding, discovering her true nature through planting, wild-foraging, healing arts and hand-crafting. She farms, frolics and free-ranges at Sparkroot Farm with the rest of the humans.