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Are Backyard Chickens Right For You?
There is a movement happening all across the United States bringing people back to the land. More and more people are starting gardens and more and more people are raising their own chickens. Yep, you read that right. This isn't the 1800's anymore but people all over are becoming chicken owners. Contrary to what most people think it doesn't even take much space. Even if you live in a suburban neighborhood or the city, chickens could work for you.
My husband and I have been researching chickens and coops for some time now and are in the midst of deciding whether it is the right thing for us. More and more it looks as if it is and we are trying to design a coop at the moment. But how did we come to this conclusion? What things do you need to look at to determine if chickens are right for you?
There are many coop designs that will house three or four chickens. These are small coops and many are moveable so that the chickens can forage all over your yard. They are also completely enclosed with wire mesh to keep your chickens safe. These types of coops are perfect for backyard chicken owners. But you need to make sure that your city or neighborhood will allow chickens. Most places don't have a law for or against them which is ideal in my opinion. Roosters are noisy and could be a problem, but you don't need a rooster to get eggs and most backyard chicken owners don't have roosters.
Owning laying hens is a commitment - a daily commitment. If you travel a lot chickens might not be the best option for you. They require care once or twice a day at minimum. If you are very serious about your chickens then you can automate things to some extent (I have a friend that has everything automated and they can leave for a week at a time). But for just a few chickens, it isn't that much work. The care you need to provide doesn't take that much time from what I have read. They need food and water - which in the winter can be difficult to keep from freezing. But as with anything there are solutions to this problem.
Chickens will naturally forage much of their own food, so you need to move their coop around or let them out each day for a few hours. Foraging for their own food is better for them and it makes better eggs, so as much as possible you want them to be able to forage. From what I have read and experienced here in Ohio winter can be tough. There aren't bugs around and the ground is covered in snow. Your chickens will need more food from you. That being said, with proper care chickens will survive just fine in the winter.
If you like having fresh eggs and are willing to make the daily commitment chickens could be right for you. Eating eggs right from your backyard is about as local as it gets and if you are trying to reduce your carbon footprint then owning chickens would help with that. If you garden, chickens are a natural process that could provide all the fertilizer and bug control you need to grow amazing vegetables, fruits and flowers.
From what we can tell, owning chickens can be a very rewarding experience. There are so many breeds to choose from and chickens can be quite friendly. I think the responsibility will be good for the kids and the fresh eggs are very appealing. The health benefits of free range eggs are tremendous, compared to regular eggs from the grocery store. I know that eggs are cheap in the store, but the way those chickens were raised to produce that egg is not good. It isn't right for animals to be treated that way and by not having to buy eggs from the supermarket anymore is a huge plus for me. If you are interested in raising chickens there are many online sites to help you get started. In fact there is so much information it can be overwhelming. But we are finding that it is worth it to figure it out and try our hand at raising our own chickens.