Ten Reasons to Keep Backyard Chickens

Kim Burnell is a Southern California-based event hostess, recipe developer (and curator), edible-garden keeper, and backyard-chicken warrior at the Rustic Garden Bistro. In between hosting cookbook/author launch parties, supper club dinners, and living room jazz concerts, Kim blogs about her latest recipe triumphs, gardening gems, and fourteen chickens. Behind the scenes, she’s scouting properties to run a Bed and Breakfast, complete with a gourmet brunch, cozy bistro, edible landscaping and… backyard chickens! Connect with Kim on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

Ten Reasons to Keep Backyard Chickens

10. To broaden your culinary arsenal.

Let’s face it, when you have a flock of chickens, you’re rollin’ in the eggs. Take me, for example. I have flock of 14 hens. In a typical day, one’s broody, one’s molting, and a couple of others are otherwise takin’ the day off. I’m still collecting about ten eggs per day. That’s a heck of a lot of eggs for a family of two to work with. So in the past year, I’ve done the following: scramble eggs, fry eggs, poach eggs, four-minute eggs, whip eggs, coddle eggs, quiche eggs, six-minute eggs, soufflé eggs, freeze eggs, temper eggs… you get the point. I promise you, I wouldn’t have mastered the five-minute #unprocessed hollandaise sauce if I didn’t have my chickens. With your own flock, you too, can be master of the egg.

Soufflé

9. To eat fresh food.

So to reiterate: commercially packaged chicken eggs are already 3-4 weeks old by the time you buy them. Then think about how long they sit in your fridge before you actually eat them. Tip: Check for a three-digit number printed on the side of your commercially packaged carton. That number corresponds to the calendar day that the eggs were collected. 001 = January 1, 002 = January 2, and so on. Do a Google search to see what day that number corresponds to, then determine how “fresh” your eggs really are. In summary, backyard chicken eggs are the freshest eggs you’ll ever get your hands on.

8. To flex your entrepreneurial skills.

So maybe you don’t have the time or desire to make 1,001 things with chicken eggs… So how ‘bout makin’ some money with your surplus?! When I started out, the goal was to have three chickens. I won’t tell you how I got to fourteen (#chickenmathfail), but that’s how many I‘ve got, so at the end of every week, I usually have about five dozen eggs. Keeping one dozen for myself, I still have four dozen eggs to offload. Then I tell everyone I know that the eggs they bought from the market are likely already a month old (See also: To eat fresh food). After I let them process the surprise, I slide into my sales pitch: “You can buy my pastured, free range, not to mention FRESH!!! and colorful chicken eggs for just $5/dozen. I collected them this morning. All proceeds go towards feeding and housing the ladies.” Then I mention my eggs are cheaper than Whole Foods. BOOM, sale! Done. And as of today, $190 cash in the basket.

Dozen Eggs

7. To supplement your doggie’s diet.

If you have a dog, and you’re all crazy-balls over her diet like I am with mine, you’ll want to save your eggshells. And if you keep chickens, you’ll have lots. Toast the eggshells in the oven, grind them down, then add a tablespoon to Fido’s #unprocessed dinner, and KA-POW! Your dog has all the calcium she needs for strong, healthy bones. Then experiment on how to make dog treats using eggshell powder. Or, ask me for the recipe. (See also: broadening culinary arsenal).

6. To give your kids responsibility.

In my kingdom, it’s never too early to teach a kid about responsibility, and egg collection is a wonderful daily (or twice daily) chore. Should you choose to pay your kid five, or even ten cents an egg, you’ll still come out ahead. Want to dish out more responsibility? Teach ‘em about gardening. Get together to fill some empty eggshells… Add soil, plant seeds, give them some water, and watch something grow.

Chicken Egg Crafts

5. To fuel your compost bin.

If you compost, you know you need poop. Lots and lots of poop. Most people get it by buying bags of cow poop, but if you have chickens… guess what?! They poop! They poop a lot… So all you gotta do is scoop it up and add it to your pile. Done, BAM, ecology at its finest.

4. To cure you of the blues.

The next time you have a bad day, go outside and pull up a stool. Then just watch your chickens for a bit. Better, stick an iPhone in their faces and watch them ham it up for the camera. At my house, observing the fluffy butts is called “chicken tee-vee.” An episode of just 10-15 minutes is enough to free me from all of my woes. Bonus: it’s cheaper than cable and available all day. Unfortunately, DVR doesn’t work here.

Chicken TV!

3. To source your own protein.

An average-sized egg contains about 6 grams of protein. Wouldn’t it be awesome if you could get this out of your own backyard? And if you also have a produce garden, think of the combinations and permutations of food ingredients you could put together to make something edible. Then challenge yourself to see what you come up with (See also: broadening culinary arsenal), and take pride in knowing just how much you’ve reduced your grocery bill.

2. To cut back on your landscaping expenses.

Chickens spend all day pecking and scratching… pecking and scratching. In the process, they have a magical ability to eradicate any garden of the peskiest weeds. So give your gardener a day off, and put your chickens to work. In just a short amount of time, your weedy patch will become a barren brownscape. When you’re ready to re-plant, skip the dirt turning and the fertilizing; the chickens will have done all that already. Bonus: the extra chlorophyll in their diet (from eating all the greens) will turn your egg yolks from medium yellow to dark orange.

First two backyard chicken eggs

1. To be the coolest kid on the block.

It’s true. Once you’re in the club, you’ll be everyone’s best friend. Long-lost family members will show up on your doorstep, friends will surface from the shadows, neighbors will lurk over their fences. And everyone will ask the same question: Can we have some chicken eggs?! (See also: flex your entrepreneurial skills.) Feel free to impress everyone with all of your chicken-keeping trivia. Did you know that a chicken’s earlobes determined their eggshell color? Red lobes = brown eggs. White lobes = white eggs. Blue lobes = blue eggs. Or that Roosters are so chivalrous that they stand-by at feeding time to let the ladies eat first, or that they’ll throw their bodies down over a hen to protect her when a hawk is flying overhead? Did you know you could even clicker-train a chicken to recognize shapes and colors? Or how about the fact that their pecking order is so well-established that they roost in the same spot, every single night?

Finally, let me reiterate that chickens are all-around awesome to keep around the yard. Want some eggs?! I’ll be happy to sell them to ya for $5/dozen. You should know that they were collected this morning.

Morning Eggs

Want more chicken fun? Check out this guest post from the 2010 challenge: Backyard Chickens Have the Good Life.

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59 Comments on "Ten Reasons to Keep Backyard Chickens"

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Cheryl
Guest

Nice, Kim! My parents had chickens in the early years of my Dad’s retirement and they were his babies. He even built furniture for their yard. 🙂 I loved the fresh eggs! Thanks for sharing your story.

Stacy Spensley
Contributor

True story: I had some eggs from Kim in the fridge and my mother-in-law asked if she had dyed them (see: chicken earlobes).

Can’t wait to build our chicken coop!

Janis
Guest

So my parents have chickens on their farm and they run free but they’re up on the porch pooping, they tore up my mothers plants they make quite a mess. So it’s hard to convince my husband to get them, I totally want to get chickens but I don’t want chicken poop everywhere but I also want them to enjoy themselves, any suggestions?

Cindy
Guest

My husband was the one that wanted the chickens, then when we got them he was upset at what they were doing to his gardens too…..so we just built them a small run off the coop and ordered a portable one where we can move them to different parts of the yard but keep them out of the gardens…..they love being able to explore different parts of the yard.

Dorothy Reinhold
Contributor

I want chickens, and moreso after reading this! However, the coyotes roam freely where I live (and sadly, snatched one of my cats a few years ago), so I think it isn’t wise. HOWEVER, I have always wondered what you do when you travel? Do you have to hire a chicken babysitter to come and tend to them once or twice a day? Seriously…just wondering how that works.

Cindy
Guest

Dorothy….the portable run we purchased can be bought with a charger, either electric, battery or solar…..that would take care of your coyote.
When we leave town we hire the teenager next door, he lets them out in the morning makes sure they have food and clean water and closes the coop at night (they go in by themselves by 7)…..he said it was very easy and he loved earning the extra bucks!

griner
Guest

I have nice size runs, more than necessary…..have them in enclosed run and coop….coyotes, raccoons, foxes would devastate them in no time…..I have a board there to sit on when just visiting, they come all around me, curious, sit in my lap, hunch down to be picked up…..use same words everyday when walking up “Hello Ladies”….

Ebee
Guest

How much space does one need to have chickens? I echo the other commenters questions. Your list is great and convincing!

Patty
Guest

I always wondered how the different colors of eggs were determined. Now I know! Would love the option to have chickens, but living in the city with a postage stamp-sized backyard, not to mention VERY close neighbors, just not gonna happen. Love to read about them though. Great post.

Jeanne @JollyTomato
Guest

I would LOVE to have chickens and this inspires me even more…but I have some of the same questions as Patty and Dorothy. Would it work in a small backyard? And what do you do when you go on vacation – chicken-sitter?
Love the chicken pics! : )

Janis
Guest

I don’t know what other people do but when my parents go on vacation and we watch their chickens we just make sure they have food and water and they automatically go in their house at night so we would just shut the door and then let them out early in the morning…

Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom
Guest

Stupid question but how much space would I need to safely keep chickens at home? I would really love to do this. .

Alice @ Hip Foodie Mom
Guest

contacting Kim now directly with my question. .

Rachael Warrington
Guest

We have over a 100 laying hens. We love our chickens! They are fun to watch, fun to feed and we so enjoy the eggs. We also sell ours and love showing people how they can eat healthy and without breaking the bank.
We also have Bantams. We have six chicks that were unexpected and 3 roosters and one hen, where the eggs came from. They have such personalities, we never would have thought that. Two of the bantam roosters are very gentle and they take care of the one hen, they feed her, use their own bodies to protect her from the big chickens.
Backyard chickens are great fun and learning for everyone.

Arthur in the Garden!
Guest

They are an excellent way to recycle your garden and kitchen waste in to eggs/protien. I have never been able to kill one or clean it. One of the reasons I am mostly a vegetarian!

Judy at Two Broads Abroad
Guest

I’d love to have some chickens but the other half won’t have it. Love your reasons though. Nice article.

Laura Bashar
Contributor

I, too, would love to have chickens, but our hood won’t allow it. Another reason to move! LOL! Beautiful eggs! Next time you come to SD I’ll take a dozen!

Kate
Guest

Wonderful article! Getting chickens was one of the better decisions I’ve made. Now my dad cannot live without fresh eggs in the fridge. Its amazing how much money you can save if you eat eggs even on a semi regular basis. And they are so much more than barnyard animals.
Cukoo, my 2 year old golden hen is more loving than my own cat. She loves being carried around the yard and fed dried meal worms (totally rotten :p). My younger two golden hens are not as tame yet but I am working on them. My bantam ameraucana rooster (Earl Grey) is always doing something hilarious, and he too is completely rotten. I would love to get an ameraucana hen and breed little blue egg layers.

Eddie
Guest

You make me miss my girls! I use to have chickens but right now can’t do it. Love to hear about them though and someday I will get some more. To anyone who has the land and the desire, DO IT, everything Kim is saying is true. Just watching them will having you laughing sometimes. They beat any sitcom on tv hands down!

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