1) The eggs. This is without doubt the number one reason people choose to own chickens. Apart from the appeal of a continuous, free supply of eggs, home-grown eggs simply taste better! When you compare the living conditions and diet of home-raised chickens with factory-produced eggs, it’s really no wonder. Home-grown eggs have yellower yolks, are larger, and just generally taste better. Not to mention that they are for more nutritious than shop eggs. They have less than 1/3 of the cholesterol and saturated fat, and are higher in vitamins A and E and in Omega 3.
2) Gardening and bug control. Chickens have endless benefits and applications in the garden, from eating just about every bug in sight to producing great fertiliser.
3) As pets. Surprisingly for some, chickens make great pets. Each chicken is unique, with its own personality and looks. Small-flock owners often name and spend time with each of their chickens to get to know them. There are countless breeds of chickens, each with different qualities. Some breeds, such as Silkies or Pekins, are particularly suited as pets for young children. As pets go, they are also very inexpensive and low maintenance, especially compared to common household pets such as cats and dogs. Chickens are also really funny to watch, and some people have even been known to house-train their chicken!
4) Family history. People who have grown up with chickens are much more likely to keep them as adults.
5) An aversion to the commercial egg or poultry industry. If you’ve ever looked into this, you’d probably develop an aversion to it, too. The conditions in which “cage” or “barn” egg chickens are kept are beyond disgusting. To be honest, the commercial “free-range” conditions aren’t much better, either. Cage chickens are kept in cages in which they are barely able to move around, and which are never cleaned, with artificial lighting so that they lay twice a day. Meat birds (aka “broilers”) have been genetically modified almost beyond recognition as a chicken, kept in (if possible) worse conditions, and only allowed to live 6 to 8 weeks.
6) Meat. While this may disgust many people, there are still people out there (myself included) who raise chickens partially or entirely for meat. This choice may stem from an aversion to the conditions in which broilers are kept, or an aversion to the broilers themselves, as a desire to not eat genetically-modified and medicated meat. Broilers have had all the brains bred out of them (seriously, we kept broilers for a couple of weeks and they were so stupid. Most chickens are fairly intelligent), and they’re actually unable to live much longer than 10 weeks at maximum, because they become to heavy to be able to support themselves (consider, please, that a normal chicken takes 15 weeks to reach full size and 25 weeks to reach maturity). Heart and leg deformities are also very common in broilers.
7) Food scraps. Chickens will eat any and all food scraps. This is important for a lot of people, who want to cut down on how much waste they produce.
8) Showing. Some people raise chickens, particularly rare or fancy breeds, for the sole purpose of showing them.
9) A desire to live on a farm which cannot be fulfilled because the individual lives in the city, or a desire to feel a closer connection with the food chain. Chickens take up a lot less room than other farm animals; most city blocks can comfortable fit a couple of chickens in the yard. It’s also important, in this highly industrialised age where people are so removed from their food, that they learn a little bit more about where their food actually comes from. When children in the cities can be so ignorant about the basics of agriculture and food, it can be great fun for them to have a couple of chickens in their backyard (or to visit someone with chickens in their backyard).
10) The eggs. Backyard and free-range eggs are in high demand, especially in the cities and other urban areas. It’s an easy way to make a little pocket money.
While there are, of course, many more reasons why people may choose to own chickens, I wanted to keep the number to 10. As for myself – why do I keep chickens? Well, I’m probably a classic case of no. 4. My father kept chickens when I was small. His mother kept chickens. Her family probably kept chickens. You get the idea.
I also had a couple of other reasons, too, although those mostly came after the initial decision to keep chickens. 1, 3, 5, 6, and 10, all factor into my decision to raise my own poultry. I can guarantee that home-grown eggs look and taste a lot nicer than shop-bought eggs (I can actually tell within moments whether it’s a “real” egg or a “shop” one.
Now, while I certainly don’t recommend that everyone go out and buy a breeding flock (at least a dozen hens and one rooster) and start hatching out hundreds of chicks a year, I definitely encourage everyone to buy a couple of chooks! A good layer costs between $15 and $25 at a grain-and-fodder shop, and closer to $10 if you use something like Gumtree and buy directly from the breeder, and as I said, chickens can be kept on most city blocks. I know this for a fact, because I lived on your average city block until I was fourteen, and most of the people on my street owned a couple of chickens. Chickens don’t require all that much room – two metres or so per bird is usually plenty – and they are very low-maintenance and surprisingly clean.
Start a trend! Buy some chickens!