I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts, “This is Only a Test,” from Tested.com, while I was working in the shop the other day. It was the episode titled Mr. and Mrs. Smith Part 2. Will was trying to talk his wife into getting backyard chickens. She was dead set against it, stating all kinds of excuses, from how hard it would be to care for them to how much they would disturb their neighbors.
There seems to be a stigma against chickens as pets in general. When my wife and I were houses hunting earlier this year, almost every HOA would not allow backyard chickens. However, they would always allow dogs. This is completely backward as far as I`m concerned; HOAs should ban dogs, not chickens. Just ask my mailman; he is not scared of being bitten by my chickens.
People always seem to be concerned with chickens making noise. On the contrary, chickens are very quiet; the roosters are the ones who make all the noise. So, of course, don’t want to get a roster; they aren’t going to provide you with breakfast and will just piss off your neighbors (Unless pissing off your neighbors is your goal). However, your hens will quietly cluck around your yard, eating bugs and slugs protecting your garden. The only time they will make any loud noise is if a predator is attaching them or when a rather large egg is being laid. That just goes to show childbirth can be painful in any species. Other than that, they are very quiet, especially if you compare them to your neighbors’ dogs. Just think about how many times you have laid awake at night because your neighbor’s dog is barking like crazy. I can tell you I have had plenty of neighbors leave for the evening, leaving their dogs in the backyard to bark all night. Chickens instinctively go to the safety of the coop at night to roost, sleeping quietly until the sun is up.
Another misconception is that a chicken coop smells bad. If you have a good chicken coop design, your coop will be easy to clean and smell less than that pile your dog left for you. I have designed my coop so that the bottom is lined with a sheet of vinyl attached to a hinged board. This way, I can roll up the wheel borrow, flip down the hinged board and rake out the old sawdust and droppings; off to the compost pile, it fertilizes next year’s garden. I added a fresh layer of pine chips to absorb next month’s droppings. It only takes about 10 minutes to clean the coop, and I do it once every other month. There is little to no smell with this system, as for the droppings that they leave in the lawn or garden when they are foraging for food. Those can easily be washed away with a garden hose, and those have little to no smell.
When you unexpectedly step in chicken poop, if far less drama to deal with that than when stepping in dog poop. How many times have you unsuspectedly stepped in a pile of dog poop and got into your car? Now you are driving along, getting a whiff of that dog poop smell as it is accidentally ground into the upholstery. You then pull over and try to scrape it off in the grass to no avail. It is just too sticky. Chicken poo does not smell nearly as strong; they are a lot smaller piles (unless you have one of those wanna-be dogs that are more rat than dog) and are much easier to wipe off the bottom of your shoe in the grass. That is if you step in it in the first place.
Additionally, how many times has your neighbor been walking his dog and letting it poo on your lawn and doesn’t bother to clean it up. He just walks on as if nothing has happened. I can say with certainty that you don’t have to take your chicken for a walk, and if you do and it does poo on your neighbor’s lawn, he should be thanking you for fertilizing for him.
Another misguided concern I have heard is that you can get salmonella from your backyard chickens. If your chickens are properly cared for, and you wash your hands after handling them, you should never have a problem. In fact, according to the American Egg Board, only one in twenty thousand eggs have been found with salmonella in them. To put this into perspective, that means that you will only run into one egg every 84 years that has salmonella in it. Even then, if you cook it properly, you will kill the bacteria and not get sick. The truth is, the food that your backyard chickens provide will not only taste better but will be a lot healthier for you and your family to eat over store-bought eggs.
When comparing your backyard chickens eggs to those at the grocery store, they contain:
1/3 less cholesterol
1/4 less saturated fat
2/3 more vitamin A
2 times more omega 3 fatty acids
3 times more vitamin E
7 times more beta-carotene
My source of the above facts came from the book “A Chicken in Every Yard” by Robert & Hanna Litt” You can purchase one from the Urban Farm Store in Portland, Oregon. I`m sure if you call them, they will be happy to ship you one if you live out of the area.
In addition, your chickens will not be pumped full of hormones and antibiotics. I don’t know about you but I would rather not eat food that has those things in them.
You will also be able to rest assured that your chickens are being treated humanely and not raised in a barn so crowded that they can hardly turn around, and don’t think it is more humane to buy eggs at the grocery store that are marketed as cage-free or free range. Those chickens are not treated any better than caged birds. You can find numerous instances online, but here is one example that will make you want to raise your own birds. www.upc-online.org/freerange.html
This stigma against backyard chickens is unfortunate, and I think is fostered by people that just have not experienced how great these pets can be or are scared of the unknown. I mean, really, does your dog provide you with breakfast every morning or just wake you up extra early because he wants outside to poop.
Most HOA has a clause where you can change the rules if most homeowners agree, so if you live in one of these areas, don’t give up. Educate your neighbors, buy them the book I quoted in this post, and you may successfully get your own chickens. If your spouse is the only thing preventing you from getting chickens, I say just go for it. I mean, really, what is a few nights on the couch anyways? Once they experience how awesome chickens are, they will get over it.
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