Thrifty Chicks

03/04/2012 2:40 pm · 9 comments

by Alison

Falling in Love with your Family by Alison

There’s a wave sweeping the country and it carries a faint chirping sound.  The backyard chicken trend is making chicken-raising almost as commonplace as zucchini-growing.  Even major cities have passed ordinances allowing chickens, and I’m happy to say my own town of Caldwell Idaho recently passed ordinances allowing up to 10 hens after some lively city council meetings.  My family is starting over again with another chicken project after our last batch was visited by a neighbor’s pit pull (grrrr…..). Sure, there aren’t many critters cutter than a baby chick, but is keeping chickens thrifty?

Here are some of the reasons my family loves chickens:

1. They are fun little pets that can be quite tame when you handle them from birth.

2. Their waste is great compost for the garden.

3. They love to eat kitchen leftovers!  Chickens need their chicken feed to stay healthy and make eggs with nice hard shells, but ours are heavily supplemented with grass from the yard, wilted lettuce from the fridge, and even the daily scraps from picky kids’ plates.  Chickens can eat almost everything (with only a few exceptions) and they seem to love the variety.  I have even seen our chickens play the most hilarious football game with a corn dog dropped in the yard.  They chased each other, picked up fumbles, and ran all over until the corn dog was gone.  Hardly any food goes to waste with chickens.  I think it is nothing short of miraculous that yesterday’s leftover oatmeal is recreated as today’s lovely egg.

4. Chickens eat bugs if you keep them free-range, or allow them to wander through the yard in the evenings.  Because kids and chicken poop don’t mix well in our small yard, we keep our chickens in a big coop with a fenced run for their exercise.  We often let them out to eat bugs and play with the kids.

5. They don’t bark.  Most people aren’t bothered by the clucking sounds hens make.  (But beware, you may occasionally get a loudmouth chicken with an attitude.) When shopping for most chicken breeds, you will know if you are getting a hen or a louder rooster before you make the purchase.

6. The eggs are nutrient-rich.  Because the backyard chicken’s diet is much more diverse than the typical mass produced egg from mega-farm raised chickens, you’ll notice a deeper orange yolk, showing extra vitamins, amino-acids, and carotenoids.

7. They are pets that can be held and played with, while also teaching kids responsibility.

8. Perhaps the best reason I like my chickens are for food safety and self-reliance.  When there is a salmonella scare, I have always stopped using store eggs.  With our own small flock, we are less scared of contamination.  And if there are ever food shortages, I’ll still be able to eat my omelets.  (And if worse comes to worse, I guess we could even eat our chickens.)

So, there are lots of good reasons to keep chickens.  But are they thrifty?  The easy answer is…maybe.  If you buy regular old eggs for a dollar a dozen, don’t use them very often, and calculate start-up costs and feed costs, you’d probably save a little bit.  But, if you value free-range or organic eggs at three dollars a dozen, you would save a bundle.  The eggs you raise in your backyard are so much better for your health and they are as fresh as they come.

But the real thriftiness of chickens comes from choosing a chicken as a family pet.  Even a hamster or guinea pig start-up would probably cost more, and rodents don’t give you food back for your trouble.  Our start-up costs this time around were $46.00 from Dunlap Hatchery, including a bag of feed, the cedar shavings for bedding, heat light bulb, feeder, waterer, and several chicks.  We already had the heat lamp, thermometer, and books on raising chickens.  As they get bigger, they need a coup.  We built ours from leftover scrap wood from the set of a play and some chicken wire.  You can get more information on buying all sorts of different chicks and the supplies they need at www.dunlaphatchery.net.  For information on the amazing breeds, coup styles, chicken-raising basics, and testimonials from true chicken-lovers, you can visit my family’s go-to site,  www.backyardchickens.com.  Spring is the season for starting baby chicks.

This is in no way meant to be an exhaustive study of chicken-raising, but if you are in the market for a family pet plus some tasty home-raised eggs, maybe this post will get you thinking thrifty and thinking chickens. 

 

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9 comments
Paige
Paige

Love this post! We started raising chickens last year, and you listed all of my pro-chicken arguments. I didn't know how much fun it would be. I love to go out and talk to my chickens, and let them out to roam when I am gardening or puttering in the yard. We have three grown gals outside, and 5 new chicks growing in the basement right now. The eggs are still expensive when you consider all the costs, but I consider them as pets that happen to lay wonderful eggs.

Debbie
Debbie

Tonya, I was afraid my chickens would be loud, but they are really not. (Especially when compared to neighborhood dogs.) I have six banty hens. They get a little loud if their water freezes, or is empty. And it is a rare chicken indeed that is raised by a family that will sneak up on you. If that happened, as with a dog or cat, I would have to get rid of that particular animal. Dont let two fears keep you from the wonderful experience of having a few chickens. Though, I dont think I could eat any of my girls, I do enjoy their eggs. Our chickens are a wonderful edition to our menagerie. My cats and dogs leave them alone, though the chickens try to lay with them sometimes.

Jamie
Jamie

I have my own chickens. Have had them for going on 4 years. It helps that I live in the country, so my neighbors are over a mile away. I am up to 33 laying hens and a few smaller ones for fun. One thing I want to caution you on is using their manure for your garden. It works very well however it is very acidic and can actually cause damage if you use too much of it. I learned that the hard way!! Put too much in and it can actually burn your plant's root systems.

Catherine R.
Catherine R.

We have two chickens, they are both different. One is a regular looking chicken and the other looks like a fluffy crow with a yellow body and someone splatter paint on it! One thing I do not like about chickens are the molting stage. The look of them just makes me want to gag, when they have pinfeathers it looks like bones from a fish and I hate that! Our two girls are not loud or mean at all, they are only loud if they see someone coming out with food. A funny thing is they always try to escape in the house. If we have that backdoor open just a little they try pushing it open and come inside. I love them, just be prepared when it comes to molting. [img]http://athriftymom.com/pic upload/clucksyimg.jpg[/img] Here is a picture of one trying to sneak in while I was taking pictures of food!

Amy
Amy

I want my own chickens so badly! I have pinned cute coops and how-to articles on Pinterest, talked to my neighbors nearby and not one had issues with us having a few. Too bad our HOA says no and my yard is too small. That's why the name of my chickens-on-the-backyard Pinterest board is "Someday".

Misha
Misha

Chickens aren't loud...we have 6. They are nice :) If you have a whole barn, YES, they're loud. If you have multiple roosters, YES, they're loud. Stinky...but great little eaters, they munch all of our kitchen scraps (no meat). We love our chickens and their eggs. So do our children...

Alison M
Alison M

Tonya, I have come by a few loud chickens for sure, though most of them just cluck. I personally have never seen a mean chicken. I've heard that roosters can be aggressive, and some breeds are more flighty, but if you choose a docile breed and handle them from the time they are chicks, they can be pretty sweet animals. Sounds like you got a chicken bound for the crock-pot!

Tonya
Tonya

I think raising your own chickens is a very thrifty idea. There are only 2 drawbacks for me. (1) Chickens are very loud & (2) some chickens are mean. They will sneak up on you & scratch the daylights out of you if you aren't careful. Other than that, I love having fresh eggs & knowing I can cook me up a chicken if need be.

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