There are many reasons why people choose to raise backyard chickens. Some want to go green, some want the eggs or meat, others want pets, and still others are looking for a combination of practicality and fun. Whatever the reason, raising chickens can be an incredibly environmentally friendly activity.
Go Green: Cut Down on Waste
Every year, 35 million tons of food waste ends up in landfills where it breaks down and produces methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. One way you can reduce your household food waste is by feeding it to your chickens.
Chickens are fantastic composters for your kitchen scraps. They’ll eat pretty much anything — fruit and vegetable skins, bread, oatmeal, pasta, etc. However, just like all animals, there are things that can make them ill and should be avoided. You can see an extensive list of what scraps you can feed your flock (as well as which ones not to toss their way) here.
Chickens take care of more than just food waste — they’re also handy in getting rid of yard waste. About 33 tons of yard trimmings make their way to landfills each year, taking up much-needed space. If you don’t already compost your yard waste, consider throwing it in the chicken run. Chickens love grass trimmings! A quick word of caution: Make sure grass is untreated and short, as long blades of grass can ball up in a chicken’s crop.
Kitchen scraps and yard trimmings make tasty treats, but in order to be sure your chickens are getting the nutrition they need to stay healthy and lay strong eggs, always supplement with a proper feed.
A Gardener’s Best Friend
Chickens are quite possibly a gardener’s greatest tool. Check out the following three ways your flock can help you out around the garden.
Chicken manure can be added to the compost pile and used as a highly nutritious fertilizer for the garden. In fact, chicken manure is one of the most desirable manures due to its high nutrient level. It’s very high in nitrogen and also contains a good amount of potassium and phosphorus.
Unfortunately, the high nitrogen in chicken manure can be dangerous to plants if the manure has not been properly composted. Raw chicken manure can burn, and even kill, plants. Make sure to compost it well in order to mellow the nitrogen and make the manure an efficient fertilizer.
Your chickens’ eggs are also beneficial for your garden. Because of their high calcium concentration, they can be used as wonderful fertilizer. What’s more, jagged eggshells in the garden bed deter slugs and snails. Find more information on using eggshells in the garden here.
Safe Pest Control
If you’re like me, you hate using commercial pesticides in your garden. I personally hate the idea of killing any beneficial insects in the hopes of getting rid of a few pests. Luckily, a flock of chickens is a great excuse to ditch the pesticides in favor of a natural approach. Chickens will happily pluck up any unwanted insects and pests in your yard — from beetles and grasshoppers to slugs and ticks.
Chickens are notorious for ridding gardens of invasive weeds. As they scratch at the ground, they eat and disperse weed seeds that have blown in. Like grass trimming, most weeds you pull can go straight into your chickens’ feed bucket. Many backyard weeds are extremely nutritious, containing a variety of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. This can be especially helpful in the winter when fresh greens are scarce. See a list of weeds chickens love to eat here.
Reduce Your Carbon Footprint
It’s estimated that 13 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions result from the production and transport of food. By keeping a source of food in your own backyard, you can minimize your carbon footprint as there is no transport required. Furthermore, you don’t have to support industrial farms that keep hens in such close, inhumane quarters that they cannot stretch their legs or wings, walk around, or participate in normal social behaviors.
Eco-Friendly Chicken Keeping
There’s no doubt that chickens can help you live a more eco-friendly life, but you can pursue this green trend further in your chicken-keeping duties.
- Use recycled materials to build your chicken coop, nesting boxes and feeders.
- If you employ electric fencing to deter predators, use a solar charger.
- Make your own organic chicken feed.
- Give surplus eggs to neighbors and friends to help reduce their carbon footprint as well.
Chickens are delightful creatures. Not only will they help you live a greener life, they’ll provide you with delicious eggs and hours of entertainment. For more information on chickens and their eco-friendly behaviors, view the following resources:
- Your Own Nest Egg: Keeping Backyard Chickens
- Chickens & Composting
- Chickens for Pest Control
- The Straight Poop on Using Chicken Manure as Fertilizer
Would you consider keeping backyard chickens? Do you already? What has been your experience? Share your comments below!
Feature image credit: Amy Kerkemeyer / Shutterstock