Why Keep Chickens
Monday 28 November 2011
The main reasons for small scale poultry keeping are:
- Chickens as a Pet or Hobby
- Saving Money - the Economics of Home Produced Eggs.
- Better Poultry Welfare Standards
- Nutrional Safety and Benefits
There are, of course, a few reasons not to keep chickens.
- Why not to keep chickens
Chickens as a Pet or Hobby
Some people can see the attraction in keeping chickens as a pet, with the benefit of some eggs as well. They may not be as trainable as a dog but they are appealing creatures with their gentle clucking.
They also enjoy keeping and breeding fancy breeds, which they can show. Some of these are really spectacular in appearance with brightly coloured plumage.
Saving Money - the Economics of Home Produced Eggs
You can save money by keeping your own hens for the eggs but not a lot. What you can do is enjoy the other benefits of keeping your own hens and know it is not actually costing you anything to enjoy a superior product.
Some calculations show that keeping three chickens at home will, ignoring the cost of your labour, provide a modest profit against buying free-range eggs and yet more profit over buying quality organic eggs.
Better Poultry Welfare Standards
One compelling reason for keeping your own chickens is that their life will be better and you need not feel the guilt of knowing your food comes from cruelty.
It’s also well known that the giant supermarket chains are not generous with their suppliers and those suppliers have additional costs for labour, labelling equipment and distribution to accept. In fact, you wonder how they do it.
Something has to be squeezed and looking at the regulations for poultry keeping, the animal welfare is one area that they squeeze.
We are not suggesting any breach in regulations or talking about small producers selling from the farm gate. Even if we scrupulously buy ‘free range eggs’ rather than battery eggs, the welfare standards may well be below what we expect as lay people.
Eggs are an important foodstuff and the marketing of eggs could be argued to mislead the consumer.
Nutrional Safety and Benefits of Eggs
Eggs purchased from the supermarket or shops are generally of high quality and freshness. No longer do people have to break an egg into a cup to check it hasn’t gone off before use.
Despite that, most home keepers of chickens and their friends would tell you that their eggs are far superior to shop bought eggs of whatever type.
Control of the diet and a more varied diet can contribute towards nutritional value so our own eggs may well be healthier for us.
There is scientific evidence that free-range eggs contain higher amounts of folic acid and Vitamin B12 and Vitamin A than battery eggs. Home kept chickens, with a more varied diet than commercial free range may well be better for us than that.
Of much greater concern and importance to the consumer is the evidence of potentially dangerous drug, hormone and antibiotic residues in commercial eggs.
Free range does not mean organic and the commercial free-range producer may well utilise feedstuffs that contain these additives. We are what we eat and the accumulation of these micro toxins in our systems could be having unforeseen effects.
Why Not to Keep Chickens
Some people are quite phobic about birds.
- Lack of suitable space - although you can keep chickens in a fairly small area
- Health concerns - concerns over Avian Flu are overstated, it is a concern at time of writing.
- Waste disposal - chickens produce manure but if you can not use it just find a gardener who can.
- Local regulation may prevent you from keeping poultry in your garden.
- Like any pet, you need to arrange someone to look after your chickens when you are not there.
Source: The Poultry Pages
by John Harrison