I grew up on an avocado farm and we had chickens. Some of my earliest memories are going to get eggs in the morning with my Dad. I so wish we could have chickens in our backyard. Our yard is big enough, but we have a pit bull and I am sure he wouldn’t actually kill them, but he would probably make them so nervous, they would never lay an egg! – Stephanie
Meet Feven, Daughter, and Gas Can, our three hens creatively named by my three-year-old son.
Why do we allow our front yard to look like a bizarre farm animal menagerie and neighborhood magnet for midnight raccoon raidings? Allow me to explain.
For us, it’s really the only way we can afford fresh, local, pastured eggs. Eating local is very important to us. Obviously for ethical reasons, if you eat animal products it’s important to know where your eggs come from and how the chickens are treated, but it’s also important for health reasons and it’s very difficult to find out unless you have visited the farm where the eggs you eat were produced.
The labels on egg cartons can be very misleading. For example, just because a carton says “cage-free” doesn’t guarantee ethical treatment. It really only distinguishes that the chickens aren’t in actual cages (but they’re probably cramped inside a disgusting, poop-filled warehouse). And “free-range” only means they technically have access to the outside. More than likely, that’s just a tiny caged-in yard. Having the freedom to move and eat a diet of grass and bugs (the unofficial definition of “pastured”) is really crucial for chickens to lay superior eggs with these qualities:
More vitamin A, D, and E
More Beta Carotene
More Omega 3 fatty acid
You can tell the difference between pastured eggs and “conventional” eggs because the yolk of the pastured egg is a bold, bright orange (due to the extra beta carotene) as opposed to a weak yellow. And you can tell a fresh egg from an old one because it will have a tall, firm yolk that doesn’t break easily when you crack it.
We have a great health food store that features local produce in our town so local, fresh, organic eggs are available; however, they are way out of our price range. Keeping chickens is really our only option for obtaining fresh, healthy, local eggs. And keeping chickens provides other perks as well:
Chicken manure is a great fertilizer and perfect for an urban vegetable garden. They also do a great job of preparing the soil for planting. They pull up weeds, fertilize the ground, and aerate.
We love the fantastic educational opportunities for our kids to learn about animals, reproductive systems, fertilizers, and even death (we lost FIVE chickens to the stealthy, vile raccoons last year). Not to mention the joy of running out to the chicken coop to collect beautiful eggs every day!
Although our yard receives occasional odd looks, most of our neighbors compliment us on our garden and the chickens seem to be a magnet for fascinated neighborhood kids to watch and enjoy. We wouldn’t have it any other way.