So in the first two parts of this DIY series, I’ve shared some of the how-to and what not to do’s of keeping backyard chickens. You may be wondering, though, why bother with backyard hens? Or maybe, like the folks at All Over Albany, you’re thinking that backyard chickens seem like a lot of work. To wrap up this series, I’ll attempt to address both.
First, why bother?
For me, it boils down to the desire to raise more of our own food; more than just garden veggies and the occasional wild berry from the backyard. In theory I’d love to be “off grid” and raise or produce our whole diet but this is pretty unrealistic given where I live and the pace of “normal” life (or at least my life). Personally, I don’t have the time or infrastructure for larger animals (cows or pigs) at my home, but chickens have a small enough impact to blend into our suburban landscape. Having chickens allows us to produce a protein rich food source, eggs, for less than we’d buy them for (about $4.00 a dozen is the average local rate for organic free range eggs – once set up and during peak laying season I estimate it costs us about $1.00-$1.25 to produce a dozen eggs). With two small children who consume a lot and happen to love eggs, this works out pretty well for us. Also, one of my goals as a parent is to help my children understand where their food comes from. I hope they grow into agriculturally and economically conscious as well as healthy adults. Having chickens provides a significant connection to one of our most regular and versatile food sources. Even though they are just toddlers, the kids help to care for the flock. This responsibility could be compared to having a pet, however we also have the unique ability to respect and thank our “pets” for what they provide us.
Also, and more simply, I really like to eat eggs. If you like eggs and taste farm fresh eggs side-by-side with grocery store eggs, you will see and taste the difference. Eggs are quite nutritious and are not only used as a component in countless recipes but also make great stand-alone dishes. One of my favorite ways to enjoy eggs is simply scrambled and accompanied by a well toasted English muffin or fresh bread. I don’t think this even needs a recipe or instructions.
I also love my eggs deviled. My kids often request boiled eggs for breakfast, and I usually I throw a few extra into the pot to stash in the fridge for salad, sandwiches or devil-ing.
METHOD: Deviled Eggs
two hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced in half lengthwise
1 tsp mayonnaise
1/2 tsp butter
pinch ground mustard
1/8 tsp kosher salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
After peeling and slicing the eggs, carefully remove the yolks and place in a small bowl. Add all remaining ingredients and mash together with a fork. Spoon the yolk mixture into the egg white halves. Enjoy! (best eaten fresh, may be refrigerated for up to 2 days)
Now, onto the second topic to wrap up this DIY series: backyard chickens seem like a lot of work. Anyone want to weigh in on this? I know a few of you reading probably have your own hens! Comment and share your thoughts too!
Here is my take on the subject of “work involved”:
Being responsible for another living thing is a lot of work. From experience though, I can say that keeping a small flock of chickens in my backyard is less work than owning a cat. Its probably also safe to say its easier than owning a dog (disclaimer: I have never owned a dog in my adult life). Getting the coop set up properly can require some time and work, but probably not more time than one might spend going to the vet, crate or litter training a puppy or kitten, or other “start-up” animal ownership investments. Once things are up and running, though, chickens are very low maintenance. Like any ‘pet’, responsible owners should keep an eye on their health, provide them with fresh water and food on a daily basis, and ensure clean accommodations. In my opinion, though, these tasks don’t require more than a few minutes a day with an extra 15 minutes once every week or two to clean the coop; not much more than an average pet owner might spend walking a dog or cleaning a litter box. While chickens don’t offer the cuddly companionship a furry pet might, they are highly entertaining to watch and obviously offer the added benefit of providing eggs.
In short, though I’ve shared the tough lessons I’ve learned and unique struggles I’ve encountered as a new backyard chicken farmer, I would not call chicken ownership a lot of work. In sharing my experience, I hope not to deter anyone from pursuing their own backyard poultry dreams but offer tips so that you might avoid the mistakes I made in the beginning. In fact, if its something you have been dreaming of, I encourage you to go for it and if you need any help feel free to get in touch!