Saturday, September 19, 2009

Additional Backyard Chicken Benefits (we're up to a dozen)

Robin Ripley wrote an article extolling eight benefits of raising backyard chickens  (See the article on the right under Chicken Websites). Then in a followup article she added a ninth benefit-- that they are beautiful birds. Here are three additional reasons, bring the total to a dozen:

10) Food Waste Management Most households produce a measurable quantity of food waste: food discarded during meal preparation, leftovers, and old food. You can send this to the landfill, or grind it in a disposal and send it to the sewer plant or you can compost it. Composting takes time but makes good fertilizer that will produce good produce. But what if you could add an intermediate  step and get some protein before the fertilizer and produce? That's where backyard chickens come in. While there are some foods they won't eat, and some foods they shouldn't eat, chickens are omnivorous and will convert yesterday's uneaten salad into today's poached egg and tomorrow's organic fertilizer.

11) Neighboring Robin discussed how chickens are great topics of conversation from grocery lines to parties, but failed to mention how chickens help stitch neighbors together. Air conditioning, the decline of the front porch, and the remote garage door opener have all contributed to less contact with neighbors. How many of us would contemplate borrowing a cup of sugar these days? But chickens help fight the trend of neighbor isolation. Excess eggs make great gifts that lead to neighbors wanting to learn more. Returning the carton (in hopes of getting some more) creates another neighbor interaction. And maybe they leave some fruit or vegetables they raised in exchange. Their kids are curious about brown or blue eggs, so they get invited over to see the operation.  Kids are naturally fascinated by chickens, so now there is another way to get to know them aside from Halloween. Chickens connect.

12) Fighting Sprawl Somewhere realtors, planners, or sociologists have documented why people leave urban areas for rural areas and I'm willing to bet one of significant reasons is so their children can have a rural experience that includes the possibility of having a pony or rabbits or chickens. Ponies don't work on small urban lots, but rabbits and chickens can. So we have to stop and wonder why we are forcing people to adopt a car-dependent sprawl lifestyle just to have a rabbit hutch or small chicken coop. That raises the question: Since there are so many more urban and suburban households compared to farm households, haven't we passed the point where there are more urban households with chickens than rural households with chickens? 

High end parrots, macaws, and cockatoos make more noise than any hens, but hens are still burdened with legal bias. Old stereotypes about "farm animals" should be dissolving as we farm things like catfish and the category of pets has been expanded to include hedgehogs, bearded dragons, tarantulas, and prairie dogs.  We need to stop determining what pets are allowed in our neighborhoods prejudicially based on what species they are, but on performance -- what impacts they actually have on the neighbors. 

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