Backyard Chickens in Fox Lake, IL

Sustainable Living Through Backyard Hens

Why backyard chickens?

on September 21, 2011
Chickens pecking at feed

Image via Wikipedia

The following is excerpted from a handout at a local backyard chicken information meeting. I’m not the author. If anyone claims authorship, let me know and I’ll attribute appropriately.


By now most people have heard something about the growing popularity of Backyard Chickens (BYC). Many consider it to be the latest “fad”. Some think it’s “all about the eggs”. Yet others view it as another appearance of the “back to the land” movement.

In reality, it is all these and more. Eggs are an obvious benefit, something most people can immediately identify; there are many intangibles however…a little tougher for some to appreciate (or even understand).

Chickens have been (and still are) part of cities, towns and villages around the world. Unique to the United States is the idea that “only poor people raise chickens” and that the presence of food-producing animals means there HAS to be poverty in that household. The idea that chickens belong only on a farm or rural environment is fairly recent, and is more of an emotional “taught” reation than one based on fact.

As people came into the cities from the countryside (as well as immigrants to the US), they brought with experience and skills in raising their own food. Small urban gardens were extensive, with chickens and rabbits producing eggs and meat, fed from kitchen scraps and vegetation in the garden, producing valuable soil-enriching manure to help grow vegetables and fruit as part of a cycle which reduced living expenses and increased self-sufficiency (a mindset which used to be the norm).

We became victims of our own success however, with our present difficulties reaching back to choices made by both government and society beginning almost a century ago.  As we progressed through the industrial revolution and recovered from World War I, we became smitten with the idea that science and technology would provide all of our answers, that machines would do our work, and that there was less value in old-fashioned practices such as growing one’s own food. Our national love affair with the car influenced how our new suburbs (and their ordinances) were to be designed, presuming that if you needed food, you would hop in your car and drive to purchase it.

Some of the many reasons for considering Backyard Chickens:

food safety (re: recent findings of “system” produced food w/e-coli and salmonella chickens DO make good pets for some people
food security(re: dependence on outside “systems” to work correctly, including inspection and transportation) chickens process biodegradable garbage/waste at home, keeping it out of landfills
treatment of our food animals (growing awareness of inhumane conditions on factory farms) chickens produce “ready to use” organic garden fertilizer, better for both soil and plants than chemically-produced store-bought products
the growing costs of shipping food as fuel prices increase chickens LOVE Japanese Beetles! (reason enough!)
growing desires to “grow locally – eat locally the use of chickens to eat insect pests allows use of fewer pesticides, which is safer for our bees and less toxic to our environment
eggs from healthier bird are healthier for you over 99% of the municipalities which decide to allow backyard chickens don’t switch back
the growing costs of food, especially after [recent] years’ multiple weather-induced impacts on food production and distribution a desire by many people to get some control back into their lives, having seen enough consistent abuses of several of the major systems on which we have come to rely (incl. finance and energy) to no longer fully trust them to be safe/reliable
the poor economy, which results in the loss of a bread-winner’s income but provides the opportunity to grow food at home very easy to sell (or give away) your chickens and supplies if you have to move (try THAT with a dog or cat)
the growth of “urban agriculture“, bringing back kitchen gardens and home-scale food production …OK, the fresh eggs are pretty tasty too!
education of our kids, who with each passing year know less and less about where food really comes from

Next: WHY NOT? Myths and Misconceptions


One response to “Why backyard chickens?

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