I’ve often extolled the virtues of owning backyard chickens. Our three hens, who arrived in our lives in the summer of 2011, have provided hundreds of eggs, manure to fertilize our vegetable garden, and a natural waste disposal and composting system unmatched by any commercial solutions. This doesn’t take into account the intangible benefit of, well, just being. We can’t really put into words just how good it feels to hear them clucking each morning and observing them happily running around their enclosure on warm, sunny days.
And if the last paragraph doesn’t have you running to your local elementary school (most hatch chicks that you can adopt for free) or nearest farm supply store, here’s one more reason to nudge you toward hen ownership – weeding! For years we had dealt with our property’s unwanted plants by spraying (first with RoundUp, then a more natural vinegar solution), not realizing we had the best solution already running around in our backyard. Chickens happen to LOVE weeds of just about every kind imaginable. Got a dandelion problem? Just pull them up and throw them into the chicken pen and you won’t see a trace the next day. Whatever they don’t eat, they’ll tear and claw into the soil to become compost, which brings us to…
Yet another unexpected bonus. Each year, we rotate our hen’s run to a different part of our backyard, removing a layer of the rich compost to redistribute to our planter boxes. This allows our hens to enrich a new section of soil and provide us an opportunity to clean out waste that may not have broken down during the preceding twelve months (corn cobs, stalks, etc.). This year, we have been pleasantly surprised to see a wide variety of vegetables and plants sprouting up seemingly from nowhere (but obviously a byproduct of our hens’ poop). Tomatoes, squash, lettuce, chard, multiple herbs, sunflowers, and peppers are all making their way into the world for us to harvest this spring and summer. There are so many tomato plants we will have enough to populate every sunny spot in both our front and back yards. Not only will this save money and time, but the beauty of this bounty is immeasurable.
Our hens, Extra Crispy, Original, and McNugget, have now become an integral part of our urban farm. They are extremely low maintenance, beneficial to our mission to eat healthier and lessen our impact on the environment, and give us a sense of nature not easy to experience in a large urban environment such as Los Angeles. With our minimalist lifestyle now fully realized, we really can wake up and smell the coffee – accompanied by the sweet sounds of our feathered family members.