Why Do You Raise Chickens?

Why do you raise chickens?

Most of us reading this article have probably already made the decision to raise chickens and have raised them for at least a few years, but occasionally, questions like this come up, perhaps in the form:

Raise chickens? Why would I ever want to do that?

to which my immediate response, verbalized or not might be: “Well, why not?”

When I was young, my parents began to raise chickens in the tiny backyard behind our small-town rental house. I was around 8 years old at the time. We raised mostly meat birds, and when it became time to prepare them for the table, we would slaughter and pluck them. Plucking is what I remember the most. Hot, wet chickens. A certain homey, but not entirely pleasant smell. Feathers — lots of feathers. Downy feathers sticking to my fingers. Picking them off and placing them into the black garbage bag while plucking. Picking up loose feathers from the yard after plucking was done. (Nowadays, I normally skin rather than pluck my chickens.)

A few years later, we moved “out into the country” into the suburb of a small town. We at last had some land, and our flock grew larger to match. In a used, round, metal incubator, we hatched eggs — a mixed flock of Rhode Island Reds and various crosses. Lots of color variety and lots of memories of caring for them. Time, it seems, has a way of aging memories, making them fonder even than the original experience.

Another move. Off to high school in the city then college, living in a dorm room. Calling various apartments home for a few years. Then marriage. Later, our first child. We moved onto small acreage, and I found myself preparing to raise chickens again, building a coop out of leftover lumber from another project.

All of my children have grown up raising and caring for chickens. Some have enjoyed it more than others. My youngest knows each chicken by name and won’t let a day go by without going out to check on them (or without picking up and holding them).

So while I could write about lots of practical reasons to raise chickens, something in my own experience and in my family runs much deeper than that, tying me both to my immediate family, my ancestors, and even extending into the future, continuing to tie things together there, and chickens are a part of that. Something deep in the heart can at times seem to compel you to take certain steps, make certain choices or decisions, or enter into certain commitments, even though you may not be able to fully articulate in a rationally comprehensible way to someone else all the practical reasons why. (And somehow even to try to do so can seem a bit trite — somewhat incapable of expressing the real reasons why.) Yet you try. You branch out into this metaphor or that, this remembrance or that, until someone else picks up the thread and begins to run with it. And, it seems, many of the more meaningful things in life take root in that way.

So back to our original question: Why raise chickens? Here are a few answers that come to mind:

For the experience and the memories. This, I would say, is the first and most fundamental reason. Raise them because they’ll enrich your life and experience in ways that you cannot fully predict or even anticipate. And they’ll bring you into shared experiences with others in certain wonderful and unexpected ways.

For the children. Even if you don’t have children of your own, surely some of your neighbors have children (neighbors that don’t yet raise chickens), or perhaps you have grandchildren, or friends who have children. (And if not, you’re missing out on something even more important than chickens, so start there, if you need to, and then come back to the question about why you need to raise chickens.) Getting some chickens and letting the children help you raise them will make a difference in their lives and yours.

Fresh Eggs. Though the ability to find high-quality, fresh food at local markets has taken a big leap forward over the recent years, there’s simply no such thing as a store-bought egg that’s as fresh as the eggs from your own chickens. You can step right out your back door, egg basket in hand, walk to the coop and grab a few eggs. Then walk back to the house, crack them into a hot, buttered skillet and be sitting down eating a fresh omelet faster than you can get your car warmed up to drive off to the market, even one that’s just a few blocks away. That’s fresh, and eggs don’t get any fresher than that.

These are just a few of the reasons why I raise chickens. More could be said on the practical end, and we’ll perhaps cover that in a future article.

So, why do you raise chickens?

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23 Responses to Why Do You Raise Chickens?

  1. Tonia Laliberte says:

    Love the taste of really fresh eggs; the droppings activate the compost pile; and the compost nourishes the garden plot. We all stay healthy! :)

  2. Jennifer Fisk says:

    We always had a few layers when I was a kid. For meat birds, my Mom would take an egg farmer’s retired layers and we’d butcher them. I hated plucking and today, I take my meat birds to be processed because I hate the smell of wet chickens and plucking them. If I have to process one, I skin it. I have the meat birds because I know how they’ve been raised and what they’ve eaten. I love having my own fresh eggs thus the egg birds and I know they have a good nourishing life too. I do not do CAFO poultry, meat or eggs.

  3. wilbur peters says:

    When I bought my house 35 years ago They were here. Since then we have lived thru dogs, coyotes, owls raccoons, possums, a bobcat(I think), and two wives who miss the chickens more than they miss me (they say).
    Now I have to move closer to town and the stores (eyes, driving and old man problems), but the deal breaker is 2 or 3 hens have to be able to move with me. Even my doctor says sitting on the porch watching the chickens for a half hour a day does as much for stress relief as another pill.

  4. Betty Melvin says:

    We raised chickens for meat when I was a kid. When I was an adult, mom got some hens for eggs and I enjoyed them. Now I have my own chickens. I got them for my garden. I like organic gardening and I got them for bug control. Without a mother hen I had to teach them how to hunt bugs the task fell to me. I would guess that was a comedy show in the making. Now I let the hens hatch and raise the chick — they are much better teachers than I was. It was trial and error to figure out how to keep them from killing the plant and still hunt bugs. I have almost 40 chickens and I let two or 3 in the garden and turn the rest lose the field around the fenced garden. They have a good life with fresh air, sunshine and 100s of square feet per chicken. And I get to enjoy the eggs, the fertilizer, watching them and the grandkids, and yes we get some meat when they get too old to lay or too many roosters.

  5. Russ says:

    Chicken can be a lot of work. Right now I have to worry about heat, among other things. But they do eat a lot bugs and make lot of manure.

  6. Juan Marcano says:

    Hens bring a calming Zen to you when everything is going well…but when one gets broody, it keeps the rest from doing their job…check for eggs every day so she won’t get any ideas…

  7. Harold says:

    It may seem silly to some but I raise chickens as pets and totally enjoy working with them. Yes, I also enjoy the eggs and make friends in the area passing them out. I am 77 yrs. old but still working my small bookkeeping business and I find the chickens to be relaxing and definitely giving me plenty to do. I was going to part with some to give them room as they grew but ended up increasing their habitat instead. Bottom line: I just plain enjoy raising them.

  8. Julie says:

    I agree with all the reasons cited so far, but I haven’t seen one of my primary reasons posted yet, so here goes. I’m a closet exhibitionist! I like the excitement and joy of raising my own babies that I chose the parentage of. I like satisfaction of nurturing them and the thrill of watching them mature and entering them in the county fair. I love the mental “puzzlework” of trying to improve characteristics of a breed such as color, size, temperament, egg production, etc.

  9. Shirley says:

    I started raising chickens for the eggs. I refuse to buy eggs from the store knowing how the chickens are treated. I talked to a guy that delivered eggs from a huge farm and he told me they wash the eggs with a soap like for a dishwasher. That made me even more determined not to buy store eggs.
    I have had chickens for over 30 years.

    • Shirley says:

      I also had come home from work stressed and would watch the chickens and the stress would just melt away.

  10. Aside from becoming a parent and then becoming a grandparent nothing compares to the joy of raising chickens. We started raising layers with a flock of 12 several years ago. When I say “we,” I mean my son, his daughter (my granddaughter), and myself. She took the responsibility so seriously that, at age 4 she acquired a “chicken wardrobe” for the task – work clothes, jacket, winter coat, hat, and boots. Our flock size has risen to 109 birds and it’s a great time to spend family time together. We love it!

  11. Keith says:

    the biggest reason I raise chickens is for the eggs but each chicken has its own personality so you can become fond of the little guys and go as far as giving each one a name we do such as Thelma, louise, and Red

  12. George Ann says:

    I raise chickens because I like eggs, and I refuse to eat an egg from a chicken that has had to sit on top of another chicken for its whole life.

  13. Susie McCurdy says:

    We like having chickens. Although we don’t eat a lot of eggs, it’s good to have fresh ones as we don’t like store eggs. We have over 50 chickens so a lot of eggs go to our neighbors and church friends. The main reason we have so many, here in Oklahoma we have had so many grasshoppers the last few years, it’s a fright. Grasshoppers soon learn there are chickens and move on. They catch their share of them, but where predators live, grasshoppers won’t. When I turn the chickens out in the morning, they go right to work. Pays to have them, rather than spraying pesticides all the time.

  14. Karen S says:

    We got chickens for the eggs originally. I find they bring joy to my life every day. My granddaughter loves them too!

  15. Toni says:

    My mom always had chickens. Layers and heavy’s for meat. We just always had fresh eggs. After I was on my own, I wasn’t always in the position to have chickens, but now – after a few years, and our dogs leave them alone – we are back into chickens. Loving the fresh eggs again. Rather funny story – our son, 1st year of college – 1st apartment is learning to cook for himself. Was home recently and while I was cooking breakfast, asks, “why does your eggs taste better than the ones I cook?”. My first thought was “butter”? , But then realized he had bought eggs from the store. I then had to explain confinement chickens and how ours gets to run and eat bugs and grass, etc. I think he’s a believer now too.

  16. kate vorster says:

    I like to know what I’m eating.

  17. Ron Packard says:

    Because the egg is the most nutritious food that you can eat on this planet.

  18. Dan says:

    When people ask why I’m raising chickens, I tell them I’m not. I’m raising boys! There are just too many lessons to be learned from raising animals that can’t be learned any other way. Responsibility, work, dedication, kindness, life, etc. It was never about the chickens, but about raising children.

  19. Julie Stout says:

    I raise chickens for the pure delight. Nothing makes me happier than to see my flock browsing around my back yard. I love it when my hens have chicks and love to watch them “Mother Hen” their brood. And I take such great pride in the fresh eggs…the yolks from my free range flock outshine a store bought egg – no matter what quality – EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK! Raising chickens feels like “good medicine”.

  20. kimberly says:

    We already had the barn, so fresh eggs seemed so simple. We recieved a notice about something we bought and ate already, had been recalled. Getting our own birds just seemed the one think we could do. Plus, they are great for empty nest syndrome.

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