Other Uses For Chickens (Beyond Meat and Eggs)
Everyone knows the primary uses for a chicken: delicious, delicious meat and eggs. But chickens are far more than just food-producing machines. They have many additional talents of use to their owners. Below are some of the best alternative benefits of owning chickens.
Stink bugs were first seen in the United States over ten years ago in Allentown, PA. Living a mere fifteen minutes from their origin point, you can imagine the wave of bugs that sweep through our property every year. They are pernicious little things that will sneak into your house and any other sheltered spot to hide through the winter. Killing them, or frightening them, causes them to release a noxious odor that attracts even more stink bugs.
And you know who just love to gobble them up whole? My chickens. When they get let out of the coop to free range, they make a beeline for the house and start to pick them right off the walls. Chickens are always hungry and adore bugs. They're a great natural pest control, eliminating bugs without the use of dangerous chemicals.
As stated previously, chickens are always hungry. When they can't get bugs, they settle for plants. Now, a small flock like mine will not make a sizeable dent on a large property's weeds. But if you have a backyard coop, they love to take out new shoots as weeds grow. The area around my girls' coop is prone to poison ivy. They usually ignore the mature plants, but new leaves get snipped off quickly. Given enough time, a flock will strip a patch of land of everything, usually leaving the grass for last. If you have a mobile chicken tractor, it's an easy way to clear land for a garden.
Since chickens eat a lot, it's no surprise that they poop a lot as well. And, lucky for you, chicken poop happens to be worth its weight in gold to gardeners. Don't put your chicken's leavings directly on the garden. Instead, start a compost heap. Every time you remove the shavings in your coop, put them on the heap and let them sit for a few months. Soon, you'll have a powerhouse fertilizer to amend your soil with. The shavings and the manure combine to provide everything your fertilizer needs, although you can certainly add other things like your left over egg shells to the mix.
Did you know you can teach a chicken tricks? They are not as attuned to humans as cats or dogs, but chickens are a domesticated animal reliant on humans for survival. If handled often and gently as chicks, they can grow into very friendly adults who enjoy interacting with their humans. Of my five, I have one that I would consider truly friendly, three who seem to mostly be in it for the food, and one who is skittish of humans. All of them, of course, will follow me around like a shadow if they think I have a tasty treat for them. I never thought of chickens as affectionate or complex animals before I had them, but now I see them as much more than utilitarian animals.
All of these traits are what makes chickens essential to those striving for self-sufficiency. More than any other domesticated animal, they provide the greatest amount of services for the least amount of upkeep. They are, truly, the most useful animal you could own.