There is a growing move towards a more sustainable lifestyle, with many people choosing greener, eco-friendly options over mass produced goods and food, which not only damage the environment, but can be harmful to our health. Keeping backyard chickens is one way of ensuring a sustainable source of organically produced protein for your family.
We all need food to survive, and while popping down to our local supermarket for veggies, chicken and eggs may be convenient, it is neither a sustainable nor healthy option. Commercially produced fruit and vegetables are produced using tons of pesticides, which are harmful to beneficial insects such as bees and other pollinators, and which are absorbed by the plants that we eat, ultimately making their way into our bodies too. Commercially farmed meat, whether it be beef, pork or chicken, is typically fed a concoction of growth stimulating hormones combined with antibiotics to maintain the health of these intensely farmed animals. The living conditions of factory farmed animals is far from humane, and the meat and other food products obtained are laced with the hormones and antibiotics they are routinely fed.
It is therefore quite understandable that people seeking healthy, environmentally friendly and more humane alternatives are opting for organically farmed —and in many cases, homegrown— food.
One way to ensure a steady supply of organic fruit and veggies is to create a backyard veggie patch. Many people are taking this a step further by farming backyard chickens, which provide a steady supply of free-range, hormone- and antibiotic-free eggs, and in some cases meat. Chickens not only provide a source of organic protein, they also provide manure to increase the nutrient value of compost that can be added to your veggie garden.
Pros & Cons of Keeping Backyard Chickens
Yet, while the backyard chicken farming trend is growing, some urban neighborhoods and neighbors are averse to people keeping chickens in residential areas for various reasons, including potential health hazards and noise disturbance of early rising roosters. However, many areas are embracing the concept, acknowledging that it is a crucial step to sustainable urban living. But usually there are rules and regulations in place, and these vary depending on the area where you live. Typically, the regulations pertaining to keeping backyard chickens limit the number of chickens allowed (usually restricted to 5-6) per lot, and may also prohibit roosters from being kept in an urban setting. Some areas require a permit for backyard chicken farming, while others don’t. Other rules and limitations include regulations regarding size and type of chicken housing, distance these must be from boundaries, etc.
Keeping backyard chickens helps us to get back to nature, obtaining our food directly from our own patch of land rather than out of a cardboard or styrafoam, box, which both have their own environmental consequences resulting from their production and disposal. Added to that is the carbon footprint associated with factory farmed poultry, as well as that associated with transportation from the farm to the warehouse to the retailer to our home.
Keeping Backyard Chickens is Simple and Sustainable
Chickens are easy to keep, make fantastic pets, and besides providing healthy food, can generate a source of income. Urban chicken farmers can sell their surplus eggs at local markets, or barter with their neighbors, promoting local sustainable agriculture that encourages people to buy healthy, organically produced food locally, thus becoming more sustainable and reducing their carbon footprint.
There is a move towards greening the cities and developing sustainable, self-sufficient urban communities. One example of this concept, which incorporates urban chicken (and other livestock) farming in their design, is ReGen Villages, a futuristic high-tech off-grid village concept developed by Effekt, that is designed to be completely self-sufficient, which is currently being launched in The Netherlands with plans to expand across Europe and eventually globally.
Clearly there is merit for keeping backyard chickens in both rural and urban areas. We need to take a step back from our high-tech lifestyles and get back to a grassroots, sustainable way of life. Keeping backyard chickens is a small step in the right direction.