People who haven’t spent time around poultry don’t truly understand that its not all about the eggs. There is so much more about keeping poultry of all kinds that is unknown to most people. Of course there is the egg factor, we had well over 3 thousand eggs laid on our property last year alone, I know because I kept track of who laid what egg and when. I’m a nut like that. I would never say that the eggs aren’t the greatest benefit either, they are delicious, nutritious, from happy healthy hens and I know everything that goes into their bodies. There is also the meat part, when you got to the store to buy your chicken and eggs it normally doesn’t tell you where it was raised, but when you are raising your own birds you know exactly where and how it was raised. Whats even better for me is that I know that it had a spoiled and lavish life that was filled with daily fun and love. But lets explore all the other benefits to keeping poultry of all kinds.
All poultry is amazing at bug hunting! Not just bugs, but slugs, snails, worms, and even small rodents. I was a little concerned with the increased amounts of poop in the yard that we would have fly problems, but when the ducks come out of their house every morning they go running across the yard chasing and catching flies. Its pretty funny to watch but they are extremely effective. I’ve had Silkie chickens in my garden now for the last 2 years and they have done a great job eating the baby slugs that crawl up the sides of my beds and hunting the little green caterpillars that we don’t like. Its really nice knowing that I don’t have to worry about slugs eating my pretty flowers before they have a chance to bloom because ducks will actually hunt their nests. When we moved in it was a slug fest around here and I frequently found slug nests all over the yard, but since putting a pair of small ducks in my front yard there hasn’t been a single one. Talk about all natural pest control!
If you are into gardening like me, then you know there is no greater compost than what you make yourself. You put everything into it so you know what you are getting out of it. When you have poultry you have a plethora of chicken gold aka poop. But when you dump all that into your compost and let it sit for 6-9 months with all the other goodies you throw in, what you are going to pull out will be nothing short of amazing for growing your vegetables and fruits. Last year I pumped the water from our duck pond and used it to water the roots of my vegetables because my compost hadn’t cooked long enough. We had an unbelievable bounty that can only be credited to the poop water. My tomatoes were well over 12 feet tall and I harvested over 100 zucchini from just 4 plants. So yeah, it may not be a pretty job to go out there and clean it all up, but talk about free goodness for your garden.
We have also been able to teach our children some very valuable lessons on the cycle of life. Both of my children know that it took a hen 24-26 hours to make and lay the egg they are eating and they have an appreciation for the bird working so hard to make something they love to eat that they didn’t have when we bought eggs at the store. Prior to chicken keeping, there would regularly be eggs thrown out on a daily basis because my kids just didn’t grasp the value in what they were eating. They had a who cares attitude about food, mom can just buy more. However now, if the eggs are all gone then they have to wait for more because I won’t go buy eggs at the store and that means they won’t waste their eggs. Another lesson has been for our daughter, she is almost 8 and she knows so much about chickens it amazes me. She can tell you what every breed of chicken we have is, she can also tell you the color of the eggs they lay and she can tell you all about their anatomy. We have had her pluck a duck before and she has assisted with processing the chickens we have butchered. She understands what it takes to be a meat eater and that we can buy chickens at the store but it doesn’t mean as much as growing our chickens, knowing they had a great life however short it was and then turning them into a meal for our family. With our son being only 3 now, Chickens and ducks have helped us teach him the concept of gentle and playing nice. Sure we have cats and dogs, but they are far more sturdy than a day old chick. So being able to teach children lessons that many others don’t get at all or don’t get until later on is a major benefit.
Finally there is the fun of it. Sure you have to put a little work in but its always fun. There is not a day that goes by where you are not going to enjoy spending time outside with your birds. For one thing poultry can make great therapy animals, they have a calming presence about them and have helped me combat my own issues with anxiety. During the summer I will take a chair out to the chicken coop with a book and just sit with them and read, I go about my business and usually I end up with a chicken perched on my shoulder watching me, or I will sit in my front yard with my kids playing and all the smaller chickens roaming about. Chickens can be the type of poultry who like to be your friend, they enjoy following you around if you have treats, they are very curious about everything that you are doing so you will always have company when you are working even if you don’t want the company. Chickens can be pets as much as a dog or cat can, they all have very different personalities and they show those personalities off every chance they get.
Ducks can be a wild card. We have 2 ducks that love humans, we hatched them ourselves and Farmer Davis became their mama. He let them sleep under his beard and he took them out of town with him for work, he stood in the bath with them while they swam around and they imprinted and truly bonded to him. The rest of our ducks however like their distance. If we don’t look at them they stay put, but it we look like we are going to pick them up they scatter like feral cats. We have learned with our bigger ducks that they are happier if we provide the treats and stand back and watch the hilarity that ensues on a daily basis. From the waddle, to the hunting, to the splashing in a kiddie pool, to the hiding under anything they can, and watching them always walk in a line together to bed.
I am not lucky enough to have turkeys because Farmer Davis said I would grow too attached and we wouldn’t be able to eat them. The reason is because turkeys are the dog of the poultry world. They love their humans and want to be with them. If you have seen the youtube videos of turkeys sitting in the laps of their people getting scratches, its because they love people. I personally can’t eat my dogs even if the zombie apocalypse happened, so to say that I would be able to eat such a lovable bird that is so dog like would be a terrible lie on my part. But I have been lucky enough to spend enough time with turkeys to know that someday I will have my very own dog birds for pet purposes only.
Now go out and get some chickens, ducks, turkeys or whatever bird you want, you won’t regret it.
All for now, Nicole