Excerpts from the article
Many urban homeowners increasingly desire to keep small flocks of chickens in their backyards, and with good cause. There is no reason every family in this country that can run a flock of chickens in their backyard should not. This perfectly logical and reasonable habit—backyard chicken farming—has been buried under a great deal of hipster elitism (from many of the backyard chicken farmers themselves) and sneering derision (from their critics). Please try to ignore these detractors. If you can play host to backyard chickens, you should.
Why? For starters, there are the health benefits: if you eat a lot of eggs, then there is every reason to switch to fresh eggs from hens roaming in your backyard. A wide body of evidence suggests eggs raised under these optimal conditions are higher in critical vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids, and anyone who has eaten these eggs can attest that these healthy qualities greatly inform a superior taste.
Crack an egg from a well-tended backyard chicken and you’ll immediately notice the thick, well-formed eggshell surrounding a rich orange yolk. Contrast that with the “store-bought” egg’s thin, brittle shell and a pale lackluster yolk. This is evidence enough for even a small child to understand: healthy animals produce healthy food that is good for people to eat.
Eggs from backyard chickens taste better, and they are better. But the health from a small chicken flock does not turn merely on the eggs it produces. Chickens also produce manure, which—if properly managed—can be turned into compost to run a stupendous garden nearby. There is a fair amount of hand-wringing done over how unsafe chicken manure is, but this is really mostly a matter of logistics, not substance: if you don’t go swimming in the stuff or plastering it to your hangnails, you’ll be fine.
Chicken manure requires a fair amount of carbon—dead leaves and straw, for instance—to reach the optimal composting balance (and also to neutralize the smell, which—if left untreated—is rather pugnacious). Over a few seasons or a year, many people build up a thick bed of leaves, straw, and chicken manure in the chicken coop or the chicken yard. Then it’s ready to be formed into a compost pile or else just turned directly in the earth for decomposition.
You can, in other words, put your chickens to work double time: laying eggs and building compost, which leads to healthy soil, which ultimately leads to healthy tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and carrots. Chickens do not simply lay eggs; they build side salads, too.
Yet chickens are useful not merely as producers of food but as practical disposers of it, too. A flock of chickens will require a certain amount of “layer feed” to thrive, but they can also be fed from the scraps of your kitchen—and you’d be amazed at how many scraps, and how much edible food, you throw away on a regular basis.
There is, of course, the standard food waste: vegetable cores and peels and stems, bread crusts, apple cores, melon rinds. All of that can go to the chickens. But there is also the astonishing amount of food that Americans habitually waste on a regular basis: more than 10 percent of your pantry that you probably toss out simply due to spoilage or expiration or simple carelessness. That can also go to the birds.
You could, of course, stop wasting so much food, and that would be good. But a certain amount of food wastage is probably inevitable. That is the beauty of it: with chickens nearby, the term “food wastage” becomes something of an antiquated and incomprehensible concept. Aside from the slim number of things chickens can’t safely digest, there is simply no reason all of that chicken-friendly food should go to a landfill, where it rots, instead of your backyard, where it gets turned into eggs and gardens.
Backyard chickens are good for everyone and everything involved: your family, your land, the chickens, and the health of your spirit and your body. It has never been easier for urban and suburban residents to be farmers—and the arguments against it have never looked sillier and less convincing. Go do it, and enjoy the eggs.
3 backyard chickens are allowed in Oakley, no roosters, for properties under a half acre.
A maximum of 10 chickens, no roosters, are allowed on half acre properties
A maximum of 20 chickens, no roosters, are allowed on properties of one acre or larger.