5 Reasons to Raise Chickens

Backyard hens not only provide high-quality eggs, but also serve as master gardeners, organic pest exterminators, and unpaid city workers.

By Leah Zerbe

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5<br />
reasons to raise chickens

#3. Urban chickens as soil savers.
The health of our food is tied directly to the health of our soil. And chickens perform multiple functions that can turn parts of our boring old yards into fertile garden patches. Their natural scratching and digging tendencies serve them well and can help you create top-notch garden beds. They are expert in mixing manure with mulch to create raised beds, which allow you to grow more produce in a smaller space and use less water, which is particularly useful to urban gardeners. They also act as gasoline-free, noise-free tillers, mixing the top layers of soil with compost or other mulches. (OK, they're not completely noise-free, but hens sure do make cute noises, adding entertainment value for the whole family!)

#4. Heritage-breed city chickens as an extinction-prevention task force.
Because factory-farm operations prefer pretty much the same type of high-volume laying breeds (or in the case of meat, heavy, fast-growing meat birds), the preservation of rare, heritage breeds is threatened. If we lose these beautiful breeds, we wipe out genetic material from a species, perhaps losing genes that could save the poultry industry one day if the standard production breeds fall susceptible to illness. To learn more about heritage breeds, check out What's the Best Chicken for You.

#5. Urban chickens as antidepressants.
Ever hear of oxytocin, the love hormone? It's a stress-lowering chemical in your body that's unleashed when you hug someone you love, or even pet your dog or cat. And anyone who has raised backyard chickens can probably contend the same effect holds true for hens. Believe it or not, Foreman says, there are actually hens employed as therapy chickens! That's something to cluck about!

For more great stories about health and the environment, check out Rodale.com.

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