SHOREVIEW, Minn. — “Why do you raise chickens?” Ask any flock raiser this question and the answer will be filled with passion. Backyard chickens give families wholesome, nutritious eggs, but that’s just the beginning. The rest of the story was told recently through a Purina Poultry online poll.
Kristin Horvath, backyard flock associate marketing manager with Purina Animal Nutrition, says the poll was spurred from a common trend with raising backyard chickens: happiness.
“Each time we talk with flock raisers about their birds, their faces light up; chickens make people happy,” she says. “But what is it about backyard chickens that brings out this joy? We aimed to answer this question through a recent audience poll.”
The survey was posted to our community of chicken enthusiasts as a simple fill-in-the-blank: “I started raising chickens because _________.” Nearly 200 flock raisers from across the country commented with their unique stories.
“Each story made us smile and reinforced just how amazing chicken raising is,” says Horvath. “People often started their backyard flocks for practicality – farm fresh eggs, garden fertilizer or pest control. A clear trend in the answers was that this practicality quickly transformed into something more. Backyard chickens often became a part of the family.”
The Purina Poultry team compiled the “My Flock Story” results and found five trend motivators for starting a flock. Here are the five most popular answers, along with a heartwarming fan story for each top reason:
1. Wholesome, fresh eggs
One of the top reasons outlined for starting a backyard flock was, of course, that you can produce your own food. When cared for properly and fed a nutritionally-complete diet, a hen can produce up to 300 fresh eggs per year.
Melissa Caughey, backyard chicken blogger of Tilly’s Nest, explained that she and her family have been enjoying farm fresh eggs for over six years, ever since moving from California to Massachusetts. Her suburban story is similar to many other backyard chicken raisers, with chickens now a mainstay in many urban areas.
“One of the reasons why I love my chickens’ farm fresh eggs is their proximity to me,” she said. “You can’t get much more local than food sourced from your very own backyard.”
“After we got our first eggs, I realized the difference was much more than the location,” Melissa added. “When I first cracked open an egg from my girls, I was amazed. I could not believe how electric orange the yolk was and the stiffness of the yolks. My family agrees: fresh eggs are simply the best.”
2. Simple sustainability
Sustainability was noted as another top reason for getting started raising backyard chickens. Many families started raising chickens to positively impact the environment, often creating synergies with their lawn and gardens.
One chicken raiser, Kim S., from Wisconsin wrote: “I decided to live a healthier life and chickens were a part of the solution to knowing what goes into the food we eat. I found an amazing connection between the chickens and our garden. My birds help fertilize, eat weeds and control insects.”
Other fans also commented on similar backyard synergies, with one fan referring to her chickens and garden as a “backyard ecosystem” with the chickens playing a critical role in her family’s sustainable lifestyle.
3. Family education
Many fans also highlighted the positive power that flocks have on families. Parents shared how their backyard flocks have taught their children where food comes from, helped them connect to nature and instilled lifelong lessons of dedication and responsibility.
A top story came from a mom named Megan S. who lives in Indiana. Megan wrote about her daughter who has worked to overcome a sensory processing disorder.
“My daughter learned about chickens through 4-H and wanted to get some for a project,” she explained. “What a great decision for us to get started! Chickens have truly been a positive experience; they are the first sport or activity my daughter has loved. She’s learned a ton – from responsibility to chicken facts – and, best of all, the chickens love us right back. Now we go to poultry shows along with 4-H and we’re going to bring the chickens to our local nursing home for a visit. I’m so glad that chickens are a part of her childhood.”
4. Chicken TV
The fourth benefit found in the online survey was a phrase known only to true chicken enthusiasts: “Chicken TV.” This expression is a fun descriptor for watching the antics of backyard chickens.
Many flock raisers shared tales of their birds’ individual personalities and characteristics. The responses highlighted the uniqueness of each breed and, though there are commonalities, you can quickly learn each bird’s distinct personality.
“For me, it’s all about their personalities,” said Amanda H., a chicken raiser in Oklahoma. “I’ve been hooked ever since my husband built our coop and we bought our first nine chicks. I love learning more about them and sitting out in the run with them, listening to them cluck and keep each other in line. The yummy fresh eggs are just a bonus!”
5. Backyard therapy
Rounding out the list were perhaps the most heartwarming testimonials: stories that highlighted chicken therapy. Fans bravely shared how adding chickens into their lives have helped them overcome challenges like depression and given them a meaningful outlet when dealt a hard hand.
“I had PTSD and wouldn’t leave my house,” wrote Tara R., New Jersey. “My stepmom sent me a poultry magazine and told me when I was ready she would set me up with chickens. It took a few months of magazines, but I got the chicken bug!”
“Before I knew it, I was spending all my time outside,” she continued. “I was going to the feed store. I was smiling. I was getting my life back. I am now an avid breeder and have a small poultry business started. Chickens are the best therapists.”
Horvath says that similar inspiring stories are shared with the Purina team consistently.
“Chickens are amazing pets, but they’re so much more than that,” she says. “Chickens are making a difference. Whether it’s a small flock in Texas helping a young boy remain positive through chemotherapy treatments or a classroom coop where fourth-grade students learn about biology, backyard chickens are making an impact across the country.”
Many backyard flocks start in the spring during Purina® Chick Days events, where local retailers have chicks in store. To find a local event near you, visitwww.PurinaChickDays.com or connect with Purina Poultry on Facebook or Pinterest.
Purina Animal Nutrition LLC (www.purinamills.com) is a national organization serving producers, animal owners and their families through more than 4,700 local cooperatives, independent dealers and other large retailers throughout the United States. Driven to unlock the greatest potential in every animal, the company is an industry-leading innovator offering a valued portfolio of complete feeds, supplements, premixes, ingredients and specialty technologies for the livestock and lifestyle animal markets. Purina Animal Nutrition LLC is headquartered in Shoreview, Minn. and a wholly owned subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, Inc.
—Purina Animal Nutrition LLC
For more articles concerning chickens, click here.