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7 reasons to keep chickens

I am a firm advocate for keeping chickens as you might have guessed from the endless social media posts I share of my hens and I don't think I will ever stop trying to convince people to keep chickens themselves.

Over lockdown chicken keeping became really popular in Norway and beyond, because people had more time on their hands and there was a trend towards simplifying life. More time at home meant that we could devote hours to a new hobby or an interest that we had long wanted to take part in. This is especially true in Norway. There was a huge surge in chicken keeping at home (hønse i hagen) so much so that the agriculture shops regularly ran out of chicken food, and equipment such as incubators are as rare as, well, hens teeth. I'm always surprised at the people I meet who keep chickens. They are often the people I would least expect, but they are all enthusiastic and just like me, ready to advocate for chicken keeping.

If you have ever pondered the idea of keeping chickens, let me share some of the great reasons to jump in and do it:

Green, spotty and brown hens eggs on rosemaling plate
Collecting colourful eggs brings simple joy

They give you eggs

This is the most obvious reason for keeping chickens. Free range eggs from your own chickens are far superior to shop bought ones - they taste better and you know exactly what your hens have eaten and how they have been kept. If you are lucky (or do some planning) you can also have hens who lay beautiful coloured eggs. It's often the hens with the drabbest feathers who lay the prettiest coloured eggs. The taste is not usually any different but it's such a simple pleasure to collect blue, turquoise and chocolate coloured eggs from the coop each day.

Bantam cochin chickens with little girl
Smaller breeds like bantam cochins are friendly and gentle

They are great companion animals

Chickens are very sociable birds and not just with each other (you should never keep one chicken on her own) but also with their humans. They want to be with you and spend time with you. If you hatch your hens from eggs yourself they see you as part of the flock and will come running to you, want to cuddle and even preen you. For those of us who do gardening we often find that whenever we are out in the garden we have an entourage of hens following us around for the tasty snacks we might grub up (hens love a worm), or simply because they want to be with us and they are just a little bit nosey!

Chicken in window
Cleaning out the coop usually means somehen is watching your progress!

They keep you on your toes

Before I kept chickens I assumed they were the average slightly dull bird, but I couldn't have been more wrong. You read a lot from chickens keepers about how clever chickens are but until you've experienced it yourself you really can't understand. They are incredibly quick witted fast learners. Our very first chicken, Chipmunk, would learn new commands in about an hour and responded every time to her name. Research has shown that chickens can recognise up to 100 different faces and 18 vocalisations (language, if you like). On the flip side of this is that they can easily outwit you if they decide to work together and I frequently find one distracting me whilst another is doing something they shouldn't. We used to have a slightly dappy hen called Hedwig who was always put in the position of lookout whilst the others did something they weren't supposed to. The trouble is she wasn't terribly good at it and instead of watching out for us she would have her back to us! It was always easy to spot when shenanigans were happening because Hedwig would be staring away from us and the rest of the flock would be nowhere to be seen.

Chicken in vegetable patch
My bumper tomato crop is all down to my feathered friends

Chicken poop is great for compost

This was actually my first reason for keeping chickens. Some years ago a friend who had chickens gave me a big bucket of poo from her hens for my tomato plants. It was incredible like some kind of plant rocket fuel and that year I had the best tomatoes I had ever grown. This sowed a seed for me and not long after that Andre and I decided to get hens ourselves. Of course I started composting their poo and any waste from the coop and since then I have a ready supply of the most amazing fertilizer ever.

Chickens foraging on the grass
Chickens are great foragers and do a superb job of keeping pests at bay

Hens keep garden pests down

I know that my partner, Andre, will not always agree with this one because there are frequent times when the flock behaves like some industrial digging crew in the garden. The worst offenders are the smallest hens and they can easily move a ton of earth in about an hour. But the fact is they do keep pests down. Chickens will eat all the insect pests in the garden, slugs, snails and even mice if they can catch them. Mine haven't eaten any snakes yet but they do hunt the little birds from time to time and it always reminds me of a scene from Jurassic Park when the velociraptors hunt through the forest.

Brown chicken standing on the grass
Keeping chickens means devoting some time to their care and welfare

They keep you grounded

Keeping animals keeps us grounded and reminds us that we are not the centre of the world. It's been proven that sharing our lives with animals, feeding them and caring for them is excellent for our mental health and I am sure that most pet owners will agree with me. It's hard to wallow in self misery or unhappiness when you have a flock of happy, boisterous chickens who want your attemtion. They are rarely sad or unhappy and they always want to spend time with you, call you over (or in the case of mine holler at me!) and ask for treats.

They give you meat

This was one point I was not sure whether to include but for serious chicken keepers it's a question we absolutely have to address at some point especially if you are raising chickens from chicks or eggs. The reason for this is that you can never tell if you are going to get a cockerel or hen from simply looking at an egg, and you can rarely tell from looking at a young chick. So the cockerel question will always arise - do I keep the cockerels or not? And if I do keep them, how many do I keep because lots of cockerels do not usually get on well together. If the answer is "no cockerels" then you must consider what you are going to do with them. For many chicken keepers this means dispatching them and eating them (yes, it's a hard choice but in animal husbandry it's one we must face). If you allow a cockerel to grow to maturity, dispatch it in a fast, efficient and humane way in an environment that is not stressful then that is immeasurably better than the chicken you buy at the supermarket that will not have led the happy life that your's have done.

Have I convinced you to try out chicken keeping? It can be incredibly rewarding in so many ways. If you are considering keeping chickens and don't quite know where to start drop me an email because I am putting together a beginner's checklist of equipment you need to start your chicken keeping journey. My email is fiona@livinganordiclife.com

I'd love to hear from you if you keep hens yourself and if you want to know more about chicken keeping I am always happy to chat about them and share the knowledge that I have. Do come and join us in the Living a Nordic Life Facebook group.

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Jun 03

My husband and I kept chickens 30+ years ago. It was great for the family. The fresh eggs were wonderful and colored like yours.

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