It’s hard not to be aware of your environmental impact these days. But it can also seem difficult to limit it effectively without leaving society altogether and attacking the trees. While you don’t have to do anything so drastic, partially opting out of industrial agribusiness by keeping a flock of chickens is a relatively accessible option for many people who want to reduce their environmental impact. .
By choosing not to support the industrial machine, you send the message to those who profit from it that they must radically change their systems. But beyond making a statement, keeping a flock of backyard chickens offers many environmental benefits. Here’s why a backyard flock is better for the planet than even the best store-bought eggs.
1. More efficiency, less waste
A well-managed family herd is much more efficient than an industrial operation. Homesteaders often keep a hen until the end of its natural lifespan, or almost. Some will then choose to eat their dead birds, eliminating almost all of the waste associated with them. Industrial farms, on the other hand, often gas their hens as soon as they are past the maximum laying age, usually between 18 months and two years. Some of these corpses are made into pet food or other products, but hundreds of thousands are buried each year.
In terms of emissions, a 2014 study estimated that 63% of emissions from egg production come from the production of cereal-based feeds which are the sole source of nutrients for commercial birds. Backyard chickens, on the other hand, can eat a more varied diet that is supplemented with kitchen scraps, yard waste, wild plants, and the various insects, greens, and worms that free-range chickens feed on. . This not only produces healthier and tastier eggs, but also reduces the hens’ reliance on grain-based feeds and therefore their lifetime carbon footprint.
2. Reduced food waste
A backyard flock helps reduce household food waste. According to the United Nations Environment Programhouseholds generate more than twice as much food waste as restaurants and five times as much as retail outlets. A 2016 study found that 77% of consumers feel guilty when they throw away food, but also that two-thirds of respondents felt that wasting food was necessary to ensure safe and fresh-tasting food. A flock of chickens can help people reduce food waste without compromising quality.
Chickens love many types of kitchen scraps, including meat and fish scraps. You shouldn’t feed your birds moldy food or maggots, but chickens have a stronger digestive system than humans and can and will happily eat many things that we usually avoid. Do some research before giving your birds kitchen scraps, as some ingredients are toxic to them. Also, avoid feeding them seasoned foods – many spices and herbs will make chickens sick.
3. Natural pest control and fertilizer for your garden
Chickens can eliminate the need for toxic chemicals in the garden. Synthetic chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides can cause serious harm to the surrounding environment and wildlife. For one, most of these products are petroleum-based and therefore create significant pollution and emissions only during their production. In addition, the runoff of these products causes major pollution of riversleading to mass fish poisoning, dangerous algal blooms and “dead zones” in waterways, where neither plants nor animals can live.
Your backyard chickens can make it easy for you to grow a healthy vegetable garden without the need for harmful chemicals. Chickens love to eat insects and uproot plants, and their carefully managed presence in your garden can easily eliminate pests and weeds. Plus, their nitrogen-rich waste composts into an excellent fertilizer, especially effective at rejuvenating depleted soils.
4. Multiple recycling and reuse opportunities
A chicken coop is a great place to recycle and reuse many things that you might otherwise throw away. While most co-op owners who choose to build their co-ops do so for economic rather than environmental reasons, relying on excess inventory and online co-op plans, this strategy also has environmental benefits. In general, the more material you can use, the better it is for the environment. You can reuse scrap wood, old furniture, and discarded pallets when building or repairing an affordable, eco-friendly chicken coop.
5. Reduction of carbon emissions
Home egg production reduces emissions from shipping, refrigeration and transportation. A University of Sydney 2022 study in Australia found that 19% of food-related emissions come from transport, representing 6% of all global emissions. Eating local is a great way to reduce those emissions, and it doesn’t get more local than your backyard. Walking through your garden and then returning to the kitchen produces no greenhouse gases unless you want to count the carbon dioxide you exhale while doing so.
Additionally, unpasteurized eggs fresh from the nest do not need to be refrigerated, further reducing the emissions associated with them.
Reduce your environmental impact with backyard chickens
If you eat eggs and chicken, keeping chickens is a great way to help reduce your impact on the environment. Chickens and especially eggs are already among the low impact animal protein sources available. Even industrial production methods do not have the same catastrophic impacts and emissions as beef and pork. By keeping a herd in your backyard, you can reduce your emissions even further and do something positive for your family, your health, and your planet.
About the Author
Chris Lesley has been raising backyard chickens for over 20 years and is Chickens and more poultry specialist. She has a flock of 11 chickens (including three Silkies) and currently teaches people around the world how to take care of healthy chickens.