As the country begins to reopen, Agridirect provides 5 great reasons to hold on to your lockdown chickens!
Escape to the chicken coop
It’s now 14 months since Ireland went into its first lockdown. Confined to their houses for months, people found all kinds of ways to distract themselves. The outdoorsy types took to growing vegetables and birdwatching. The more artistically inclined turned to producing arts and crafts. The bookworms retreated into literature. The list goes on.One of the most popular distractions of the lockdown era was poultry keeping. All over Ireland, people who had never owned chickens before started to browse the internet in search of fowl. There was good reason for this. Last spring, the future looked frighteningly uncertain. Every news article seemed to augur impending doom and societal breakdown. When such is the state of the world writ large, we long for a tranquil environment to preserve our sanity. And there are few experiences more soothing than strolling down to the chicken coop to lift a couple of freshly laid eggs from the nest box. Even watching hens going about their daily routine can be relaxing!
So it’s fair to say that many of us owe our feathered friends a lot. At the risk of sounding a bit hackneyed, they were a source of light in the depths of a very dark few months when hope seemed an unreasonable expectation. That’s why it is important that we continue to show our appreciation for them even after the world returns to some kind of normality. Unfortunately, there is good reason to think that a small number of us will not. To put it bluntly, I fear that there will be a mass-abandonment of chickens as we begin to return to the workplace. In Britain, which is quite a distance ahead of Ireland on the road to post-pandemic normalcy, huge numbers of hens have been abandoned as people found their social schedules filling up again. According to a report from late 2020, many in Britain were already starting to abandon chickens they had bought during lockdown, leading to fears that rescue centres would be unable to cope with the volume.
Stand by your friends!
Now I understand that, in normal times, many of us live obscenely busy lives. For some, it may not be possible to continue to keep chickens in the long term. Poultry keeping is not always compatible with long commutes to work and office overtime. As pets go, most fowl do not require an awful lot of attention, but they do require a certain level of care, and that takes time. That said, I would implore everyone not to abandon their birds in the expectation that some kind-hearted individual will adopt them. I have seen this happen before, so I know there are some out there who wouldn’t blink at the thought of dumping a small flock along a roadside somewhere. If the thought has crossed your mind, just remind yourself that hens are capable of recognizing up to 100 human faces. Your birds know you. You are not abandoning a dumb animal, you are abandoning a companion! So if you can’t afford to keep your fowl as your workload starts to increase, please make sure that you pass them on to a kind and caring new owner.
Why keep hens?
Anyway, because some of you may be thinking of moving your chickens on to a new home, we decided to put together a list of 5 great reasons to change your mind. For those of you considering a purchase in the near future, we hope that we can convince you that it is the right choice!
- Having your own eggs! This is the obvious reason for keeping chickens, though certainly not the only one. Having your own eggs is more than just a cost-saving measure. It also means that you know your eggs came from happy, healthy hens. The animal-lovers among you should know that egg production is not always ethical. Many of the eggs we buy in the shops come from battery hens that never see the light of day.
- Getting rid of food scraps. If you have a few chickens, your household waste will shrink dramatically. Almost anything you will eat, they will eat too! Among livestock, only the pig is a more effective scrap-hoover than the humble hen.
- Pest control. We don’t often recognize our chickens’ contribution as a pest-control squad. If you are preparing an area for vegetables, put your chickens on it before you dig. They will eat unwanted insects and larvae, leaving you with the perfect growing conditions!
- Fertiliser. Chicken manure is one of the best natural fertilisers available. It is rich in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, so it provides a superb boost to growing plants. Scatter it on your vegetable patch or flower bed and watch them bloom!
- Great for the kids! For the parents among us, this is probably the most appealing reason for keeping hens. Chickens are gentle, sociable creatures, so they offer a great – and very safe – way to introduce children to the animal world. In addition, it is important for children to know how food is produced, and eggs are among the staples of our Irish diet. While many kids may know that eggs come from chickens, there is nothing like taking our little ones down to the nest box to collect warm, fresh eggs.