Why Are Chickens Great Animals
Chickens are pretty amazing animals. We see the proof every day on our farm, and that’s why we strive to make animal welfare a huge part of our Pasturebird operation. While it may seem a bit strange to hear a chicken farmer talking about animal welfare, these two things are not as mutually exclusive as they may seem. The truth is, chicken is the most consumed protein by humans, worldwide. That isn’t going to change. What can change is the way chickens are raised and treated during their lifetime, and we aim to be an example of the way the poultry industry should do business - by focusing on the welfare of our animals and of the environment first and foremost.
Here at Pasturebird, we know that it’s the land and the animals that sustain us, and they deserve our deep respect. We make it our mission to operate as ethically as possible, using regenerative agricultural practices and prioritizing animal welfare. If you’ve been a longtime reader of our blog, you know that when we started this farm, we were complete newbies, and had to learn as we went along. As part of our initial research, we started by educating ourselves about chickens, and what we learned surprised us! Unless you’ve raised or studied chickens, you may be as surprised as we were to learn how complex and intelligent they are.
Here are some facts you might not know about chickens, and just a few of the reasons they are such great animals.
Chickens Are Smarter Than You Think
There are no “bird brains” here! Chickens are extremely intelligent - in fact, research has shown that chickens have an intelligence comparable to that of primates. In a 2017 article for the journal Animal Cognition, author Lori Marino posited, based on peer reviewed research, that chickens are “on par with many mammals in terms of their level of intelligence, emotional sophistication, and social interaction.” Research has shown that chickens possess complex emotions, and even communicate with each other using at least 24 unique sounds.
Chickens nurture their young even before they hatch, tending to their eggs and even communicating with the chicks through their shells. Once the eggs hatch, mother chickens teach their young which foods to stay away from, and how to forage for the right food. They also protect their chicks from perceived threats.
Chickens also have great memories - in fact, they can recognize over 100 faces! If you’re lucky enough to have an urban or rural homestead and backyard chickens, you’ve likely experienced the joy of being greeted by your flock and have developed a relationship with them not unlike that you would develop with a dog or other household pet.
Chickens Make a Great Addition to Your Backyard or Homestead
Homesteading (both urban and rural) is increasing in popularity in the wake of the pandemic, with more and more people turning back to the land and learning how to be self-reliant. There is something incredibly satisfying about growing or raising your own food, and tending to your own land. While not easy by any means, homesteading is the “good kind of hard” where you end each day feeling content with your contribution. Are you yearning to experience this lifestyle, but not quite ready (or able) to give up suburban life? With a little ingenuity, you can have a thriving homestead on well under an acre of land. Backyard chickens are a wonderful addition to your homestead, and since they’re such great animals, owning some backyard chickens is a great way to dip your toe into animal husbandry. Chickens are much more low maintenance than other farm animals, and while they require a small amount of daily care, they take up less space and are less labor intensive than, say, cows or goats.
If you grow your own food, chickens will be a boon to your backyard garden. Chickens are master foragers, and they love hunting and eating insects of all kinds! Incorporating chickens into your backyard garden is an awesome method of natural insect control. You’ll need to take a few precautions to keep them from nibbling your vegetables as well, but it’s well worth it for the benefits your chickens will provide.
Not only will your chickens help with pest control, but their poop is spectacular fertilizer for your garden! As we discussed in a recent blog post, chicken manure is incredibly nourishing for soil, providing ample organic matter and crucial nutrients. Chickens work their poop into the ground directly by pecking and scratching during their foraging process, and their coop bedding and manure (yep, as intelligent as they are, chickens still poop the bed) can be composted and added to your garden to provide natural fertilizer for your food crops.
Our Pasture Raised Chickens Live Their Best Chicken Lives
The more we learn about chickens, the more dedicated we become to our mission of raising chickens on pasture. Chickens are complex, sensitive, intelligent animals that deserve our respect and appreciation. Chickens have nourished us throughout our lifetime, and our focus at Pasturebird is to nourish them during their lifetime too. Far from being just about profits and the bottom line, ethical farming is about putting welfare first - whether it be animal welfare, the welfare of farm workers, or the welfare of the land. That’s why our chickens spend most of their day outdoors, in a movable coop that allows them to behave the way chickens were meant to do - pecking and scratching the ground and foraging for seeds, bugs, worms, and small animals. We also make sure that our chickens receive a high quality heritage grain-based feed to supplement the natural diet they receive on pasture. Chickens simply weren’t meant to live in confined spaces never seeing the light of day. Raising chickens on pasture ensures that life is better for the birds, with plenty of access to fresh air and sunlight, and a varied and nutritious diet obtained from foraging and supplementation. As a result, their meat is more nutritious for our consumers, and we can rest easy knowing that we’re providing a high quality product to our customers, and a high quality life for our chickens.