As I enter this annual spring dilemma about baby chicks, the question “why chickens?” is a question that begs to be asked again. For me it is very simple I like to know where my food came from. I am not extreme, in that I know living in a high cold desert I can’t do that in many cases, but chickens is one of those instances that work for me.
My eggs are from true free range chickens. This means that they go out and eat bugs, worms, grass, weeds and yes even sometimes my flowers. They forage around the yard and pasture looking for tasty morsels. It means they eat old bread, trimmings from veggies and fruit, and other goodies that would otherwise make the trash heap. This isn’t to say that they don’t eat a commercial food because they do that as well. They eat more commercial mix in when snow is on the ground, but come summer a 50 pound bag of feed will last me most of the season. My commercial chicken food is blended by a local family feed company. No mystery food from China.
Free range… So what? Who cares? What is the big deal? Everyone has seen eggs in the grocery that have free-range written on the carton. No factory farm, even free range is going to let their chickens roam free. Instead they are given access to the outdoors, along with thousands of others. No bugs or grass have lived there for years. My chickens get to behave like chickens. They get exercise, like us exercise is good for them. They get to sunbathe and take baths, dust baths that is. They get a varied diet when they go out and forage for food. The result of this is eggs that are superior in nutritional value. Yes healthier than all those fancy eggs in the grocery. How much healthier are my eggs? Well there was a scientific evaluation of true free range eggs vs. grocery store eggs. The results were pretty amazing. Here are some of the results of evalutating true free range eggs:
- 1/3 less cholesterol
- 1/4 less saturated fat
- 2/3 more vitamin A
- 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
- 3 times more vitamin E
- 7 times more beta carotene
Writing this blog reminds me of why I get chicks, and go through the process of raising them. In spite of the hassle of baby chicks, protecting them, keeping them draft-free and adjusting their brooder temperatures each week, they will grow up. Once they grow up I get some pretty amazing eggs, and that is worth it all. Yep there are baby chicks in my future.