Seven Reasons to Add Chickens to Your Barn Menagerie
Horses and hens can be the best of pals and actually lighten your workload around the barn.
By Cari Klostermann, spring 2017 AQHA communications and digital marketing intern | April 19, 2018
Spring has sprung, and with the aroma of wildflowers in the air comes the tiny chirps of fluffy, yellow chicks in feed stores across the country. There is no denying that these little balls of fluff are adorable, and we are all guilty of spending just a little too much time watching them bask in their heat lamps when you’re in the middle of a quick feed run.
Chickens have more beneficial qualities than most realize. In fact, keeping hens and horses together is a time-honored tradition that is mutually beneficial for all involved.
1) Chickens are easy to care for and cheap to keep around.
Sure, there are some initial start-up costs that include setting up a safe place for your chicks to live until they are big enough to take care of themselves, plus a coop where they can safely sleep and lay their eggs without fear of predation. But to keep costs low, repurpose items around the barn, such as galvanized tanks, to make your own brooder box and cozy coop. Once their homes are set up, all chickens need to thrive is clean water and layer feed. Add some free-choice oyster shell to help them produce strong eggshells.
2) Chickens are nature’s clean-up men.
Horses are naturally messy eaters, and it only gets worse as they get older. When your horse dribbles his grain outside of his feed bin, your chickens will be quick to swoop in and clean it up. This not only cuts down on waste and the incidence of rodents, but it also prevents your horse from trying to vacuum up everything he’s dropped and ingesting sand and other potentially harmful substances in the process.
3) Say goodbye to mice, bugs, weeds and all other sorts of pests.
Chickens are omnivores and will eat just about anything they can get their beaks on. This includes all the creepy crawlies that you and your horse can definitely live without. Chickens will do their best to eat any mice and bugs that find their way to your property, which can significantly reduce disease risk. Plus, chickens’ love for vegetation will help get rid of any weeds you’d rather your horse not eat, and you can do so without the need for pesticides. From ticks and flies to mice and snakes, you can bet your chickens will earn their keep through pest control.
4) Chickens can desensitize your horse.
It’s happened to all of us. You decide to take your horse on a nice, relaxing trail ride, only to be met by a hidden covey of quail, or worse, the dreaded plastic bag. Exposure to chickens will get your horse used to flapping, squawking and scurrying that would otherwise result in your horse having a panic attack. Think about all the training your chickens will do (for free!) while you can sit back and enjoy the show.
5) Chickens are entertaining and amusing.
There are hundreds of breeds of chickens, so you are sure to find some that fit your needs, color and size preferences. Chickens are more clever than they are given credit, and watching them interact with each other and every other critter on your farm will keep you entertained for hours.
6) Chickens can help your garden flourish.
So you’ve decided to grow a garden that both you and your horse can enjoy, but your plants aren’t growing as well as you’d like. Not only will the chickens do all your weeding for you, their waste and egg shells make excellent fertilizer and compost that your garden will love.
7) Fresh eggs!
Sure, this is the most well-known reason to keep chickens, but it is so wonderful it is worth a reminder. Eggs are packed full of protein, essential vitamins and Omega-3, and raising chickens means never running out of these heart-healthy nuggets of goodness!
There is a reason raising chickens has become a popular hobby inside the city limits and out in the countryside, and it’s time to jump on board. With seven, priceless benefits (that feel more like 20) adding chickens to your barnyard is an easy decision.