Clif + Amy CastlemanWe’ve never worked on a farm, and our yard isn’t all that big. Neither of us were ever in 4-H and our childhood pets were cats, dogs, and parakeets… But step into the backyard of our suburban Northern Virginia home and you’ll find a happy little brood of chickens, scratching in the dirt for worms, pecking at bugs in a tree stump and providing some of the best “farm fresh” eggs one is likely to find.

Until a few years ago, starting a backyard flock would have been unthinkable to us (although truth be told, Amy secretly has wanted both chickens and a backyard apiary for years). Then COVID happened followed by a significant outbreak of the Avian Flu, which spiked the price of eggs to darn near $10 per dozen! An unexpected hobby was born: backyard chicken farm! As it turns out, chickens are easier to care for than a dog, cheaper to feed, and you don’t have to walk them. Not to mention that dog hasn’t laid an egg in months. LOL!!

Over the last few years, backyard chicken coops have become much more common in neighborhoods all across America, and range from the simple to the ornate. Here in Northern Virginia, and even in our HOA, we’re finding that more and more neighbors actually have chickens! Which brings us to one of the biggest fears we had: Does our HOA allow backyard chickens? How about the County? Turns out that our HOA does not have anything against owning chickens (roosters are another story), and as for Loudoun County, Virginia; where we live, they simply recommend getting a zoning permit (which was free)!

So, why are so many people raising chickens?

Egg ComparisonEGGS: They don’t get any fresher than these. Eggs found in a grocery store may take weeks to finally reach your cart and even with a shelf life of 30-60 days, they begin to lose flavor quickly. Additionally, the well-tended home chicken enjoys a healthier diet, and will produce a more nutritional and protein-rich egg. Oh, and the health benefits of farm-fresh vs. store bought eggs is enormous!

PEST CONTROL: Bugs are a favorite snack of chickens and they can do a great job keeping your pest population down.Good for the Garden: In addition to the aforementioned ability to reduce your bug problem, chickens also love to eat weeds (keep an eye on that herb garden, though). Once they’ve done all that eating, they finish the process by producing an excellent fertilizer, rich in nitrogen and other nutrients. Be sure to compost first.

GOOD FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: Not only are they helping you rock your own mini-ecosystem in the yard, they will also help out by taking care of those table scraps that might otherwise end up in the garbage disposal. And considering all it takes to deliver commercial eggs to your local market, that chicken is looking mighty green.

Chickens are Fun: You’ll quickly discover that every bird has its own personality and many breeds make great pets. Handle the chicks regularly as they grow and they will maintain surprisingly social dispositions into adulthood. If you have kids in the house, chickens are a great family hobby and collecting eggs from the nests is a chore even the little ones will enjoy.

If you still aren’t sure, find a neighbor who has taken the plunge and invite yourself to breakfast. If they can’t convince you, the omelet will.

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