When I first began dreaming of getting a mini-flock of chickens a few years ago, my imagination floated towards visions of omelets and meringue, and how I would bestow full egg cartons on my loved ones to show how much I appreciate them.
In truth, we always seem to eat all the eggs. Of the hundreds of dozens brought into the house, I think I’ve given away only a few handfuls of eggs in the last three years, usually to the little kids in the neighborhood.
The eggs are as delicious, just like chicken people always brag. And I’m not making it up when I say that the flowers in my garden are bigger and brighter since they’ve been boosted by all that manure. But the completely unforeseen benefit of keeping chickens, and maybe the best one, is that they eat leftovers. Really old ones, and really untasty ones too.
They don’t turn their beaks up at mold, spice, fermentation, salt, animal products, dairy, or burnt food. They will eat stale pink marshmallows. Those, along with weird diet bread, were an offering from my neighbor, and made me wonder if there was a point in springing extra for the organic feed I’d been buying.
Sometimes their indiscriminate eating habits can be gross. They caught a snake once and I felt like I was watching a reenactment of a violent scene from the Bible. An Amish farmer I know says his chickens love to catch mice. But the eggs seem to taste the same every day, so that’s good.
Chickens are among the easiest animals to keep. They require no human affection, they produce food, and you don’t take them to the vet. On top of all that, they actually help alleviate guilt about being wasteful. In about three minutes, they just devoured a five day old double batch of Jungle Curry. You can’t put a price on that.