How quickly things change! Backyard chickens used to be the norm in America but in the 1900’s nearly all laying hens moved into factory farms. One hundred years ago the largest poultry farms had no more than 400 birds and even those were rare. Today 95+% of all layers in the U.S. live in cages on just 186 company farms with a minimum of 75,000 hens! It gets worse – 86% of all layers are packed into 63 poultry factories of 1 million plus hens! Then for the truly unbelievable, 17 companies cage 5 million plus layers. The hens living in these conditions never see the sun. They have to be supplemented with vitamin D just to survive.
Because of modern poultry techniques, egg production has nearly quadrupled since 1925. We have paid for it, however, in a loss of nutrition. Factory eggs are far less nutritious than their cage free, sun basking counter parts. When Mother Earth News compared nutrient data from the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) for commercial eggs to eggs from hens raised on pasture they found that pastured eggs contain:
- 33% less cholesterol and 25% less saturated fat
- 2x more Omega-3 fatty acids
- 67% more vitamin A
- 3x more vitamin E
- 4-6x more vitamin D
- 7x more beta carotene
Many are becoming aware of the need to return to backyard chickens for a variety of reasons, though the trend seems to correspond with age. The younger generation is far more prone to support local statutes allowing backyard chickens and neighbors having their own flocks.
The same recent survey also found that, on average, 4% of urban home owners were planning to start a backyard flock within the next year. There has been a big push to adjust city ordinances to allow for at least hens on private property. If you are interested in started a backyard flock, you can start your research into your local ordinances by visiting http://www.backyardchickens.com/atype/3/Laws.
There are so many great benefits to having your own chickens, besides reducing the demand for eggs from mega poultry farms. I will cover this in future posts. Be sure to subscribe to Little Farm Secrets so you don’t miss a thing!