With backyard chickens, a pet can produce love, life lessons — and breakfast

click to enlarge With backyard chickens, a pet can produce love, life lessons — and breakfast
Young Kwak photo
Beth Labar and a member of her backyard flock.

To a kid, chickens are fascinating creatures. Especially when they're living at someone's house. They're certainly outside of the traditional pet realm for most people.

Going over to a friend's house and seeing chickens running around outside was always exciting when I was little. While I was definitely too scared to pick one up, admiring them from a distance suited me well. I have fond memories of giggling at their strange movements and hearing them make funny noises as if speaking to one another. They truly piqued my interest in a way no other pet did.

Elsa Oxford, a friend since elementary school, had chickens in her yard in Spokane's Rockwood neighborhood when we were little, and still does to this day. Her mom, Dana Oxford, says her family initially got chickens for their kids and that she will always have them. They've had chickens in their yard for 15 years now.

"Chickens are fun — they're cute, they're funny, and they have personalities," Dana says.

Monica Bertucci, a chicken wrangler for 11 years in Spokane, says her family first got chickens for the novelty but quickly grew attached to having more living things around. She also says that the chickens were good teachers of animal stewardship for her daughter.

"[Owning chickens] keeps us connected to where we live and a world beyond ourselves," she says.

click to enlarge With backyard chickens, a pet can produce love, life lessons — and breakfast
Young Kwak photo
Chickens each have unique personalities.

Beyond their role as pets, of course, chickens provide some ecological benefits for a household and help reduce one's carbon footprint. According to the EPA, the agriculture industry contributed 11.2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States in 2020. Factory farms, including those for large-scale egg production, create tons of manure every year, contributing to harmful water pollution. With backyard chickens, their waste can be handled in an eco-friendly way, and receiving eggs from them as opposed to factory-produced eggs is an excellent benefit for the environment.

Beth Labar and her family, who I've known for most of my life, have provided my family with many things, including eggs every once in a while. A South Hill resident, Labar says on top of the benefits of providing her family eggs, backyard chickens give her good compost material that ultimately helps her garden. Even when they just walk around, chickens positively impact her yard.

"They are natural little rototillers," she says.

Bertucci says the most rewarding part about having chickens is having a protein food source right in her backyard. It allows her family to feel connected to their food — something lost in buying factory-produced eggs at the grocery store.

Backyard chickens are also great when it comes to food waste. Dana Oxford has a composting container in her kitchen, and when it's full, she'll bring it to her chickens, who gobble it up.

"They love it. They eat everything," Oxford says.

Backyard chickens are also a great source of entertainment.

"I've always had one out of every batch that has been extra friendly," Oxford says. "I used to have one that I could put in my lap and pet her like a cat and she would fall asleep."

In terms of entertainment, Oxford says there's nothing funnier than a chicken running toward you. She also describes a time when she saw the chickens in her yard chasing another chicken and making a lot of noise, and when she looked outside, she saw the chicken up front with a mouse's tail hanging out of its mouth. She watched the chicken stop and swallow it whole.

"I've seen that happen twice," she says.

Early in quarantine when everyone was seeking new forms of entertainment, Bertucci's family set up a race course for her chickens. They did different heats and placed bets on who would win. She shares the belief that chickens are funny runners.

She also says that whenever she goes into her yard, her chickens happily run to see her, which is always fun. She finds a lot of comfort in the additional life that her chickens bring.

"They're part of our family," she says. ♦

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