If you've ever spent time with happy chickens, you'll know how sweet and bubbly they are. If you haven't, now is the time to get on board.
Keeping your own chickens is easy, fun, requires little time (and space) and reduces food waste at home dramatically.
To get the lowdown on these hungry, little creatures, The Huffington Post Australia spoke to Director of Rentachook, Dave 'Mr Chicken' Ingham.
"The great thing about chickens is they are omnivorous, so any food waste that you've got from the house or the garden will end up getting eaten by them," Ingham told HuffPost Australia.
And by "any food waste" Ingham means EVERYTHING.
I've weighed the food scraps I've given my chickens and it was half a tonne to three-quarters of a tonne a year, which is 10-15 kilos of food per week.
"There's a lot of things you can't compost which go down very well with chickens because they just eat it," he said.
"You could put all fruit and veggie waste in the compost, but composts don't do very well with things like bread, pasta with sauce, curry, cheese, soup, rice dishes and any meat dish with a sauce -- but chickens will wolf all these down. You should see them go for bacon rind, it's all on."
"I've weighed the food scraps I've given my chickens and it was half a tonne to three-quarters of a tonne a year, which is 10-15 kilos of food per week. It's quite a substantial sum," Ingham said.
Rentachook started in 2001 to encourage people to keep chickens -- "an environmentally sustainable pet".
"Basically it's solving a commitment phobia in getting chickens,' Ingham told HuffPost Australia.
"When I first started doing it, people were saying 'Oh, I'm not sure about chickens, I'm used to cats and dogs. What's this chicken business?' So, the idea was to allow people to give chickens a go and put them in their yard."
If, at the end of the flexible six-week trial period, you don't love having the two or four chooks, or it doesn't work out, that's totally fine.
"You get a six-week period where you can work out if it's right for you and see what it's like to have chickens living in your space," Ingham said.
"At the end of it, if you love it and it's worked out, they're yours. If you don't love it and it doesn't work out, you give them back and we give them to someone else."
Aside from substantially reducing your food waste at home, the other benefits of having your own chickens include:
- It teaches kids about where food comes from
- They help remove weeds from your garden
- They turn your compost heap over for you
- They're a low maintenance, environmentally sustainable pet
- Kids adore them
But the greatest thing about having your own chooks?
"The eggs, without a shadow of a doubt," Ingham said. "They're the best, fresh (and free) free range eggs you've ever tasted. Up to six eggs per chook per week."
If you've ever tried actual country eggs, you'll know these 'homegrown' eggs are incomparable in terms of flavour to supermarket ones.
"It's because your supermarket eggs, by necessity, are being fed a homogenous diet. A backyard hen gets all these food scraps, which results in a broader flavour," Ingham said.
"It's like comparing Tooheys New beer and artisan beer. An artisan beer has all these flavours and characters, and it's different every time."
What you need
If you're wondering whether you have the time, space or money to have your own chickens, chances are you do.
"The minimum space two chickens would want is about the area of the shadow underneath a large car. To quantify that, it's about 8-10 square metres," Ingham told HuffPost Australia. "You need to fence off a bit of garden for a hen run.
"It's not a large commitment in space or time. If you're spending more than five minutes a day, you're probably overdoing it. They're very low maintenance.
"To give you an idea, your morning routine would be to come out, say 'hello, ladies' and give them a feed."
In terms of cost, according to Ingham, having your own chickens is actually cheaper than buying a year's worth of eggs. Seriously.
"Chickens are actually revenue positive -- it's a one year payoff but it costs less to keep the chickens than it does to buy eggs," he told HuffPost Australia.
If you're keen to expand your pet family, reduce your food waste and you've got a bit of space at home, you might consider chickens.
"The main message is you can't go wrong. If it does work out, you keep them. If it's not for you, no worries. No harm no foul."