March 2, 2016

What I Learned From Backyard Chickens

Happy people are often healthier people.

Sandra Blackmer

Every spring local feed stores in my town advertise “Backyard Chicken-raising 101” classes, right about the same time the adorable little puffballs arrive for sale. I’ve been intrigued. Although those who regulate subdivision restrictions would do more than frown if chickens were found strutting and clucking around my yard, out of curiosity I decided to show up at the chicken-raising class offered recently at the local library. What I learned was fascinating.

Backyard chickens that either roam free or are kept in large, well-maintained pens with lots of space and access to outdoors repay their good care by producing truly superior-quality eggs. Compared to store-bought eggs, studies indicate that backyard chicken eggs:

  • Have one-third less cholesterol;
  • Are twice as high in omega-3 fatty acids;
  • Have seven times more beta-carotene;
  • Are truly fresh (store-bought eggs are considered fresh up to 45 days); and
  • Are much richer in color, boasting dark orange yolks versus pale yellow ones.

The class instructor, Gretchen Anderson—a former local journalist, author of
The Backyard Chicken Fight, and a longtime backyard chicken raiser—sparked chuckles when she told of giving a dozen of her chicken eggs to a neighbor, who promptly threw them out after the first crack.

“She had never seen an egg with an orange yolk before,” Anderson explained. “She thought they had gone bad.”

So then I had to ask, “What makes the difference?”

Her answer surprised me: “Happy chickens,” she said.

Although Anderson isn’t an animal advocate per se, she laid out a stark contrast between the living conditions of factory-farmed chickens and those of backyard chickens. Well-cared-for chickens that are allowed to live in a way that’s natural and healthful for them are happy chickens, she said, and the results are obvious.

I then wondered, “Could the same be true for people? If happy chickens are so much healthier than those living under industry-standard conditions, would a
person’s level of happiness have as dramatic an effect on their own health as well?

Studies abound indicating a strong connection between emotional and physical wellness. According to the University of Minnesota, for example, chronic stress from negative attitudes and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can upset the body's hormone balance and damage the immune system. And poorly managed or repressed anger is related to such health issues as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, digestive disorders, and infection.[1] Evidently, happy people are often healthier people.

Many, however, are not happy—frequently through no fault of their own. Chronic stress from the myriad of hard knocks and hurdles that life throws at us takes a toll. Often we live in negative situations beyond our control, with little say in what’s going on around us. Even those people whom we would label as “well cared for” aren’t always happy; they’ve discovered that money, ease, and comfort—as inviting as they sound—don’t necessarily result in happiness.

So what’s the solution? As with everything else, it’s Jesus.

“A wise heart, molded by the Holy Spirit . . . is the foundation of all true happiness,”[2] Ellen White writes. “You need to understand how to repose in God.”[3]

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28), Jesus tells us, adding in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”

As we prepare for the approaching “storm,” let us find health and happiness by resting and trusting in Jesus—and perhaps by raising a few backyard chickens!

  2. Ellen G. White, Sons and Daughters of God, p. 298.
  3. Ibid.