self-sufficientincludes chicken-keeping as a defining feature and the idea of doing one without the other is incomprehensible.
Chicken pic borrowed from Lousia
So do we want to keep chickens? Well, no. The conversation with enthusiastic friends goes like this,
You must keep chickens.
But we don't eat very many eggs.
You can find lots of uses for eggs if you put your mind to it.Let's just follow the logic there. Our hypothetical chickens are producing more eggs than we want, so we have to find new ways of using the eggs. Remind me why we're getting the chickens, again?
Another line is, “Eggs are very useful for trading.” At this point I explain that my aim is to provide for our own needs, not to be a farmer. For some people swapping eggs for other goods is so different from selling them that this distinction is difficult to get across. Maybe bartering is also an essential part of their self-sufficiency concept.
Friends who keep a few chickens themselves can be very enthusiastic about how much fun they are to have around. I've no doubt this is true, but this is very much treating the birds as pets. I don't have a problem with this, but we have one cat, who causes quite enough trouble on her own, and we can't afford to keep any more pets.
Economically, there's no case for keeping chickens for the eggs. They need housing, fencing in and feeding, all of which costs money. If we got quite a few birds, we might sell enough eggs to cover the costs, but that would be farming which, as I've already mentioned, is not really what this is all about.
There's also the question of what happens when they get old and stop laying. From a farming point of view, the sensible thing to do would be to kill them for meat (though the meat from such birds isn't terribly good) but I'm sure if I kept chickens they'd be pets by that time, and I just couldn't bring myself to kill them, so they'd continue their lives as pets, needing feeding and looking after, not producing any eggs at all.
I can see good reasons for other people to keep chickens, as pets and for extremely fresh eggs, but not for us. Ian doesn't even like eggs.