Pardon the atrocious pun. But chickens do make egg-cellent pets. Take my word for it. I keep twelve happy hens in my backyard enclave.

Though I’ve wanted chickens for most of my adult life, I never thought I’d take the plunge until very recently. About a year ago I started thinking seriously about how much I love cooking. How often I employ eggs. How much it bothers me that animals are factory-farmed to produce as many eggs as possible, often at great expense to their health. And how sad it is that industrial chicken farming is often so bad for the environment (and then all that shipping!).

That’s when I broke down and ordered a batch of chicks. So on that one March morning, six fuzzy gray chicks changed my life with their cute overkill ... and later, with their hilariously reptilian antics. I can’t believe I didn’t do this sooner. They’re so much fun!

So much fun, in fact, that I’ve got an even dozen going. Not only are they among the cutest babies ever, they’re also funny, loyal, smart, and––here’s the kicker––they feed you when they grow up. Nothing beats the flavor of a barnyard egg. No supermarket egg, anyway. Not even the vegetarian-fed, cage-free variety (which are sometimes not all they’re cracked up to be).

Now that I’ve finally built them a great coop (their last one was a makeshift enclosure rimmed with chicken wire and only barely predator-proof), all I need is to slap on a coat of barnyard-red paint, reinforce the doors, and it’s ready to go. Eggs are on their way. All I need is a little stress reduction, a little more maturity, and I’m estimating my take at eight large brown eggs a day. What would you do with such a stash?

Soufflé? Omelette? Custard? Egg salad? Frittata? Soft-boiled? Fried? Over-easy? Poached?

It’s all on the menu. And in the meantime the birds are keeping me entertained. The only catch? They’re not always legal.

Though plenty of municipalities are changing their laws to accommodate chickens, not all are so enlightened. Despite the fact that other birds make more noise and can’t possibly rival a chicken’s domestic virtues, chickens often lose on the basis of a rooster’s notorious crows (though roosters aren’t needed to keep a backyard flock laying glorious eggs day after day and thus they deserve their not-in-suburbia status).

As long as we manage to keep roosters out of the equation, I’m all for backyard chicken-keeping. And you should be, too! Anything that saves animals the stress of confinement and industrial living while giving a family loads to love, should be up any animal lover’s alley.

Dr. Patty Khuly