1) Fertile hatching eggs which I incubate all spring/summer long. I sell their children. I'm evil like that ;-)
2) Food. We do eat their eggs. There are a LOT more eggs in the winter when I'm not hatching as much. Sometimes I sell hatching eggs. As for eating eggs...I generally just give those away.
3) Bug control. Chickens will demolish the grubs in the garden! They love cabbage worms and can destroy an earwig nest in seconds. I've often found an ant nest while digging in the garden and the chickens have attacked it scarfing down every single egg they can find. Their not as fond as the adult ants, but we had a lot of ants and they have made a huge dent in the population. Guineas are especially fond of ticks and will wander through the yard and woods searching them out.
4) Compost. Chicken poop is high in nitrogen (green) and the chickens have wood chips in their coops for bedding (brown) which is exactly what you need to make compost! Awesome, right? Oh sure, I usually add in moisture and more green material but basically poopy chicken litter is the perfect compost starter. Compost makes the garden grow beautifully.
5) Mini garbage disposals which will consume any leftovers we may have. Anything that I can't compost, I feed to the chickens. They like pasta, rice, oats, bread, meats....pretty much anything from the kitchen.
6) Alarm system. The geese were better at this but the Guineas still do a bang up job of hollering their heads off whenever someone pulls into the driveway. They also holler at deer in the woods and the occasional stray dog. It can get noisy here but I always know when someone shows up.
7) Amusement! Have you ever watched 2 male guineas run around and around the house like little road runners? Hilarious! There is nothing funnier then dropping a few meal worms or grapes into a chick brooder and watch them run around squealing about their treats! Or when you throw the first treat out to the hens and one snatches it and runs away....then the rest follow trying to steal the treat. Too funny. They can be trained if you have some patience. I have one that walks on a leash and even goes to shows and meets people/poses for pictures.
I could also add:
Knowing whats going into your eggs/meat.
Being more self sufficient.
The benefits of teaching children where our food really comes from. etc etc..there are so so many reasons to have chickens on your homestead!
Honestly, if I wasn't running the chickens as a business I would probably cut down to a dozen Guineas for tick control and maybe a dozen chickens. Or less. (We have a lot of acreage for the guineas to cover!) That would be more then enough to provide our homestead with everything we need from them, without requiring a huge feed bill.
Although the first year is expensive after that it's all about the balance...what you get from them needs to be worth more then what you spend on them. If that's the case, then yes chickens do have a place on your homestead.
Check out our Chicken Pinterest board for more great chicken posts!