So you want to raise your own backyard chickens huh? Perhaps you heard about the terrible conditions, some chicken
As a person who owns a few chickens, I will tell you the not so nice parts about having backyard chickens so you can decide if it is right for you. I am not only a bearer of bad news however, here is an article that lists the best reasons for having backyard chickens.
I never set out to have backyard chickens for eggs or anything like that. I have chickens because I incubated some eggs as a science experiment for my young son. His daycare did it and I thought it was awesome. I also have memories of being a child where I stole an egg from under our chickens with the hopes that I could get the eggs to hatch. Sigh, the things you do as an only child. Ok, I digress.
I purchased an incubator and some fertilized eggs from a University and started the hatching process. The plan was to donate the chickens to a farm. After speaking to a woman at work I pondered the idea of keeping the chickens for eggs. Twenty-one days after I placed the eggs in the incubator I had 12 White Leghorn chicks. All my research suggested that the hatch rate could be anywhere from 30 – 80%. I was shocked at my success rate.
By the time they hatched, I had decided to keep the chickens so I purchased a coop good enough for 8 adult chickens. Roosters are banned in my town so I knew I had to get rid of them. I ended up with 5 females and that was a perfect number of chickens for me. A small farm was kind enough to take the roosters off my hand.
Here are 12 reasons raising chickens might not be for you
1. Backyard chickens can be a lot of work
Chickens poop and poop and then poop some more. They are a walking poop machine and are completely incapable of being trained to poop at a specific spot. Your shiny new coop from the store will soon be covered in poop and will need to be cleaned regularly. If this grosses you out you probably shouldn’t get backyard chickens unless someone lives with you who is willing to do all the hands-on work.
2. Young chickens need constant care
For about the first 6 to 8 weeks of their life chicks need to have access to a warm space, free of the draft. Before their feathers grow in chickens are very susceptible to the cold. If you live in the northern parts of the world this usually means the chicks might need to be indoors with access to a heater.
3. The Chicken coop will stink really quickly if not cleaned regularly
Before I had backyard chickens, I would read the instructions that say all you need is to clean your chicken coop once per year. The chickens will scratch and the poop will just compost and everything would be great. This, however, did not prove to be true for me. For one, the coop I have is a 2 story coop, so there is no composting on the top level. Once the poop has been made up top the only way to get rid of it is to remove it. The closer the coop is in your living quarters the more of a concern this will be.
4. Roosters do crow every morning
Noisy roosters are a well-known fact, but hens are not quiet little saints either. After a hen lays they do make some noise. If you have a house that is very close to neighbors you might want to consider this. No kidding, right around breakfast time I get the “I laid an egg” noise from the hens. Some breeds make more noise than others so you might want to research this if the noise could be an issue for you.
5. Backyard chickens should be let out to free-range
If you plan on keeping the chickens in a coop every day of their lives forever, it’s just not very nice. Chickens are birds and birds like to scratch, catch worms and roam. If you live where hawks can get them or where this just isn’t possible, I would highly recommend not getting chickens. Don’t worry chickens will reliably find their way back to their coop at dusk.
6. Chicken has no boundaries
If you let chickens out to free-range they will go just about anywhere. If you don’t have a fence and have picky neighbors, then having chickens might cause problems for you.
7. Chicken eggs can be filthy
My dreams of strolling out to the coop and fetching nice shiny white eggs just ready to be fried soon became a nightmare. They can be stored outside a fridge for a couple of weeks before they are washed off. The reality is that the eggs are in most cases dirty with poop, yes, poop can sometimes be all over it. The longer you wait to fetch your eggs the dirtier they will be. I usually cover mine up until I am ready to wash them off.
8. Fresh eggs are notoriously hard to peel when boiled
Steaming the eggs solved this problem for me, but it was the first disappointment I had to face. I also noticed that as the chickens got older their eggs became easier to peel.
9. Backyard chickens can be more costly than buying eggs at the store
This is especially true if you don’t buy free-range or organic eggs. Chicken feed is relatively cheap, but it’s not free. I technically get way more eggs from the chickens than I could buy with the same amount of money I spent for feed. However, I usually end up giving away the excess so, in the end, I spend more on feed than it would cost me to buy eggs for my own family in the same time period.
If you have a large family that uses a lot of eggs then this will be a non-issue for you. If you sell your excess eggs then this should work out in your favor. However, the cost of the coop is expensive and it will take some time to break even from this even if you do sell your excess eggs.
10. The chicken water might freeze
If you live in a climate where it gets below freezing temperatures during the winter you will need to find a solution to keep your water unfrozen. This means purchasing more gadgets and using electricity to keep the water above freezing temps. The backyard chickens themselves should be fine when it’s cold as long as they are fully feathered mature chickens.
11. Chickens love to scratch
If you use one of the regular water bowls shown above it will be filthy every day. You will also need to strategically place the feeding bowls at a location where the chickens are not able to poop in it from above.
12. You have to be wary about salmonella
Chickens’ intestines can become contaminated with salmonella. This means eggs can be contaminated before they are formed and the outside of the eggs can become contaminated by contact with bird poop. I know some will say this is true of commercial birds only. However, this is a dangerous statement to make. You should assume any chicken whether backyard chickens or store-bought has this risk. You should wash your hands after taking care of the chickens. Your eggs should be cleaned and cooked thoroughly. If you have children they will have to be trained as well and the younger the child the greater the risk. The precaution would be the same as you need to take when handling commercially bought raw chicken.
Hopefully, these tips will help you to decide whether having backyard chickens is right for you. These points are not intended to be dissuasive but it is to highlight the potential negative aspects of raising chickens before the time and money are spent. Everyone’s experience might also differ.
Raising backyard chickens can be great for eggs and they can double up as pets. They provide a source of food that you can trust and rely on. I support anyone that wants to manage their own food source, but backyard chickens come with responsibilities, many of which aren’t obvious until you get them. I don’t totally regret getting them, but I must admit I was only focusing on the positives of having chickens before I made the plunge.