Before you dive into this post, I should clarity where I stand on raising chickens.
We’ve got around 60 chickens on the homestead today. 3 flocks of hens that we’ve acquired over the past 4 years, plus 4 studious roosters. When you add our seasonal meat birds to that mix, there’s close to 300 chickens that we are caring for at one time or another.
So don’t let the title mislead you. I’ve said many times that chickens are the gateway drug to homestead living, and I definitely think that’s true. But after raising chickens for a while, you learn a lot of things, including why chickens might not be right for all people.
The emotional response to chickens
There’s definitely an emotional response to baby chicks in the spring.
I get it. We’ve been there too.
You’re in the feed store and you just happen to walk by the new chicks, all chirping and playful and looking cute. Just begging to be brought home.
Next thing you know you’ve brought home all the chickens only to realize you have nowhere to put them.
It’s funny how this emotional response peeks it’s weird little head every spring. Even for some of us who already have all the chickens. We see a baby chick and something releases inside of us. A welling of desire for a simpler life filled with green grass and fresh air. Chickens somehow unlock this desire for things that maybe we didn’t even realize we wanted.
Those chickens come with a price tag.
7 reasons you may not want chickens
I’m not here to discourage anyone from buying chickens. But what I want to do is share some wisdom for the ones still sitting on the fence. I believe that when it comes to raising animals we need to think seriously about what we’re committing to before we take the leap. Our family and our animals will be better off if we do.
I’ve learned from experience why this is important, and I think we could have saved ourselves some pain by pausing a few more times along the journey to seek wisdom.
So why wouldn’t you want your own chickens?
Let’s take a look…
They destroy everything
Wherever your chickens are allowed to gather they will certainly cause destruction.
They like to dust bathe in the flower beds, and leave behind deep craters where nothing can grow. They like to scratch up your grass and pick off anything growing in the garden boxes. And with all the eating they will be doing, they have to leave their dropping somewhere, right? You’re patio makes a fine place to do so.
If you raise chickens, I believe free ranging is the best way to do so. But it comes with some difficulty that needs to be managed.
They cost money
Even if you free range your chickens, you’ll still need to supplement their diet with feed. You’ll also need to build or purchase a coop. And to keep them out of your flower beds and garden you’ll want to buy fencing or electric netting.
The bottom line? Chickens cost money. This is something that’s not always thought about when you’re standing at the feed store looking at that $1.69 per bird price tag.
Are you ready to make the investment?
They require time
Every day. That’s the commitment you’re making for the next several years. Every day chores. Feeding. Filling water containers. Gathering eggs. Cleaning out coops. Letting the birds out in the morning. Gathering the birds back to the coop in the evening. Cleaning out coops. Replacing straw in the nesting boxes. And did I mention cleaning out coops?
Don’t get me wrong here. Some of us love the daily chores. But if this sounds kinda awful to you then maybe chickens aren’t the right way to go.
And then there is the vacation time. Do you have someone who can take care of the chickens while you’re gone? If the answer is no, how does your family feel about giving up vacation and travel time?
They can die
Seriously. Chickens die, and sometimes for no apparent reason. They do get sick. They can get eggbound. They can be attacked by other chickens in the flock, or by predators. But sometimes they just die.
Bottom line is, death is a part of life when raising animals on the homestead.
No matter how hard you work at keeping the coop clean, it’s going to smell at times. And in the deep heat of summer, that smell can only intensify.
We compost all of our chicken litter, and it’s a great resource for the garden. But even the compost pile smells at times, especially if we aren’t turning it often enough.
But as you’re standing there watching those chicks run around in the feed store, ask yourself this question…do I have a way to manage the waste that can come from these tiny birds? Do I have space to compost? Do I have time to clean out coops all the time? If the answer is no…resist the urge to bring them home.
They attract pests
We have mice in the coops every winter, no matter what we do to prevent it from happening. Mice will eat the chicken feed and increase our feed cost. In the summer months the flies will come. If you’ve got skunk, racoons or coyotes in the area, just having chickens will likely bring them around from time to time.
There’s no way around it. Having chickens on the homestead will bring a variety of pests around that you’ll have to figure out how to deal with. It’s not a deal breaker if you are prepared to handle it, but it can be a turn off if you aren’t.
They might annoy your neighbors
If you live within town limits and are fortunate enough to be allowed to have backyard chickens, you may still need to deal with neighbors who aren’t so fond of your choices. Remember the smelly compost?
Some neighbors will love your choice to raise chickens, and may even ask you for eggs from time to time. Others will just be offended by the sight of them.
Another question to ask…do your neighbors have dogs or cats that like to get out? What kind of precautions do you need to take if you brought those chickens home? Will you need to ask your neighbor to make some concessions on your behalf? Will they do so willingly?
The bottom line
Chickens are wonderful creatures that make a great addition to the homestead. They not only provide fresh eggs daily, but they also offer a number of other benefits for the homestead family.
However, chickens are not for everyone.
I think that the examples I listed above can certainly be overcome. But they should serve as pausing points for the would-be-chicken-owner, an opportunity to do a little internal assessment and consider if these examples raise any red flags.
If there are red flags, then hold off on making that purchase.
If not, then by all means proceed!