Britt and I were just talking the other day about how crazy it is that we’ve become chicken people…not crazy, walking around with feathers in our hair and chicken poop on our clothes chicken people (well most of the time), but chicken-owning, chicken-loving chicken people. When we got married we would have never dreamed of one day raising backyard chickens. But we really do love “The Ladies”. Not only is it great to get fresh eggs every day, but they really are fun to have as part of our family!
Raising Backyard Chickens … In the Beginning
It all started a few years back. We had had our vegetable garden for a year or two…so the whole aspect of helping our girls better understand where food comes from was part of our family vocabulary. It had also been about two years since I had turned the proverbial leaf from being a sklog (family word meaning lazy person who effectively does nothing) to making exercise part of my every day…well almost every day. I had lost about 35 pounds…so besides exercise, better food choices (what and when to eat) had also become part of who we were as a family. So I was eating a lot of eggs…and what better way to get fresh eggs than to go to the source…and own our very own backyard chickens?!
I really don’t know how we actually decided to take the leap into chickendom…but like other things around our home, I’m certain that it had something to do with my seeing the slightest interest from Britt that I then just jumped on…and the next thing she knew I had the plans for the coop all drawn up. In our discussions, though, we also thought that this would further provide the girls with a greater understanding and appreciation for where food comes from. Not only that, but having chickens who needed to be fed, cleaned, cared for…and eggs gathered from…would require our sweet little bow-headed, suburban girls to get a little dirt under their fingers and have a bit more responsibility around the home. And as a dad trying to raise capable, independent, young women…these were good things. In addition, I also knew that besides enjoying our chickens as pets…chickens would die…and probably at a rate greater than that of the family dog (which we don’t have). So we’d be dealing with issues of life and death. Again, providing Britt and me with the opportunity to have difficult…but good…conversations with our precious prodigies.
Why We Love Raising Backyard Chickens
We really have enjoyed having our feathered friends. For us…because of the coop that I chose to build, the girls will already be in college or beyond before we’ll break even from a cost perspective; but we didn’t get chickens for a potential financial gain. Besides the primary reasons I listed above, here are some other aspects to raising chickens as pets that I consider a bonus:
…they come running whenever we approach the coop – may have something to do with the fact that they have small brains and they think we have something to feed them…which we usually do.
…each of them really does have their own personality…some are goofy, some personable, others standoff-ish and guarded, most are curious, some more active than others…and once their pecking order is established, they all play well together like a big feathered family.
…they eat all of our scraps – seriously, we scrape everything into a composting canister that sits on our counter…and whenever I visit the chickens all of our scraps are given to ‘da girls. (Actually, my actual girls won’t let me feed them eggs or chicken…something about cannibalism that grosses them out.)
…despite what I will mention below, they really are surprisingly easy to take care of.
…and lastly, when we go out of town, it’s not tough to find someone to come and check on them…they get paid in free fresh eggs.
When Raising Backyard Chickens You Need to be Aware that…
All that said, you do need to be ready to take care of backyard chicken flock. If you’re the kind of person who likes futzing around in the yard and talking to someone…something that won’t talk back, you’ll have a leg up. But they do require some work and a great deal of consideration…
…they basically eat, scratch, and poop all day long (sound familiar to some?). So with that, you’ll have to do quite a bit of feeding and cleaning.
…the feeding (and watering) isn’t that bad…you just need to do it every day…even when it’s nasty outside.
…the cleaning of the coop really isn’t that bad either or that often…maybe once every couple of months. But when you clean it, it’s pretty nasty. So the more comfortable you are with excrement…and lots of it…the better.
…if you let your chickens free range, be ready to clean up their poop (again, they poop all day long, wherever their hind end happens to be) and to straighten up your flowerbeds – while eating (all day long) they scratch at the ground (all day long)…so your beds and sidewalks and paths are a bit untidy at the end the day.
My last point is both a positive and a negative, I guess. You do need to be ready to deal with loss. In the 1 ½ years we’ve had chickens, we’ve had two killed by a possum or feral cat (eating just their heads and leaving the rest for us to deal with) and one die of a respiratory something or other. We’ve also had two “pullets” (young hens) end up being “cockerels” (young roosters)…which we don’t want and can’t have. So Lilly/Lyle was given to fellow chicken-loving friends and Marigold (the first)/Merrill was sold on Craig’s List. Not fun for my girls who had loved them both for some time.
But all in all, we love our chickens and would highly recommend having them to someone who is ready to take care of them.
I’ll introduce you to each of The Ladies who are currently in our flock next week and tell you a little bit about each of their breeds. I simply wanted to give you my thoughts on raising backyard chickens in general on this post.
For those of you who own chickens, why…and what has been your experience? For those of you who don’t, what questions do you have?