The Good and Bad of Backyard Chickens

 

Bacyard chickensThere are good points and bad points when it comes to having backyard chickens. For us, the good outweighs the bad and we love keeping chickens on our urban homestead otherwise known as our small backyard in the city, but it’s a good idea to know what you’re in for.

The good and the bad of backyard chickens

Backyard chickens love compost

Good

  • Easy, sweet pets:  Chicken farmers will roll their eyes at this but we’ve fallen in love with our backyard girls!  They have definite personalities and will purr when they’re happily taking dirt baths in the garden.  They love to sun bath with a wing stretched out and make you think chickens probably evolved from dinosaurs with how they run.
  • More interesting than TV:  Pull up a chair and put your feet up and tune into the“chick channel.”
  • Eat slugs in garden:  Chickens are good gardeners – before you plant your vegetables!  They love to dig with their feet and then pick out baby slugs from the dirt.  Watch their feet when you’re digging in the dirt!
  • Waste is good for compost:  We have the best compost thanks to the pine shavings and waste from our chickens.  I also love to share this with my neighbors.  It’s the only time waste gets put in a paper bag and I can call around to say, “I’ve got a bag of hot sh*t for you on my front walk” and people come running!
  • Chicks are cute:  They just are.  It doesn’t last long before they turn into naughty teens and start getting into trouble!  Live it up while they let you hold them because it doesn’t last long.
  • Fresh eggs:  When you have backyard chickens, you don’t wonder where your eggs have come from or how fresh they are.  However, it takes awhile to break even on the cost with only a couple of chickens and they don’t lay in the winter, unless you light their coop.  Chickens need light to lay which is why they don’t lay in the winter.  It’s their natural rhythm and we go with it and purchase our eggs for the few months our girls take a break.

Chicken good and bad

Bad

  • Vulnerable creatures:  Chickens can easily be killed by predators.  Hawks, raccoons, cats or a giant slug can freak out chickens.  You’ll fully understand where the phrase “Quit acting like a big chicken” came from!  They can also get egg bound (have a stuck egg) or just up and die, like our friend’s chicken, Mr. Fluffy Pants did.
  • Have an exit strategy:  Chickens don’t work out for everyone and that’s ok.  Just make sure you re-home your chicken.  Know your options if you have to get rid of an old hen or what to do if you have a rooster.  When we had to get rid of our chicken, Betsy Ross, she was “re-homed” and introduced to some nice country roosters!
  • Eat everything in garden:  Find some inexpensive, wire fencing and keep them out of your vegetable garden.  You’ll thank me for this tip.  I found my neighbor’s chicken in our side-yard devouring my little cucumber plants.
  • Muck out run area = smell:  The last time our coop/run area was really clean was before the chickens moved in!  They’re messy.  I’ve tried to train them to eat off of a plate but they refuse.  When spring rolls around, the run area needs to be mucked out and it can smell pretty bad.
  • Chicks = rooster possibility:  I’m not buying this whole “sexed” thing where they can supposedly tell if it’s male or female.  Out of 6 chicks, we’ve had 2 roosters and we’ll have to see with our current batch of chicks.  My son has picked out both chicks that have become roosters so he no longer gets to pick chicks.  Plan on it being a 50/50 chance and be relieved when you don’t get a rooster.
  • Need chicken sitter:  You can’t send chickens to a kennel but luckily, neighbors and friends are happy to chicken sit during vacations, if they get to keep the fresh eggs!

Chickens backyard

Go Gingham related links:

A story about our old chicken, Betsy Ross, and how she left our hen house
One of our chickens got really stuck up after being in the newspaper – she became a “Chicken Diva”
Baby chicks are here and how to hold baby chicks is here
Chicken coop basics and how to set up a brooder
Recipes that use lots of fresh eggs: Betsy’s best brownies and egg salad sandwiches

From other sites:

From The New York Times article about finding new homes for old chickens
Annie Kip’s (of Plenty Perfect fame) chicken, Mr. Fluffy-Pants just up and died one day

 

Sara

Sara, creator of Go Gingham, is passionate about cooking and feeding her family healthy, real food. She's a green enthusiast, too, who loves to grow food organically. Sara loves to travel - especially by trading houses. An avid runner, she can also be found chasing after her chickens in the backyard.

7 Comments


  1. Interesting like of pros and cons. My girls are just 8 weeks old now. I might actually have 2 roosters in my batch of 10. *fingers crossed for just bossy girls*.

    Any thoughts on butchering? More and more, I feel like its my responsibility as a chicken farmer (such as I am) to know how to cull a bird should it be required due to injury, illness, retirement, etc., If for no other reason than to save them stress and misery. There aren’t many homes for ladies who aren’t laying anymore, and I just as soon not pass the buck.


    1. My thoughts on butchering are those of a pet owner not as a chicken farmer. We eat chicken at our home and discussed butchering our chicken that we had to get rid of but no one wanted to eat our pet. That’s the problem of loving your backyard chickens! Finding a good home or source when things don’t work out is key and luckily for us we have one close by. Check the NYT article listed above. Thanks for the comment.


  2. Great summary of pros and cons! You are right on target, as far as my experience goes. Your backyard looks so cute!


    1. Ahhhhhh….thanks Annie!


  3. Thanks for the shout-out, Sara! You are such and inspiration to me – chickens, blogs, meal-planning…you do it all with style!


  4. I love chickens, and have many of them (I just can’t help myself, there are too many awesome breeds out there!!) but last year, I didn’t get one, single, measley piece of lettuce, and my poor beans took a beating as well. In all my years of having chickens, my number one “must-have” is good fencing 🙂

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