|Our chicken coop with rabbit hutches attached.|
Last summer we had over 50 chickens on our property, all free ranging on a 1/4 of our 1/2 acre plot of land. All housing in this 8×8 coop. And I wasn’t getting one single egg….at all….nada. According to my math, I should have been getting several DOZEN eggs a day….and nothing…absolutely nothing….
We are now down to 20-25 chickens….more isn’t always better.
- Chickens are fairly inexpensive when allowed to free range.
- They provide eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You’ll be surprised by how much you actually use the eggs you get. You’ll find new and amazing things to make.
- You can sell eggs (even if just two dozen a week) and completely offset your feed cost, leaving you with potentially free eggs right from your backyard.
- Chickens are humorous and a joy to interact with. Depending on the breed, many will come and sit with you and lay on your lap while you feed them treats.
- Chickens can provide your family with meat on your homestead.
- They are as easy to tend to as the family dog — taking little time to feed and water each day. They really should only take less than 15 minutes a day to tend to if you have a small backyard flock. If you have a larger, more production-like flock, it will take a bit longer.
- There is an incredible community of chicken lovers out there. Most are pretty amazing and helpful in all situations — it’s like an underground world I never knew about!
- They are addicting. Really, don’t think you can get away from the chicken addiction. It will find you and devour you! One chicken will turn into 100 chickens if you allow it to!
- Chickens must be checked over, weekly, to ensure they are healthy and parasite free. Chickens are like any other livestock, they are susceptible to sickness and bugs. And it is your responsibility to make sure they are ok.
- You have to clean the coop. If you have a little coop, you’re ok. But if you have a big coop like us, it’s never a fun chore. Especially in the Summer months.
- You will lose chickens to predators or mishaps, especially if you free range. We have been condemned multiple times for free-ranging, but it’s livestock. We don’t coop cows up in “runs” or small coops, so why can’t our chickens roam free? Either way, it is inevitable. Eventually, at some point, you will have to deal with death — whether it be in your first year, or your twentieth year.
- They can rack up a feed bill in the Winter months. But you must remember how amazing they are in the Spring, Summer, and Fall!
- They can get sick or hurt. And not just that, they can quickly spread their illness to your entire flock without you even realizing what is happening. They are susceptible to avian influenza (which cannot be spread to humans by birds). They are susceptible to foot and wing injuries. Are you prepared to help and heal whenever a chicken is ill or hurt? With the proper precautions, you most likely won’t have to deal with sickness or injury on a regular basis, but sometimes, life gives us lemons.
- You might have to make the decision to cull a chicken. On our homestead, everything has a purpose. But if a chicken is sick or injured to the point where we cannot see the point in allowing it to live (because it can spread quickly or it is not worth the time and month), we must cull to save our flock or to put our bird out of its misery. This doesn’t mean we give the bird a shot and it goes to sleep, though that is an option for many. This means that we, personally, kill the chicken ourselves — by ax or knife.
- You can bring sick or parasite infested birds into your flock and not realize it. Which is exactly what happened to us. We bought birds from a friend that were infested with lice, without us knowing. Which then infected the rest of our flock. It was a very long and tedious process, but we rid our coop and all of our birds of lice and parasites. They are as healthy as can be now, but it was not a pretty thing. Which brings me to my next point….
- You have to treat your birds with all natural or chemical treatments. And it’s up to you to decide which it will be. We strive to do everything all natural, but sometimes, it’s not possible if you want a “quick fix”. I would say that 95% of the time we treat naturally, and the remaining 5%, for extremely hard situations, we treat with vet/chemical treatments (such as our lice outbreak). But the big question is, are you prepared to put the money and time into it? If your chicken has an infected goopy and oozing eye, can you handle it? If your chicken needs a foot surgery, could you do it? The sad reality is that there aren’t very many “chicken” vet’s in most area’s. You will be your own vet in many cases.