Yes, you read that title correctly. I have had chickens in many places for many years and when my husband and I moved back to ‘the country’ I knew I had to have ‘my girls’ again. For me it comes natural to have hens on my property, but not and I repeat, NOT, as pets. They have a purpose. They lay eggs for breakfast, when they stop laying, they are dinner. Even the ones with names.
I have found to many people this is disturbing. All I can say is this. Chickens are livestock, period. Yes, they have personalities and yes we even named some of our ‘favorites’. BUT, they are still livestock, they provide us with food. There will be a day when my favorite, Hey-Hey, the white hen picutred (yes we named her after the rooster from Moana), will no longer provide us with fresh eggs for breakfast and she will find herself on the chopping block. This is my first point of think twice before having chickens.
Another other points is cost. They are not cheap. You must provide good shelter, ‘litter’ for the floor of their roost which does need taken care of, food, lots of food. This includes good quality egg layer pellets/crumbles, scratch (seeds and stuff for them to scratch for), oyster shell for strong eggs and treats. If you free-range some of this eases a bit in the spring, summer and fall, but then you also have to take into account, predators. You will eventually loose a chicken or more to predators. I spoil my girls on their food, for two reasons: Health of the chickens and good eating (eggs and chicken).
Another think to consider is chores. Chickens are an everyday chore, there are no vacations and no excuses. We are blessed with a wonderful neighbor who is our “chicken sitter” when we go out of town, but for the most part you are looking at care multiple times a day. Food, water must not run out. The coop and run MUST be kept clean to avoid pests, smell and disease. The water must remain clean for the same reason and in the winter to prevent freezing. Chickens are the ADHD animal of the livestock world and will need things to keep them preoccupied. I throw in scratch seed and straw to keep them entertained or bundles of fresh greens (NOT SPINACH) to entertain them. Sometimes they get spoiled with a fresh surprise of live crickets from the pet store. If they are not entertained, they will go to picking on each other, never pretty to find one of your girls ‘hen-pecked’ to death, literally. There is smell involved in chickens, if you have a backyard coop, keep that in mind, the poop has to go somewhere. Chicken manure should always be composted before adding to gardens (great fertilizer), but still the poop, and there is lots of poop, must go somewhere and be cleaned often.
Chickens love to explore, again, they are the ADHD animal of the homestead. They don’t understand boundaries or telling them ‘NO’. Fence where they can be and make it tall, yes chickens can fly if their wings are not trimmed. They will also eat, or attempt to eat, anything and everything. If you don’t want your tulips eaten, fence them off or keep the girls in a large pen.
You do not need a rooster to have eggs. You only need a rooster if you want babies. Personally, we don’t have a rooster because we do not want to be woken up before sunrise every day and we also don’t want that one change of opening a fertilized egg. I’ve done that before, it’s not pretty.
I love having our hens. They are entertaining and it is wonderful to have the abundance of eggs. We have 13 hens are we average 10 – 13 eggs a day. Our friends like them too. Just think twice before starting your flock, you are devoting your life to a way of life, not a cute feathery novelty and they deserve your attention and care.
Until next time,
Mrs. Kay L. Rice