Q: We are thinking about raising chickens. Baby chicks are so cute! I know you have chickens so what do you think about our family getting chickens?
A: Baby chicks are indeed cute. So are puppies, kittens, lambs, kids, okay, just about any baby animal! But, baby animals all grow and some become not so cute anymore. Before you take on chicks (or any baby animal) make sure you are doing so for reasons beyond the cute factor.
Backyard chickens produce some of the best tasting eggs. You really can taste the difference! Once you have truly fresh eggs you might never be able to eat a store bought egg again. And chickens can be lovely pets. Our 4 come when they are called, like to be held and scratched, have distinct and unique personalities, and are hilarious when they try to fly and run at the same time.
But there are some potential drawbacks to raising chickens in your back yard:
Space: Chickens need a safe place to roost, protected from predators. And they love to stroll about the yard. Keeping them penned up all of the time seems to be stifling to them, once you discover how curious they are. But be warned, they like to dig! We have areas of our yard that are a bit like a moonscape- craters everywhere! And they most certainly are not allowed in the garden!
Zoning: There are some places that have zoning laws in place, which prevent having chickens. Make sure you check before you get chickens. It would be quite troublesome to become attached to hens and then have to surrender them.
Manure: Each chicken produces about 30 pounds of manure per year! That’s a lot of manure! You need to be prepared with a manure plan. Our girls walk about the yard and fertilize the grass and their roosting tray gets emptied in our compost. Our garden is more productive thanks to the chicken manure/compost, but 120 pounds of chicken manure is a LOT of manure. And you and your family have to be willing to take care of it responsibly.
Having four hens has been wonderful for our family, but keep in mind we have a huge fenced yard, a compost system in place, and no zoning laws that prevents having chickens as pets. And we eat a LOT of eggs!
A great source for all things chicken is backyard chickens.