Why You Should Not Keep Backyard Chickens

luluAs I mentioned in an earlier post, I would recommend backyard chickens to almost anyone. Keeping chickens this past year has been a fun and educational experience for my whole family. We have brought our chickens to the local elementary school for their harvest fair and had our daughters pre-school class come to visit. Lots of  friends have come over to see our set-up, and now two of them have chicks of their own.

However, I don’t think backyard chickens are for everyone. Just like I don’t think dogs or cats are for everyone. Many people get animals thinking they are cute or fun or whatever and then realize that they are a lot of work. That is how so many animals end up abandoned or in shelters. So now I’m going to share the “down-side” of keeping chickens just to make sure that everyone knows what they are getting themselves into. Obviously these weren’t big enough cons to keep me from having chickens, but to some people they might be. I prefer that people know what they are getting themselves into rather than abandon or mistreat an animal.

  1. The cute fluffy chicks that arrive need an extreme amount of care and knowledge to keep them healthy. You need to keep them warm (but not too warm), you need to feed them special food, make sure their butts don’t paste up with droppings (fatal), make sure they don’t drown in their water dish, etc. etc. etc.
  2. Chicks are cute and fluffy for about 2 weeks. They start getting their feathers in in about a week and turn into very awkward looking teenagers. It’s amazing how quickly they look like chickens and not babies.
  3. Chickens are very social animals, so they need friends. In other words, you can’t just get one chicken or it will be depressed and lonely.
  4. Chickens don’t like being confined in a small space. They can get bored, which leads to gruesome acts such as feather picking (Where they pull feathers out of their companions). Ouch. Once they see blood, they pick even more, which can actually lead to cannibalism.
  5. Chickens need special diets for different stages of their lives. If they don’t get the proper, balanced nutrition they might have problems with feathers breaking off, or eggs coming out with soft shells (or no shells!)
  6. Chickens like to scratch and peck. If you let them out in your yard they will turn a small bare spot into a big, bare spot. They like to dig into the dirt and take dust baths.
  7. Chickens like to eat greens. That means not only grass, but also the lettuce you planted, the unripe blueberries you are waiting to eat, the ferns you just planted. You get the picture. They are like small goats. Almost anything is considered food.
  8. You need to check on your chickens every day. In the summer you need to make sure they have plenty of water and that they aren’t overheating. In the winter you need to make sure their water hasn’t frozen. In the rain you still need to check on them.
  9. Chickens like to eat chicken eggs also. If you don’t gather your eggs every day, the chicken might accidentally break one. As I mentioned above, chickens like to eat just about everything, so they will try the broken egg. That is the point where they decide they love the taste. You now have an egg-eater, who will deliberately break eggs to eat. When you go on vacation, you will need to find someone to gather eggs every day to prevent this from happening.
  10. Bird droppings smell. You will have to clean out the coop regularly to keep the ammonia from building up. Ammonia is bad for the birds to breathe and it is bad for us to smell. Droppings will attract flies and will repel your friends. Chickens can’t control their bowels like cats and dogs, so you could get hit at any time.
  11. Chickens are prone to getting parasites. Whether you introduce a new bird that has lice, or wild birds with mites fly into your yard, you will inevitably have to battle external parasites. I am in the middle of this battle and it is no fun! You have to scrub down the coop, spray or dust in every crevice and spray or dust your birds. I will make a post soon about this episode of our chickens lives. Parasites can kill your bird, so you have to deal with them. I just put my girls in a warm bath and cleaned the caked-on poop off their butt feathers yesterday. Make sure you are willing to do this! In case I’m not conveying how gross this is, you can see egg clusters around the base of feathers, scabs on your chickens butts and poop from the mites stuck in their feathers.
  12. Chickens lay eggs reliably for about 2-3 years. Chickens can live for about 10 years. What are you going to do with an old chicken that doesn’t lay anymore?
  13. Chickens are pretty delicate animals and can get sick. There are not many vets who take chickens. Are you willing/able to diagnose what’s wrong with your chicken? Will you be able to  massage an egg out of your hen if it is stuck? Would you feed your chicken with an eye dropper if it stopped eating? Would you be able to humanely kill your chicken if it got mauled by a predator? Again, most vets won’t take chickens, even to put them down.
  14. Chickens need a safe and secure henhouse. You need to be able to keep your hens warm in the winter, cool in the summer. Animals such as raccoons, hawks, opossums, foxes and dogs should not be able to get into their run or coop.
  15. Chicken feed can attract rodents. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that one.

Have I lost you yet? Why would anyone be crazy enough to keep a chicken??  I think if you weighed many things in life you would find many cons to counter the pros. I can think of about 9,999 reasons not to have a baby, but I wouldn’t trade my kid for the world.

I love keeping chickens and to me they are more than worth any work they give me. Please make sure the same is true with you before you order some cute, fluffy chicks.

29 thoughts on “Why You Should Not Keep Backyard Chickens

  1. Amen! I am just getting started in this adventure, and loving every minute of it! I have 3 pullets, 18 weeks old, and one hen. I’m still a little nervous about culling them when they are past their peak, but I have them for eggs and pets, and without one or the other, they get replaced. But you definitely look past all the drawbacks and love them regardless! Its so rewarding keeping chickens!

    I’m also battling the lice thing currently. Crossing my fingers that I have it licked!

  2. I have 13 adult chickens and 5 babies, I enjoy watching them run around the yard. They are a lot of work, I think the winter is the most work. You have to keep fresh unfrozen water in the pen, and constantly change the bedding. When it is 10 degrees the chickens can’t go outside, they spend all day in the pen and it has to get cleaned out- alot!! But like I said, they are great to have around, I love eating the fresh eggs!

  3. I love and appreciate your honesty!!! I am considering keeping some chickens next year and I need to hear the good and the bad! Great blog and great post!

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  5. THANK YOU!!! For the past few weeks we have been incubating eggs that have just begun to hatch. We have two cute little day-old chicks and a few more ready to hatch at any moment. Although the plan was to give them back to our egg-lady after about two weeks, I have started having fantasies about keeping them. Your post has definitely made me think twice. They are cute and at some point I think we’ll probably have chickens but now isn’t the time! It’s the flies that really would push me over the edge, I think!

  6. I’ve been sitting on the fence (forgive the pun) for the last year thinking about getting chickens. I literally spent the last few days figuring out which coop with a run to get and what chickens I would want. I needed something friendly due to grandchildren. However, something was holding me back. After reading your reasons fo not having chickens, I realized that although I wanted chickens, I didn’t want “all” that came with them. Thank you for keeping me from making a big mistake. Perhaps, I can find some to visit! Thnak you again for your candor.

  7. I’m glad that you didn’t get in over your head. I recommend visiting other coops and seeing them first hand. Talking to chicken owners is a great way to know the ups and downs of keeping them.

  8. Good post. I’m about three years into backyard chicken-keeping and we love our six ladies. Most important thing was building a Ft. Knox coop which eliminates a lot of worry. I enjoy the chicken chores, and we haven’t dealt with parasites (so far) but we’ve lost three sweet hens to illness and deal with predatory hawks on a daily basis. We think of our hens as pets so we don’t mind the chores, but if you just want eggs you’re better off buying them at the store.

  9. Glad to hear from another chicken keeper! I love having my gals, but I think you are right. If you just want eggs, you should just get store bought!

  10. I just stumbled across this post and really enjoyed it. I appreciate you sharing the not so fun aspects of keeping chickens. I agree people should know what they are getting themselves into beforehand versus mistreating or not properly caring for the animal. Still considering having a coup one day!

  11. For several weeks I have been researching raising backyard chickens. My neighbor has a flock of six birds and has given me some brown eggs. They were great and my interest was really peaked. We don’t have a lot of money to spend on this project and the more I looked into it I knew that it would end up costing us more than we could spend. (My husband is a man who when faced with a challenge wants to do the best job possible.) Then the other day my neighbor gave me some more eggs, blue this time, and they had a peculiar flavor. I didn’t like them. Now after reading your blog, I have decided that chickens are not for me. The key thing here is not to put the chickens before the coop, and to research as much as possible so as to not end up with the consequences of a poorly and rashly made decision. For now I will admire my neighbors flock from a distance. Thank you for sharing your expertise!

  12. really great post, ive had my girls for 8 months now & i love every part of owning & looking after them the good & the bad im pleased that there are sensible people out there who can give such sound advise well done

  13. Thanks for your nice comment Liz. I’m glad that you did research before jumping into the responsibility. It’s great that your neighbors give you eggs!

  14. Thanks for the real talk. .this is exactly how I ended up with chickens Because my neighbor stupidly bought 4 little cute chicks for his children without any thought…then as 3 got killed I adopted the remaining chick and purchased 4 more . .I love this challenge and my girls 😀

  15. Awesome post. My husband said he wanted to raise chickens when we moved into our new house with large property. I thought it was a ridiculous idea. My stepsons gave my husband a chicken for Father’s Day. She has become my obsession and I have taken her over completely. She’s affectionate and smart. Until my husband built her a “Fort Knox run,” she lived in her coop on our deck. She sat on my lap (towel first of course) and let me pet her. After the run was built, she loved her new home. I take her on escorted walks in the yard. I kept reading how they were social animals, so we just bought two more chickens from the same batch.

    We have 3 cats and and puppy. I think if you want to raise chickens, you need to be an animal lover and understand that owning any animal takes a lot of work, but it is well worth the effort!

  16. I love my girls too.But yes, they require lots of care and attention!! In my opinion, my 10 girls are way more work and worry for me than my dog or parrot!! As I said though….love them♥♥

  17. I’ve been researching getting chickens since taking care of a friends. I grew up with chickens, so a know a lot about them, which is why I don’t have them: We like to travel. Thanks for the “Big picture” refresher course.

  18. My neighbors just got chickens about the same time my dogs starting itching. They are all along out fence line,
    can chickens give parasites to dogs?

  19. Hi Christy,
    It’s hard to say if your neighbor’s chickens have mites and spread them to your dogs. Wild birds can carry them and bring them to your yard. Just be thankful that it is much easier to put Frontline on a dog than to try and treat chickens!

  20. As a chicken/poultry breeder, even though there are drawback to having chickens, like any pet, they need everything that goes along with having them. But, also like other animals as pets there are many different breeds that are perfect for most people. Not all chicken breeds eat eggs or mind confinement. You just need to do your research on the different breeds of chickens. For example, an excellent breed that loves to stay in the coop during the winter because it does not like being in snow is the Standard Cochin. Although you can let them out in the winter ( remember to shovel first) they just do not like the snow in there feathered feet. Also, you do not have to have more then one if you buy them as a chick. Even though they do great with other chickens you will find that they want to get all the attention for themselves. Also, if you have a covered chicken run with the coop in the run it will make it easier to take care of the coop and run( no snow to shovel or rain in the run). Because some breeds of chickens prefer to be handled more then others they can be a joy to have as a first pet for a child. My son’s first pet chicken was when he was five and rode on his lap on my son’s peddle car. Some breeds like the Cochin love being bathed, petted, carried, talked to and even try to come in your house if they want you or food. Plus, if you get them as a chick they will need chick starter feed then when they are an adult layer feed. Yes, even the roosters can have layer feed. For the hens you need oster shells in or with their feed for hard egg shells. Every breed as different needs, temperament, an activity level. A good source of information on chickens in getting books on chicken breeds and going on the different chicken breed sites. And there are many to find the right one for you. Also The National Poultry Association. There you will find how to take care of chickens and about the different breeds. Good luck to all that are thinking of getting chickens. I have had chickens for 7 years and have been breeding for 6 years and have not looked back.

  21. Nice article. I’m glad I didn’t read this before my endeavor or I wouldn’t have my roo and girls. Even though the information is all correct, raising them has been easier than it sounded for me. I figured if I’m going to put all this time and money into a pet, it would be one that would give back.

  22. We started out with 6 Red sex links (basically Rhode Island reds) – that was 7 years ago and we live in New England. We had a “makeshift coop” and kept it heated. Winters get pretty bad here . . . We did not have an official henhouse for years. . . Still the girls did well, the work was minimal and the eggs amazing. . . We added more hens after a few years, lost a few here and there, adopted a few and continued our endeavor . . .

    We now have a mixed flock of hens (14) a Rhode Island red rooster and a pretty nice henhouse that we built with heat and lights. Mostly I would say the work has been minimal (my ten year old does most of it) and the rewards invaluable! As long as you plan to keep the girls (and boys) alive, I say go ahead and give it a try – it’s not so difficult as long as you are dedicated.

  23. Love my “girls”. Not such.reliable layers anymore, but still so entertaining. Some let me pick them up to be held, especially.the silkies. Not legal here in our town, but.no one has ever.complained. had some for 6 years!

  24. I thought a vet was obliged to help any animal in distress? They all receive training as part of their course to treat birds. I cannot believe someone in that profession would refuse.

    For pests, you can try natural diatomous earth, it is cheap and effective.

    Best regards

  25. Hi. Can you tell me why one of my hens is now refusing to sleep in the coup with two others, instead sitting on the grass near my bedroom door. She has just been treated for worms, as has the other two and they have also been treated for mite infestation. I would appreciate your help with this.

  26. Hi Lyndsay, Without seeing your setup it is hard to say why your hen is refusing to go inside. I would double-check that there are no mites. She may not want to go in because she associates the coop with mites. I had a hen who preferred sleeping outside. I would just pick her up and scoot her inside the coop. She eventually got the message and went inside on her own. Hope that helps!

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