Five Reasons to Not Keep Chickens

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The phone rang.

The decision had to be made.

The evening discussion for weeks had revolved around that one phone call, that one decision.

“We’re so excited. See you on Saturday. Do we need to bring anything?”

That was our July and the decision to bring chickens into our little, city backyard.Β  That Saturday afternoon our family took a short trip to a friend’s house where we picked up our first two hens. Excitement and nerves abounded. Within a week, we took in two more hens. Days later, four hens turned into five. And soon, five turned into eight.

By the end of July, our backyard was a complete mini-chicken farm. Eight beautiful hens roaming free, laying eggs, and delighting my children.

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It’s hard to believe it’s only been seven months since we took on the responsibility of hen ownership. I receive a lot of questions from friends, family, and readers about backyard hens. So, today, I’m sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned. Here are five lessons or better yet, five reasons to not keep backyard hens.

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Five Reasons to Not Keep Backyard Hens:

1. Your Kids Will Never, Ever Leave Your House. Remember all those play-dates you once attended? The park? The mall playground? Yes, those places. Once you welcome those hens into your backyard, your children will never want to leave. Kiss the daily play-dates, park, and mall playground good-bye. Of course, now, that you have chickens the play-dates will come to you. After all, you’re the new local petting zoo.

And since you never leave the house, because your kids love spending all day and night in the backyard chasing chickens, yoga pants and over-sized shirts will become your new attire. Oh, and boots. Cute chicken boots.

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2. You Will Be An Egg Snob. There are food snobs, wine snobs, shoe snobs, but those of us who keep chickens are in a brand new category. Welcome to the egg snob community. No longer do store-bought eggs make the cut. Eggs from free-ranging backyard hens are glorious. The dark orange yolks, the beautiful consistency of the whites, and a taste that will blow-your-mind.

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3. Your Chickens Will Stop Laying Eggs. Remember reason number two? The egg snob? Yup, big problem! Chickens don’t lay 365 days a year. No one told me that. So, this winter, when the egg laying came to a halt, this egg snob suffered. Returning to store-bought eggs just wasn’t an option. So, like every sensible egg snob, I went on a frantic search, scouring the whole county for delicious free-range eggs.

Thankfully, the chickens are back to laying.

4. You Will Have People Banging Down Your Door For Eggs. Once those hens get back to laying, the word will get out. Just like winning the lotto, suddenly, everyone you’ve ever known will call, Facebook, text, Tweet, knock on the door, all wanting those precious eggs. Want to be popular? Just get a couple hens and announce those hens laid eggs. Instant popularity.

5. You Will Never Sleep Again. When I was pregnant everyone told me about the sleepless nights of having a newborn. Three years later and I’m still wondering what true sleep looks like. Chickens or any kind of farm animals are the exact same way. Early every morning all eight hens proudly announce they are awake and hungry. They need to eat now. Sleeping in? Never again. Those hens need water, free space, food, and attention.

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So, there they are. The lessons I’ve learned over the last seven months of owning and raising backyard hens.

This post has been brewing in my mind for a few months. Yes, it’s intended to be a bit of a funny take on the responsibilities of owning hens. I love our backyard chickens and believe anyone who is ready to take on extra responsibility and care, can and should enjoy their own flock.Β  Just like parenting, owning any kind of “farm” animal is a lot of work and a sense of humor is a must. You won’t survive without it. Trust me, I need this reminder daily as I step in poo for the thousandth time. Hmmm, reason number six?

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Learn more about keeping backyard hens in my favorite resourceΒ “Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally”

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79 Comments

    • The egg laying doesn’t have to stop. If you keep lights on in the chicken coup (on a timer of course) to make sue they get at least 16 hours of “light” each day, they will keep on laying all year. We even have Guinnies that lay all year using that method.

        • The only thing you have to keep in mind if you “light them up” for the winter months is this. Chickens are born with a finite number of eggs. If they don’t get to “rest” – God’s natural plan for them – then they will run out of eggs sooner in their lives. If you plan accordingly you can store up enough eggs in advance of their winter rest and make it through without resorting to scavenging for free-range eggs to avoid store bought eggs!

    • #6 They will either be killed by the local predators (owls, hawks, dogs, rats, etc.) or you will have to kill them when they quit laying eggs (but they make wonderful soups, broths, etc., as stewing hens) and than you have to explain the dead chickens to the children.

      • I love this post! We’ve had chickens in suburbia for 2.5 years now and they never cease to amuse us. Our hens were attacked by our own dog last fall — one was pretty badly bitten and they were all quite traumatized but they all survived. That, combined with the onset of a long, cold winter stopped the egg-laying for a few months. Being 3.5 years old, I didn’t think they’d start up again but 2/3 have (the non-layer is lucky that she’s also top of the pecking order) so no stew pot for them this year πŸ™‚ I agree, when the time comes, a little circle-of-life lesson is in the offing

  • Our chickens lay year round. We have six hens and get 4-6 eggs every day. The key is to have a light in the hen house. They require at least 14 hours of light to produce an egg. I love my chickens πŸ™‚

  • We have 4 backyard chickens. You do become an egg snob. Anything other than fresh eggs is just dreadful. The pictures of your kids with the hens is adorable.

      • I think we don’t know we’re missing out until we have really fresh eggs. It’s like fresh baked bread, once you know how good it can be, it’s hard to have anything else.

  • Love it! We want chickens so bad, but we aren’t zoned for it. I grew up on a farm with 18 horses and my job was the hay and the stalls. I can totally related to boots and poop πŸ™‚ Great post! Wish I lived close enough to have some of your free range eggs πŸ™‚

    • Hi Tara,

      I have no idea what I’m on about here (I’m from the UK, so please forgive me if you know this already or it doesn’t apply) but on one of the US sustainable living / homesteading feeds I subscribe to I read recently about exploiting a loophole in the law by keeping game birds instead of chickens. Would this apply to you? Again, apologies if I’m being totally obvious! Just something that caught my attention and I thought I’d share, just in case. πŸ™‚

  • Chicken feces particulate and can carry a host of illnesses that present a great threat to the very young, the very old, and those with compromised immune systems. My husband lost his spleen to non Hodgkin’s lymphoma. His NHL returned and he had to have an autologous stem cell transplant. His oncologist told him to avoid chicken coops, bird feeders, and no pet bird in the house. We live in a very urban neighborhood. In the last few years, people in our neighborhood began keeping chickens illegally. 17 months ago, my husband died suddenly of a form of NHL that is sudden, untreatable, and, as studies have shown, very, very closely related to environmental pollutants, one of which is chicken feces. Chickens do NOT belong near people. Of course, each must decide if risking the health of not only one’s own family but also an unknown person living two blocks away is worth having ultra fresh eggs.

  • I just ordered my automatic coop door opener/closer with a timed light on it, to ‘encourage the hens to lay before they leave the coop in the morning’ – – I can’t WAIT to install it on our new coop, at our new place, in the country!! Check out Murry McMurray Hatchery – they have them, there. They’re not cheap, but I don’t mind, after all ‘my pets make me breakfast!’ (love those t-shirts, need to order one of those, one of these times too)

  • I have 8 Chickens, adorable animals! And good eggs of course! I dont have all this kind of “problems” πŸ™‚ but i guess that’s because i have a very large garden. They keep it clean from bad grass and eat ticks that can came in from the country. Chickens were used and let free in the houses 50-60 years ago for this meaning.

    P.s.
    i live in a smaal Italy hamlet.

    Cheers!

  • Great post. πŸ™‚

    You mentioned the out-of-this-world taste of free-range eggs. Since I’ve NEVER had any free-range eggs (sad, I know) :), I sometimes wonder just HOW true that is. Is it a better taste you can notice, or is it REALLY that amazing? I’m genuienly curious.

    By the way, it’s so sweet how your little boy holds and hugs the hens. Very sweet.

  • Sorry for being a Debbie downer but real reasons for not owning backyard chickens are
    1) they stop laying in 2-3 years and farm sancuaries are overrun with old egg laying chickens and roosters from backyard chickeners. So you must decide – will you eat your chickens? keep them as pets even though they are no longer productive
    2) they poop A LOT. You must clean daily and beach the coop every 6 months
    3) they eat EVERYTHING, grass, weeds. My backyard used to have a lawn. Not it is 90% dirt

    I can only come up with 3

  • Hi we started 3 years ago with just 4 hens for us and to give my son the opportunity to collect eggs and learn about agriculture……People could see our coop from the road and kept stopping and asking if we had fresh eggs for sale, so a little light bulb went off in my head and now today we have around 130 head of chickens and we eat and sell free range organic eggs. They are the best and we sit everyday for hours just watching the chickens do funny stuff. Thanks for sharing your story

    • Hi Candice, I love that! Thank you for sharing your story and what a blessing to your community to have a source for fresh eggs. Are you located in a rural area? That’s a dream of mine.

  • I keep over 50 hens plus turkeys, geese, ducks and pheasants. Goose eggs are to die for for baking πŸ™‚ Everyone free ranges (except the pheasants) and have a fenced acre to roam. I have chairs and tables set up throughout the yard so I can sit and watch them. I tell folks they are the goldfish of my life. They are what brings me peace and relaxation besides scalloping in the Winter months (chest waders music in my ears and being in the water away from everyone). Chickens are just so fun πŸ™‚ You have a beautiful family and a blessed life <3

    • Thank you so much. We truly are blessed. I’ve never tried goose eggs, are they large? It’s so true, having chickens really are like a bunch of goldfish–fun to watch and relaxing.

  • This is such an inspiring post.. I’d love to keep my own chickens. My husband and I talk on and off about keeping them on our allotment.. maybe this is the year! πŸ™‚

    One thing I would love to ask.. what make of camera did you use to take the photos? I trained as a photographer years ago but have let it lapse – I couldn’t help noticing how beautiful your pictures are… (I mean, they’re just beautiful photos to start with – your children look so in love with the chickens!) But technically they’re great too; I’m looking to start relearning my photography skills and am on the lookout for a good camera. It’d be great if you could point me in the direction of whatever your photos were taken on. (I hope you don’t mind me asking) x

  • Your gens will continue to lay eggs in the winter if you give them a little cheap wine in their water. It will also keep the water from freezing.

  • Oh my goodness, Kristin. I love this post – your kids are so adorable! I will have to live vicariously through you as I’d love to have chickens, but in Southern CA, our yards are the size of a postage stamp. LOL! And ours happens to have a pool in back, so unless they’re swimming chickens, it’s a no-go. But seriously, how wonderful to be able to share this experience with your children. So happy for you!! πŸ™‚

  • We are looking into starting our own little chicken farm, hopefully with about 4 hens. We have about 1/2 acre we can build on but we have to be careful because we have 2 dogs, fortunately they are contained by a wireless fence. Did you build your own coop or did you buy it already made? So excited to have found your website, we are buying our free range organic eggs right now from an “egg snob” but we want to join in the fun!

  • I grew up on free range chicken eggs and now that i am on my own and well living in an apartment where i obviously can not have chickens ( well maybe the landlord wont mind πŸ™‚ ) I miss them so much! And my grandfather has now past and about 4 years ago he gave up his chickens and ive been store buying ever since then πŸ™ sad but Im on food stamps and they dont pay for eggs on a farm! maybe one day after the apartment phase i have to go through i can get back to renting a house and get my own few chickens.that would be nice!

  • I enjoyed your article. We’ve had chickens for many years. If you want a little help with the ‘egg laying strike’ many hens have in the winter… get them a red heat light. The red part keeps them calm & from picking on one another. The warmth helps them get past winter blues. Our hens lay year around. No not every hen every day but we didn’t have the lull everyone else did πŸ™‚ Good luck!

  • Another one is chicken math. It always happens, you say you will have a few and wind up with more. I said I’d have six, seven years later I have 35 laying hens and I just processed my flock of 80 meat chickens along with a 30 pound turkey.

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