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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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?
Learn more about keeping backyard hens in my favorite resource “Raising Happy, Healthy Chickens…Naturally”
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.
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 🙂 Good luck!
Thank you, Robin. And great tip. I’ll give it a try.
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 🙂 ) 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 🙁 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!
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!
Hi Linda, Very exciting. You’ll love having chickens. Here’s a post by contributing writer Candice on how she built her chicken coop from scratch for $50: https://livesimply.me/2013/09/27/building-coop-scratch/
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!! 🙂
Thank you :). I never thought we would have chickens. It’s been quite the adventure :).
After reading through some of the comments above: I know that rubbing eggs immediately after laying with a small amount of butter is a method of preserving them.
Jennifer A. Gardner, MD
Great tip. Do you know how long they last?
Apparently they can be store for a few months with food grade mineral oil as well. I posted a link to one of the ansers I saw online and they said 9 months but to check them first with the water floating egg method as older bad eggs will float and fresher eggs will stay at bottom.
Thanks for the info, Stacey!
Love the idea of hen ownership, and I see nothing here to change my mind! Anything that brings kids closer to their food is a wonderful thing. Your children are very lucky!
Jennifer A. Gardner, MD
Hi Jennifer, We really love our hens too :). I’m blessed to watch my children gain such a rich experience.
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.
Thanks for the tip.
Well gosh I’m already a tomato snob, a lettuce snob and a pumpkin snob. Why not move up to egg snob.
Should be good for the tomatoes.
Welcome to the egg snob community :). You’ll never go back.