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”


  1. What a wonderful post! I found your blog via Attainable Sustainable and I’m so glad I did!
    We’ve been hen owners since last Aug, and this spring will be the first time we acquire chicks. I’m excited!

  2. 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! 🙂

    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

  3. I keep over 50 hens plus turkeys, geese, ducks and pheasants. Goose eggs are to die for for baking 🙂 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 🙂 You have a beautiful family and a blessed life <3

    1. 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.

  4. 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

    1. 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.

  5. 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

    1. Hi Cindy, Very good list. It’s true, there are a lot of considerations when taking in backyard hens. We have two hens that are over three years and continue to lay, although only a couple times a week. Our plan is to use the hens which no longer lay as stew chickens. Part of the tough decision of having hens. You can read more about that here: I do have to clean, daily, because they certainly poop a lot! Our hens have a large fenced area where they roam because they eat everything! They are a lot like goats.

    2. While numbers two and three are true, it depends on the chicken as to when they stop laying. I have two Easter Eggers that will be five years old in March and both lay between four and six eggs per week.

  6. Great post. 🙂

    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.

    1. Yes, very real!!! I didn’t buy into it either until I had my laying hens. Get real free range eggs and open it next to a store bought. HUUUUGE DIFFERENCE!!

  7. I have 8 Chickens, adorable animals! And good eggs of course! I dont have all this kind of “problems” 🙂 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.

    i live in a smaal Italy hamlet.


    1. Nooooo, I have a tiny yard and my neighbors don’t even know I have chickens. I leave food out and check their water at night. I have rarely been woken up by a hen

  8. 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)

  9. 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.

  10. 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 🙂 Great post! Wish I lived close enough to have some of your free range eggs 🙂

    1. 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. 🙂

  11. 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.

    1. Hey Nicky, Thank you, I think they are pretty darn adorable too ;). Yay, for fellow egg snobs. lol. It’s so true. I had no idea I’d feel so strongly about the eggs we eat.

      1. 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.

  12. 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 🙂

      1. Make sure to throw them some oyster shells in the winter. Something happened locally to out layer pellets and they didn’t have the right nutrients in them. So everyones chickens stopped laying. I just mixed in oyster shell and our chickens were back up and going. I also have a red light on them all the time. Not only does it keep them laying in the winter but it keeps them from pecking each other.

      2. And you need to have a chickie babysitter if you ever want to go anywhere for more than a day outing!!!

      3. A self-feeder (40 # hanging feeder) and a self-waterer solve the early morning breakfast (no sleep) issue and the being able to be away for a weekend, etc.

    1. 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.

      1. 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!

      2. I wound not let my children play around with these potentially disease filled animals. They carry lice. You may not be aware of this but I think it is important to tell you. Maybe choose an animal that has been domesticated for children.

      3. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and concerns, Cynthia. I’m not sure people are buying them for children to play with–a dog would be far less work. But they can be a great way to teach responsibility–I’m sure anyone who has grown up on a farm can relate to that. My children’s school has chickens as part of their practical life curriculum where they learn how to care for the animals. It’s a great way to get back to the basics if you’re up for this big responsibility.

    2. #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.

      1. 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 🙂 I agree, when the time comes, a little circle-of-life lesson is in the offing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.