Backyard farming is all the rage – including chickens. But before you make the leap into chicken ranching, consider these reasons for and against.
- chickens are funny – believe it or not, these critters are full of personality. Watching them interact with their world and each other is funny and relaxing. We call it Chicken TV.
- fresh eggs – with dark yellow yolks and tall whites. Did you know that it takes three weeks for a commercial egg to get from the nest to the store? You can’t beat fresh eggs.
- manure for garden or compost. We use pine shavings for bedding. When mixed with chicken poop, it makes a great compost starter – just add greens! It can also be used as a mulch – the pine shavings keep the odor down. (Don’t use cedar shavings; the oils are toxic to chickens – and other small animals.)
- garden helpers. Chickens love to “help” in the garden. We let them loose in our veggie beds between plantings so they can scratch up the top layer of soil. They’ll hover around when you’re digging in the dirt – so sweet and helpful.
- pest control. Scratching and pecking is what chickens do best – they’ll hunt (and eat) all kinds of bugs, grubs, snails, slugs, etc. keeping the population down.
- chickens poop – a lot. No getting around it. We call the girls salad shooters when we’re fed up with their poop. We have “chicken shoes” when we’re working around the girls.
- everyone likes the taste of chicken – especially raccoons, coyotes, foxes – whatever predator is in your neighborhood, they’ll try to get at your girls.
- rodents are attracted to spilled grain – a side-effect we didn’t anticipate. They’ll dig, climb and/or gnaw their way into the coop if they can to get at that high-quality chicken feed. Rodent-proof your coop and feed storage to reduce the issue.
- they need attention every day. Chickens are fairly easy to keep, and they can be left alone for long periods of time. But they need fresh water every day and poops scooped out of their nesting boxes (at least). And when you’re around your girls every day, it’s easy to spot when one of them doesn’t feel good.
- chickens can be noisy. They like to “announce” that they’ve laid an egg, and we have one bantam hen that does her best to crow almost every morning. It’s not quite a full rooster crow, but pretty close. Apparently, some hens feel they must fill in for a rooster when there isn’t one around.
Like any living thing, chickens need care – please research what you’re getting into before you purchase your first pair.