Six reasons to get backyard chickens (and three not to)

backyard chickens

I like to imagine a world where every home with a backyard has at least a couple of chooks scratching around. Sustainability’s pin-up farmer, Joel Salatin, goes so far as to say that even apartment dwellers could go a couple of feathered friends on the balcony, and while I get what he’s saying, somehow I don’t think it’s gonna fly (geddit?).

Anyway, if you’re considering getting some backyard chickens but haven’t yet taken the plunge, read on for six reasons why they’re a great idea, plus some reasons you definitely shouldn’t get chooks.

 

1. Healthy eggs!
If you’ve never eaten a chicken egg fresh from the cloaca, then you haven’t lived! Seriously, even after a few days your eggs are perkier than a 20-year-old’s boob, and there’s the added advantage of knowing they are truly free-range, what the chickens are fed and how they’re treated for mites, worms etc.

2. Food miles
Not only do you save on the food miles from farmed eggs, but you will save yourself trips to the shops. I can’t tell you how many times my kitchen has been bare and I’ve managed to make a meal from some herbs, a handful of leafy greens and a egg from the chook pen.

3. Food scraps
Cooked food can’t go into worm farms and can attract mice and other unwanted visitors to your compost, but chickens will make a meal out of whatever you scrape off the highchair. We give our girls everything from porridge to bones and they love it. Diverting food from landfill was the main reason I wanted backyard chickens.

4. Compost and nutrients
Straw and chook poo are like a compost bin’s wet dream. And when you have backyard chickens, you have plenty of both! Allowing chooks to scratch at the ground and deposit their poo all over the garden is a great way to give back nutrients to the soil.

5. Fun for the kids
Most kids absolutely love to chase chickens, look for eggs and “help” muck out their pen. Raising chooks is a much more humane and holistic way to teach children about the life cycles of animals, as well as how to care for these friendly creatures, than day-care hatching schemes.

6. A happy home
I love seeing the fluffy tail feathers of Henny, Penny, Victoria and Elizabeth flitting around our garden, I find it calming and puts me in the moment. The little noises they make, their individual personalities all make it really fun to live with chickens.

That’s all the good stuff, now here are three reasons not to get backyard chickens:

1. You think they pretty much “look after themselves”
Chickens definitely require more care than most people realise. As well as feeding and watering them twice a day, you need to clean out their house at least once a week, rake up any food scraps left lying around and check them for mites and worms. You should also lock them into their house at night to protect them from foxes and other predators.
My girls are also quite demanding of my attention. If one of them lays an egg, she’ll go on and on about it until I go down and congratulate her. Seriously. Also, if you don’t have them free ranging all the time, it’s important to let them out during the day to get access to fresh greens and worms.

2. You want free eggs
So maybe they’re not quite as expensive as bought organic eggs, but your chooks eggs are definitely not free when you factor in the cost of their feed (around $40 per month for organic feed) and the cost to set up their enclosure.

3. You intend to keep them in a small space
Chickens are foraging creatures, not to mention incredibly curious. If you don’t have a decent area for them to live, it’s best not to get backyard chickens. When our girls manage to outwit the chicken-proof fence around my veggie patch, they get locked up until we can build a new one, so I can say from experience that they are definitely happier and lay better when they are free ranging.

Do you have chooks, don’t you just love them?

Comments

  1. Bek @ Just For Daisy says

    Will share this with hubby as I try to ‘encourage’ him to get chooks at home!! I’m with you about food waste and compost most things and save the rest of our food waste for our neighbours chooks! It’s unbelievalbe how much less waste there is on bin day! Often just one garbage bag a week….
    I love the ‘compost bin’s wet dream’ analogy! haha!
    Bek @ Just For Daisy recently posted..How to make a sourdough starterMy Profile

  2. Abbie says

    For me, the sticking issue about getting them is actually the issue of what to do when one needs to be put out of its misery. Can I actually do the deed, or would I be paying an arm and a leg to the local vet to do it for me?

    • (dt)em says

      Well Abbie, when the time comes I might have to write a post about it. We are lucky enough to live next door to an old Croatian farmer who reckons she can still break a chook’s neck in one move. It makes me shudder to think about it, but I used to find the worm farm hideous and have overcome that. I think you definitely need to find someone you could call on to do the deed for you if you can’t do it yourself. I’m not sure I will ever graduate to actual neck-snapping duty.

  3. Susan says

    I really want to get some chooks but am being chicken about it! I’m worried about the maintenance and like Abbie said, what happens if they get sick or you need to cut one loose? I don’t think I could handle it!

    I’m looking into local produce swap schemes at the moment (for when my veggies do start growing!) and might try and get some organic eggs that way. Plus my neighbour has some chooks so I might see if she needs any food scraps too.
    Susan recently posted..Don’t take that cup of tea for grantedMy Profile

  4. Nicole says

    We started with 6 chooks. Two died, so we got two more. Then the fun began. The 4 original chooks were mean to the two younger ones, wouldn’t let them eat. We put out a second feeded, so the 4 split into groups of 2 and kept guard! Smart little girls! We had one get something with her feet, mites or something, she lost her back toe. She was ok for a while but it got worse, we eventually had to put her down. The vet was going to cost a fortune, so my husband did the deed. Just awful. We have since been told a more humane method, but really hoping we won’t have to do it ever again! Another chook had her insides come out (yuck) and my husband was told to rub honey on her bum. Strange but it worked! It was apparently caused by being egg bound. She then only laid eggs with weak shells, and sometimes with no shell at all. We just traded our remaining girls in and got 6 chooks at point of lay. They continually jump the fence. I was washing up the other night and next thing one jumped on the window sill. Scared the daylights out of me. Another was in a palm tree!
    But I totally agree with all the positive points above, and the eggs are totally worth it. But please keep in mind they do require some care. And we have decided not to name these ones as it is too upsetting when they die!

    • (dt)em says

      I am intrigued by the honey rubbing incident! Thanks for your honest description of your experience with chooks because, as you said, it’s really important that people understand what they’re potentially getting into.

      • Nicole says

        Re the honey incident…. our white chook was looking dirty, my husband picked her up and she had liquid come out of both ends. Yuck, I know. We rang the breeder and she said our chook was egg bound. She said to squeeze it out like a pimple. Again, yuck! We had no luck with that, but hubby noticed her insides were out. Breeder suggested hemorrhoid cream. I don’t have anything with chemicals, but a workmate suggested honey. It did the trick. Mind you hubby was not comfortable… picture a man with a rubber glove and a handful of honey. Need I go on! Lily the white chook survived, but her eggs from then on had either no shell, just the sac, or a fragile shell which broke on contact.

  5. Mother Down Under says

    I love my chooks but the poo! Oh my goodness those girls can make a mess! And because ours are completely free ranging, their poo is also free ranging!
    But the joy my toddler gets out of caring for the chooks…and of course the fresh eggs…make the mess totally worth it!
    Mother Down Under recently posted..NYC: Parks and PlaygroundsMy Profile

    • (dt)em says

      yeah, the poo is how we ended up adopting Henny and Penny – their previous family just got sick of it. Love it when the toddler grabs a handful of poo and…. you don’t want to know!

  6. Bernadette Eden says

    I absolutely agree with all your points. We have Margo and Jerry (as in they live next door to The Good Life) and they have wormed their way into my heart even though I swore I wouldn’t get attached again after losing our last two (Bingo and Licky) to a fox. No-one would ever believe what personalities chooks have and we waste a lot of time watching their antics. My main downfall of having chooks is the rats, do you have any ideas of getting rid of them without poison? Preferably something like a note saying, “would you mind living somewhere else as we can’t afford to feed you as well as our chooks.” !!
    Bernadette Eden recently posted..Swap This #3 – Tiny Teddy Packs for Bulk BiscuitsMy Profile

    • (dt)em says

      Hmmm, no ideas about the rats. I see them and then they’re gone so either my neighbour is baiting them or the note worked. We bought one of those ethical traps where you catch them and my hubby released the blighter in the park at the end of the road. He came back so we got a snap trap! My only suggestion is to make sure there’s not too much food building up, maybe with an auto-feeder?

  7. Bec | At Penny Lane says

    Great post! I have been considering getting chickens for so long but yes there are some cons as well and i just don’t think that it’s the right time.
    Silly question maybe but just how many eggs do you get per day / per week from one rooster?
    Bec | At Penny Lane recently posted..Snippets of lifeMy Profile

    • (dt)em says

      Bec, I’m gonna assume you were joking about the rooster :)
      In winter, egg production lays off (bad pun, sorry), so we’re only getting around two eggs a day from our four girls. They’re also all older, more than 18 months. You can usually expect one egg per chook each day when they’re in their prime and it’s not too cold.

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