Many people get chickens thinking they are cute, easy to look after and do not require a great deal of maintenance.
After all, how much upkeep can a chicken require?
Unfortunately, this rosy outlook puts a lot of chickens into shelters, on the streets or killed because they did not meet the owners’ expectations.
If you are looking at getting chickens but are not 100% sure, then this article is for you.
We have compiled a list of all the reasons to not keep chickens. We don’t want to deter you from keeping these beautiful creatures, but for the best interests of you and the bird we are going to take a real world look at keeping chickens.
Chickens Can Be Expensive
Whilst the average chick will set you back about $3-5 per bird, there are plenty of additional expenses to keeping chickens.
The biggest will likely be your coop.
If you are handy and can build from scraps, a sturdy coop will set you back less than around $100.
It’s also possible to re-purpose a garden shed or small outbuilding too.
To buy a ready-made coop for a few hens will cost you upwards of a few hundred dollars, depending on what you want. Often, the advertising of these coops are optimistic- to say the least! A large hen such as a Rhode Island Red, requires about 4 square feet of per chicken. So, if you bought a coop that says it will house six hens, it probably will house four comfortably.
Another hefty expense can be your equipment: feeders and drinkers in particular.
These don’t have to be expensive and there are plenty of homemade or re-purposed chicken feeder and drinkers. If you decide on secondhand, make sure they are well cleaned and disinfected before you use them with your flock.
And finally, a sometimes forgotten recurring cost is feed- depending on how many chickens you have will determine how much feed you use. I have 30 chickens and they eat about 50lb every two weeks, so roughly $6 a week.
To help you figure out the cost of feed, an average hen will eat between ½ – 1 cup of feed/day.
Other items your chickens will need are grit, oyster shell, vitamins/electrolytes, dusting powder and any toys you may buy them.
The ‘Ewww’ Factor
Chickens can get lice and mites, not to mention intestinal worms and other icky parasites. Are you up to dealing with these?
Truthfully, in five years I have dusted my birds only a handful of times since they have had few lice. They dust bath themselves regularly, so keep the parasites in check for themselves.
I have however trimmed ‘poopy’ feathers from around the vents- this is not for those who have a delicate constitution and it needs to be done to prevent maggot infestation in the summer.
The hens’ usually sit quietly for me, but I have a few that are convinced I’m going to kill them, so it becomes a struggle to see who wins out!
A note on dust bathing- chickens need somewhere they can dust. We have shown you how to make a simple dust bath in a previous article. However, they will still make your garden look like it has survived a bomb blast. They love to make several small depressions in the garden for their own personal spa!
They Need Some of Your Time
Once you have your birds’ set-up and running smoothly, they will actually only require about half an hour or so of your time each day.
However, to get to know your hens well, spend as much time as you can with them whilst they are still young. The rewards are tamer chickens and the ability to spot trouble early and treat accordingly and of course, free psychotherapy!
The coop needs cleaning regularly to keep it and your birds clean and healthy.
The summer months especially need your regular attention. Dirty, uncared for coops can lead to disease and death of your birds, possible rodent infestation- not to mention flies!
To give you an idea of coop cleaning, here is my schedule for an eight by twelve foot coop:
The coop and surrounding area is cleaned thoroughly two times a year- fall and spring. I use a spray of vinegar and water to clean the walls and surfaces, a shop-vac to remove dust and cobwebs etc. All used bedding is removed and disposed of to the compost. Replace with new bedding etc.
Once the ‘spring clean’ is done, I remove the poop and soiled straw at least every other day in summer, this helps to keep the coop from smelling.
If you have a small mobile coop such as a tractor type, obviously the time you need to clean thoroughly will be considerably less.
Chicken Zoning in Your Area
Depending on where you live you are likely to be zoned for noise, nuisance, sanitation etc. Many towns and cities are slowly relaxing laws on keeping chickens due to public demand.
However, roosters are usually a ‘no-no’ in urban areas.
The big concern most neighbors voice is rodents. Where there is food there will be mice or rats. If you keep your feed stored securely, there really should not be a problem, but keep your eyes open.
Using a metal container is best, but a plastic tote bin works well also. Make sure you check the plastic bin frequently for any sign of gnawing on the plastic- rodents can be very determined!
How Is Your Health?
If you suffer from allergies or respiratory problems, you must think very seriously about keeping birds- chickens or otherwise.
The dander and dust created by birds is an allergen and it can occasionally causes reactions in people.
Many people raise chicks inside their house until they are big enough to go outside- the amount of dust created is huge and anyone suffering from asthma or similar ailments will be highly stressed.
If the allergy is mild and you want chickens anyway, a facemask will help to keep the dust from bothering you.
Do You Have a Backup Plan?
Having pets or livestock is a big undertaking. You should always discuss it with your family.
What will happen if you are unable to take care of your birds for a few days? Will a family member take over- or will the birds be left alone?
If you don’t have a back-up plan for the welfare of your birds, think carefully now about what will happen to the birds in an emergency. They are living, breathing creatures that depend upon you to care for them.
Many families make chicken keeping a 4H activity which teaches children about keeping and caring for livestock. It’s a great educational experience and may be the best route to decide whether or not keeping chickens is for you.
If you have a dog in the family it could be a problem. Dogs love to chase things and chickens are no exception. You have to train your dog to accept the birds and leave them alone or fence the birds in well so the dog cannot access them.
Hens Stop You Going On Vacations
If you regularly go on vacation you need to check that your usual pet-sitter is ok with chickens.
Some people are terrified of birds- this would be good to know before the vacation starts!
Chicken sitting is a bit different to regular pet-sitting. They have to be let out in the early morning, fed and watered, eggs collected and in the evening they need to be securely locked in.
Your ‘sitter’ must be diligent about this otherwise you may come home to find the local fox had chicken for dinner…
A friend recently went on vacation and came home to find the chickens had not been fed for a couple of days, eggs had not been collected and she now had four broody hens!
We have given you much to think about here. Caring for chickens is usually pretty straight forward, but you must be prepared!
If you’ve read this and aren’t deterred, the best advice we can give is start small with a few hens and read this advice from 47 chicken keepers.
Some people ‘collect’ hens because they have pretty feathers or lay blue eggs. Decide what you want and stick with it.
Many online hatcheries will supply you with small order numbers and can give you one each of what you want.
So, as always- do your homework and decide what’s right for you.
For those of you who have decided to get some chickens- welcome to the world of crazy chicken people!
If you already have chickens, let us know in the comments below advice for new chicken keepers…