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9 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Get Backyard Chickens

8 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Get Backyard Chickens Blog Cover

There are many reasons why people get backyard chickens- fresh eggs and a self-sufficient lifestyle are some of the most common.
Unfortunately, sometimes people who aren’t suitable to raise chickens rush into it and end up with chickens only to give them away after several weeks.
Sooner or later these people realize that chickens are a bit of a nuisance for them and promptly take them to a shelter, give them away, or simply release them into the wild.
Before you get your backyard chickens, make sure you ask yourself these 8 questions to find out if you are suitable to raise backyard chickens.

1. Why Do You Want Chickens?

Do you want fresh eggs? Do you want a ‘different’ pet? Parents can be guilty of buying children an Easter chick. It’s cute right?
Sadly, many places will still sell individual chicks and ducks around Eastertime. Chickens and ducks are social creatures that should not be kept alone.
If you want chickens for the eggs, remember that it takes five to six months until they start laying eggs, unless you buy started pullets (hens that are 20 weeks old). Once laying, a hen will give you an egg roughly every 26 hours or so. If you have a family of four, you will need at least four hens to keep your supply of eggs running.
A chicken isn’t just for easter
If you do want a hen as a pet, remember they are social animals- two is best. There is an array of accessories for indoor chickens: diapers, toys, harnesses and leashes. I have even seen pictures of a hen being wheeled in an enclosed shopping cart! I am told they make great house pets and i have no doubt that is true since they are extremely friendly and inquisitive.

2. Are They Illegal In Your Town?

Many towns and villages have rules about ‘farm animals’. Be sure to check your local ordinances carefully. There is nothing worse than investing time and money in your chickens to find they are not allowed in your area. Always read the zoning laws yourself, do not rely on the zoning officers interpretation.Are Chickens Allowed In Your Town?
Several towns and cities have very specific ordinances regarding poultry. They will allow a certain number of hens but no roosters. The coop may also have to be kept at a certain distance from the fence line and may have to be tastefully ‘camouflaged’ to ensure it isn’t an eyesore.
Your neighbors may have concerns regarding keeping poultry- noise and pests being the two most common concerns.
Once your neighbors realize they are not going to be woken at the crack of dawn by a rooster, they are much less likely to complain about the noise factor.
The issue of rodents however, is a very real concern. You should have a plan in place to keep rodent activity at a minimum.
If zoning is currently against you, don’t give up! Check around the neighborhood- are there other people who want to keep hens? When was the last time the zoning was challenged? Would your neighbors be accepting of chickens? If you think you stand a good chance, start up a petition to change the rules.

3. What Type Of Chicken Do You Want?

Do your research. Be clear about what type(s) of chicken you want. Find out which breeds of chicken do better in your local climate. For example, a Mediterranean breed such as a Fayoumi, will not perform as well as a Rhode Island Red in colder climates.
If you want an ‘egg laying machine’, Leghorns, Rhode Island Reds and sex linked chickens are prolific layers and will keep you well supplied just about all year round. Make sure you read our advice on the best 10 breeds that lay lots of eggs!

Chicken eggs in basket isolated
We all get chickens for the eggs!

If you want meat birds, choose accordingly. One woman I met recently was very irate with her chickens- she had bought Leghorns expecting them to be meat birds. Whilst Leghorns certainly can be dual purpose meat birds, they will not put on weight as quickly as a Cornish cross. Because she had not done her homework she was disappointed and frustrated and the birds were still costing her money.
Dual purpose breeds are hens which lay eggs and can be used for meat later on.
If you want a pretty chicken like a Silkie or Polish, bear in mind they lay pretty well but have a tendency to go broody. They also can be bullied by other birds- especially the Polish top hats!

4. Have You Worked Out The Expense?

Your initial dollar lay out should be your only large expenditure.
The cost of chickens can vary wildly depending on the breed. Common birds will cost less to buy than the more unusual breeds. For example, a Rhode Island Red will cost you around $3-4/bird, whereas a Cream Crested Legbar can be in excess of $20/bird.

Baby Chicks
Here are my chicks from earlier on this year!

Make sure you buy them from a reputable source. You want to be able to ask questions- now and in the future. A good breeder will be only too happy to answer your questions and be a resource for you.
Also before your chickens arrive you will need to have feeders, waterers and a coop. I recommend one feeder and waterer for up to eight hens. If you are going to be using second hand equipment, ensure its’ thoroughly cleaned before use.
Check out the prices of coops. Are you going to build your own? Be aware that ready built coops are usually optimistic about how many hens it will hold. Most books will tell you 4 sq. ft./hen for space requirements. While this is an average, it is a reasonable number to keep in mind.
The current price of coops built for 3 – 5 chickens is around $700. If this isn’t in your budget, perhaps you are handy enough to make your own? I have built both my coops and it cost under $400. You can find free coop plans here.
Building My Chicken Coop
Building My Chicken Coop

If you do build your own you can build to suit the number of chickens you plan to get. And then make it a bit bigger, just in case you are struck with Chicken Math (aka Morehens Disease)!
Some people have re-purposed a child’s play house to accommodate their chickens. This is an excellent use of resources. Since they are usually plastic construction, all you need to add are roosts, nest boxes etc. and you have a ready- made hen house!

5. Do You Have The Time?

Whilst chickens don’t require much of your time, they still require a daily commitment. At the very minimum, an early morning visit to let them out, check the feeders and waterers, and see that all is well.
Then another visit in the late evening (dusk), to collect the eggs and lock them up for the night.
If you think that this minimum commitment sounds like too much effort, then chickens probably aren’t for you.
However, you’ll find once you get your chickens you won’t want to stay away! Talking and interacting with your birds has an extremely calming effect.
The more time you spend with your birds, the more you will see personalities shine through. Through careful and frequent observation you will notice when a bird is sick or not feeling well.
It’s worth mentioning at this point that your time commitment will increase over the winter months. Unless you invest in a heated chicken waterer, you will be walking back and forth to the coop to replenish fresh, drinkable water at least two or three times day. If chickens are deprived of water for just a few hours it will cause problems with their egg laying schedule.

6. Scoop from the Coop

Hen houses have a certain fragrance. Yes, chickens are adorable, but did you know that aside from the daily egg, a chicken can produce just under two pounds of poop a week? That’s great news for your garden, but meanwhile what do you do with it?
You hen house should be cleaned of poop at least once a week so that it doesn’t become a filthy, fly ridden mess.
I clean mine out daily and use a thirty gallon trash bin. At the end of each week I wheel it to the compost area. If you have neighbors that are close by, you may have to cover the poop layer with a layer of straw/leaves to keep the flies down. However, if you compost properly, you should not have any issues with smells or pests.Compost Area

7. Illnesses and Disabilities

This means you – not the hens! Recently, I have been unable to do daily chores following surgery. I have the luxury of a very understanding spouse who took on these chores.
What is going to happen if you are suddenly sick or incapacitated? Is there someone who will take over for you? If you are serious about taking on chickens and their welfare, you have to look ahead and try to prepare for all sorts of problems.
There are many disabled people out there who keep chickens. If wheelchair bound, there is no reason why a coop cannot be modified to accommodate access to the coop and run.
If there is someone who can help you, make sure you have a ‘daily sheet’ of the things that need to be done for your birds. If you anticipate being unable to do things for a lengthy period, typing up a sheet of daily chores and weekly maintenance stuff is worth its weight in gold.

8. Vacations

If you are someone who enjoys their vacation with a couple of weeks away from home, don’t forget your chickens!
They will need to be cared for daily, so you need someone reliable to tend to your feathered friends.
The ‘daily sheet’ is invaluable here too. Don’t forget to add the name of your veterinarian to the list, just in case…

9. What Is Your Plan For Roosters?

What is your plan for roosters?
If you’ve chosen to purchase straight run chicks, you’ll undoubtedly have a few roosters in your brooder.
On the other hand, if you decide to keep your roos or incubate later on, you’re probably going to end up with even more roosters.
So…what’s your plan?
Because too many roos can create problems for your farm (think loud crowing, fighting roosters, and beaten up hens).
There are really only two things you can do with unwanted roosters:

  1. Butcher
  2. Sell

If you butcher and eat them yourself, then you’ll have a full freezer. But if you’re not comfortable with consuming your own chickens, you’ll need a marketing plan—and selling a live rooster isn’t an easy task.
So before you commit to a flock that includes roosters, make sure you know how you will deal with them as they go from fluffy little chicks into mature roosters.


Raising chickens can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do! However before you rush in and get your own, make sure you really think over these questions.
Are you able to make the time commitment these girls need? Does the breed you want thrive in your local climate? Have you checked your town’s zoning laws to make sure you can legally keep chickens?
If you find you have answered more yes’s than no’s to the questions above then maybe it’s time you got your own backyard chickens!
Research and preparation are the keys to success with any project and so with chickens. If you take the time to plan ahead, you will be enjoying your girls for years to come.
We’d love to know what questions you asked yourself before you got your own backyard chickens…

9 thoughts on “9 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Get Backyard Chickens

  1. My partner and I are interested in starting to keep chickens– our town just passed an ordinance allowing hens but no roosters. We have a small yard and are interested in a small flock for eggs and as pets. We are thinking 3-4 chickens. Do they all have to be the same breed? Would it be okay to have, say, 2 buff orpingtons and 1 ameraucana? Or do breeds always have to come in pairs at a minimum?

    1. Hi Yanni,
      Yes, you can mix the breeds and no, you don’t have to buy them in pairs.
      However, make sure you don’t mismatch any breeds. For instance you don’t want to put a large dominant breed in with a bantam…

  2. How far from my home should the coop be?
    The location we are planning is upwind of front porch and we do not want the flies or bad odors.

    1. Hi Mark,
      If you keep on top of coop hygiene, then you shouldn’t be able to smell anything outside of the coop.

  3. We are just getting started, used your plans to build a coop and our ladies arrive, as layers not chicks, in a few weeks. Should be fun, and my neighbour is excited to help!

  4. Chickens are easy prey for wildlife. Chickens should be kept in a coup at night to keep them safe from predators like raccoons, coyotes, and even dogs and cats. Having a chicken can attract unwanted wildlife to your backyard as well.

  5. Chickens are easy prey for wildlife. Chickens should be kept in a coup at night to keep them safe from predators like raccoons, coyotes, and even dogs and cats. Having a chicken can attract unwanted wildlife to your backyard as well.

  6. I (now) have a flock of 12 hens. Upon arrival, they were molting. About 3 weeks later, we started getting eggs. After the fourth week, we let them out to free range. Taught them the training trick with dried meal worms to come back in coop for the night. By the way, it worked wonderfully. There was one hen who always laid an egg on the coop floor, and roosted on the floor. Our blue heeler killed a hen on 6/5 and again on 6/10. We thought one of them was the one that was laying and roosting on the floor. then yesterday 6/14, I found in my fairy garden, amongst the ivy, a hidden nest with 7 beautiful eggs. I just read tonight, your article on pecking orders, so I think we still have the hen who was roosting on the floor. I spent all day weeding and thinning out the fairy garden, to hopefully discourage her from that spot for laying. My question is, if she continues to lay out side the roost, ( yes they have 4 nesting boxes)how do I encourage her to lay eggs in the roost and not in the yard? As for the dog, she now is tethered to a very large shade tree in the front yard, on a thick blanket of soft green grass. She has her own horse stall in the barn, where she spends the nights.

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