This is a guest post written by my 15 year old son.
He is an enthusiastic chicken keeper, hard-working home-schooler, and an all-around great kid.
His motivation for this post was his personal experience. There are some things that no one tells you about chickens when you get your first flock of poultry.
You walk into Tractor Supply Co. You go towards the cheeping sounds in the back. You see the baby chicks. You are so taken by their cuteness that you buy six of the cheeping, little balls of fluff and a coop for them.
The lady at Tractor Supply tells you that chickens are no big deal to take care of. Just follow the instructions on the brochure and you can’t fail. Sure.
What she doesn’t tell you is that those instructions only work until the chicks are six weeks old. Or until a raccoon finds the chicken coop.
Here are 6 things no one tells you about owning chickens
1. They poop a lot.
I once read in a science book that birds poop a lot so that they stay light enough to fly. Chickens; however, can’t fly (technically they can fly very short distances when highly motivated) but not very well. Even without much flight, chickens are still birds. You know what that means? Chickens poop a lot.
What that reasoning says is that the flightless birds poop a lot so they can fly. Makes perfect sense. Sure it’s no big deal if they poop in the grass or woods, but if they find your garage or driveway, or porch you’re in trouble. (go Here to see why Mom wants to shoot the chickens).
When chickens find your garage what goes through their minds is something like this, “Oh hooray! A big chicken coop for me to roost in and poop in and call my own!” It’s even worse if they find the cat or hog food you have sitting around. Now they’ll never leave. Even when you chase them away they will come back to poop on everything. The ATVs, cars, tools, fridges and even those areas you can’t see will all be much less clean.
2. They don’t lay eggs every day.
Despite what all the books and farmers say, chickens don’t lay an egg a day. It is a completely random game of roulette.
Chickens don’t lay eggs when they’re molting, they don’t lay eggs when they’re broody and they don’t lay eggs if they don’t get enough daylight. If you have 20 hens you might get around a dozen eggs a day in the summer (depending on the age of the flock). In the winter, with 20 hens, you might only get 3 eggs a day.
Some hens lay 2 eggs a day, every now and then, though this is extremely rare. Sometimes a hen will lay a super egg, or double yolker. This is when an egg is huge or has two yolks, this is also rare.
3. They are loud.
Chickens make a lot of noise. Chickens scream when they are scared. Chickens scream when they lay an egg. Roosters crow at just about anything, and if you have 10 roosters and 28 hens….. Your life just got loud.
The myth that roosters crow at dawn? Wrong. Roosters crow at the dawn, and the bug on the wall and the cat and the fence and the cows and the cars and at just about anything. Chickens in general squawk at anything. The moving leaf, SQUAWK! The cat in the bushes, SQUAWK! The other chickens, SQUAWK! I laid an egg, SQUAWK! Never a dull moment.
4. You are surrounded by chicken eating monsters.
Believe it or not, in your little suburbanite world, there are things that will eat your chickens. It may not be raccoons or coyotes, it could be bobcats or baboons depending on where you live.
We have lost chickens to:
- Neighborhood thieves (yes, we had people stealing our chickens)
- Stray Dogs
- The Family Dog (yes, our dog’s have taken out chickens)
As you can see there are many different predators that stalk your chickens day and night.
5. Your pretty, green chicken run won’t be pretty and green in a week.
7 days. That is how long it takes 40 chickens and 3 ducks to destroy your nice, green chicken run.
They will eat all the grass, churn up the dirt into dust baths and when it rains it all becomes one giant mud hole. When you see the muddy, lifeless chicken yard that used to be green, fertile ground you will want to die.
The only thing you can do to bring life back to the empty, green-less chicken yard is lock your chickens out of it and re-grow the grass. This is another one of the reasons we free range our chickens. No evil mud pit.
6. They’re all going to die.
Yep. All of them. “But what if I keep my chicken in the house in a cage?” you ask. It’s still gonna die. No matter what you do your chickens will find ways to die. Your dog may kill one, the local opossum might kill another and you may accidentally step on one.
The best thing you can do is accept it.
When the electric fence lady brings their dog over… Chickens will die. When the field across the street gets sprayed with round-up… Chickens will die. When your head rooster is protecting your hens from a predator… he will die.
Winter is the worst. Even the best chicken-keepers can lose up to half their flock during tough, frozen, winter months.
While chickens are great and easy pets they have challenges and obstacles you will need to overcome. You will see that if you keep at it, it gets easier to keep chickens.
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