I know the answer is yes, you really want chickens, but I need you to know a couple things. They do not lay eggs year round, naturally. If you keep them penned up, they can get very sick. Chickens will most likely die of something else, before they ever think about hitting old age. They WILL escape and they WILL find the one thing you care about and destroy it. And to be honest, I’m not sure butt nuggets are worth that kind of hassle.
Before we get too far into this, I have a great course on the basics of goat care. I call it Goat Crash Course: Goat 101. In this course, I explain things like types of shelter, types of feeds and hays, basic assessments and so much more! Check it out!
No, I Don’t Like Chickens
I feel like that gives me a very unique lens to be able to tell you about them. Not because I am biased against them, but because I am not someone who will sing their praise. I’m going to tell you how it really is…. at our farm.
There was a big to do last year, 2022, about chickens not laying eggs in the winter. Every time I heard someone say something like, It’s the food that’s causing them not to lay. Or My chickens always lay and now I can’t get them to lay…. Y’all! Chickens aren’t supposed lay eggs in the winter.
Chickens should stop laying eggs around about of September/ October and should pick up again around January/ February. This will depend on the age of the chicken and other factors but the end result is probably going to be the same: you aren’t going to get butt nuggets in the winter.
There are ways to force egg production. Using lights in coops, on timers, can trick your girls into laying eggs in the winter. Extra feed with higher fat and protein is another good way to increase production in the winter. BUT! Their bodies need to rest. Their bodies have other things that need to happen, like molt, and they won’t be able to do that if you are forcing eggs.
So don’t get freaked out if you haven’t gotten eggs in a couple months. They are resting.
I am a HUGE fan of letting animals do animal things. Chickens scratch and peck. They tear things up in search for the yummiest of nom noms. But a lot of people want to keep their chickens contained in coops, barns, or runs. And while that’s not a bad idea, those things are pretty stationary. Which means they are going to eat all of those bugs and greens with a quickness. Then what?
Not to mention, if you don’t have a way to keep all that poop picked up and contained? You are courting a health hazard. Too much chicken poop in your compost is going to start causing problems in there. Then there’s the human health issues that comes with being in direct contact with chickens and feces regularly.
For the most part, you are going to be safe handling your chickens and cleaning out the coop. But when you have to wear a respirator (which what you should be doing) to clean out a coop? I’m thinking that’s not a great trade off for butt nuggets.
Chickens Are Easy Targets
Predators LOVE chickens. We are talking everything from a marten to racoons to coyotes to bears. Everything, including humans, love chickens. A friend told me a long time ago that something will get a chicken before that chicken EVER gets to old age.
And that statement is so true! I think we may have 1 chicken from original flock that we got in June of 2021. Not because we killed any of them but because they got picked off by predators, ran away, or were killed by other chickens.
Chickens are not as fragile as goats when it comes to health but they are WAY more fragile when it comes to actually dying.
They Are Escape Artists
Everyone talks about how bad goats are about staying in fencing, and they would be correct…. Except, my goats only get out of their fencing a couple times a year. My chickens won’t stay contained AT ALL. We’ve tried clipping wings, electric netting, roofing, you name it and nothing keeps them contained.
When we redo our big garden, the plan is to put them in a run, in the orchard. We plan to string up netting at different intervals in hopes that between the netting and electric wire, they will stay inside. If they don’t? They go to the freezer. I am freaking DONE with chickens… Which brings me to my next point.
They Will Destroy Things
Because our chickens, from various shipments and breeds, will not stay contained, they have absolutely DESTROYED my gardens. They have destroyed our bicycles. Our back deck stairs are ruined because of the chickens. They have ruined entire bales of hay. They have broken $100+ vials of medications. Butt nuggets are not worth this hassle!
So, you really want chickens?
I’m sure the answer is still yes. And I’m glad for it. I never, ever want to be the one to tell you NOT to do something. But I want you to proceed with caution. I want you to be prepared for the actual cost of chickens, not just the price of the bird and feed.
The cost of chickens could be having to replace or repair deck stairs. Or entire tomato crops being destroyed.
I don’t want to sound like I am blaming the chicken. Because I’m not. I am blaming the humans on this property (myself included) because if we had put a little more time and thought into their care, maybe we wouldn’t have these issues?
So I may sound jaded, and I am to an extent, but tell me what good is a chicken, if I have no garden? What good is the chicken if I have spent hundreds of dollars on seeds and have only a few plants to show for it?
So before you get chickens…
Really think about WHY you want chickens. Then make the decision on if they are truly worth it to you.
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