Getting some chickens sounds like an amazing idea and can provide a real slice of the agrarian lifestyle in even the most urban of environments. However, before you take the plunge and get your muck boots and grain bucket, it is well worth pausing considering whether keeping backyard chickens are a good fit for your property and lifestyle.
As chicken enthusiasts, we love our fluffy feathered friends who are full of personality and are great companions. But we also want you to be sure that you will understand the hard work needed to maintain good standards of welfare for these animals.
When done well, caring for pet chickens in your backyard or garden is a satisfying pastime. Let’s take a look at some of the top pros and cons of keeping chickens. We hope it will motivate you to take the plunge!
First, The Pros of keeping backyard chickens
7. Eggs galore!
Every morning you’ll enjoy a half dozen reasons to be thankful for your small flock of chickens! If you have not tried eggs from healthy home-kept poultry you will be blown away by the flavor, quality, and rich pert yokes (doubled sometimes), that is far superior to anything you will get from the store.
Eggs are a great reward for the efforts you put into caring properly for your hens. If you rear layers from chicks you can enjoy an egg per day from around 18 weeks of age over the course of a hen’s lifetime.
6. Surprisingly easy care and upkeep
With a little bit of self-discipline, organization and routine caring for hens is surprisingly simple. Your key priorities surround keeping them properly fed and exercised, and maintaining sanitary and secure housing.
5. Cut down on food waste
Feeding food scraps to your chickens should not fulfill all their dietary needs but do add welcome variety to their diet and will cut down on waste in your household.
In some regions like the UK, this is against the law, so be sure that you are operating legally in doing this. Scraps like fruit and vegetable peels, pasta, and rice can be cooked down into a hearty mash and offered to your birds when cooled.
Certain left-overs are an absolute no-no including, meat, eggs, avocado, onions, and certain pips and seeds. Junk and processed food will also induce illness and should definitely be avoided.
We feed our chickens a staple diet of Kaytee pellets from Amazon and then treat them with some Greens, Fruits and Wheat.
4. Chickens keep pests under control
If the summer months leave you battling with flies mosquitoes and other insects, you will definitely be glad for the presence of chickens who will happily eat these pests and keep their numbers down.
Insects are also a fantastic source of protein for your fowls and make all the difference in the quality of your eggs.
3. Hens are garden clearance experts
The amount of scraping, pecking, and uprooting that a few hens can get through is dizzying to watch, so it is well worth setting them loose in weed-infested areas of your property.
However, they can be a little bit destructive if confined to a small area for long periods of time. Hence, we recommend a coop which can be moved around the garden. This will minimize the damage to parts of your garden and lawn. We use the Eglu Chicken Coops for this exact reason. We only have a small lawned area and don’t want it completely digging up.
2. Fine fertilizer for your garden
Poultry manure is such a good natural fertilizer that farmers can make good money selling it. Add your hen-house bedding to your compost bin to enrich your compost or gift it to a keen gardener.
1. Hours of entertainment
Chickens are delightful creatures and great fun to watch and run around after, especially if you are hunting for eggs. Caring for your hens can be an excellent family effort and even young children can do some of the tasks involved with looking after chickens.
Overall they perform well as family pets which you will get to know and love.
Recommended Chicken Coops
The Eglu Go Up Portable Chicken Coop comes with everything you need whether you are an experienced backyard chicken keeper or are completely new to the hobby.
The chicken coop not only looks fabulous, but it is easy to clean, straightforward to use, and suitable for up to four chickens. Hens will love the plastic roosting bars and integrated nesting box.
Simply fill with bedding and look forward to collecting your first eggs by opening the door at the back.
Benefits of the Eglu Go Up Portable Chicken Coop include:
- Portable Chicken Tractor for up to 4 hens
- Raised off the ground for easy accessibility
- Quick and Easy to Clean
- Predator Resistant
- Extendable Run
- Durable material prevents the build-up of red mite
- Twin wall insulation ideal for all seasons
- Optional wheels for easy movability
Cheap alternatives on Amazon
On to the flip side…
Even though we love our chickens and will always recommend them to others. We have to be honest, there are still some downsides. A lot of the downsides of keeping chickens do relate to the commitment and responsibility required to care for any pet.
If you are going to go for it, you need to be braced for the impact chickens will definitely have on your yard space and be prepared to apply the effort to keep their activities suitably contained.
Now, The Cons of Keeping Chickens
7. Your hens will need space
Adequate space is a non-negotiable for the proper welfare of hens. You need to be able to provide a minimum of 2 to 3 square feet of space within your hen house and up to 10 feet per chicken outside. Space prevents overcrowding and associated problems such as stress, bullying and disease.
6. Chooks get noisy and you may need to break up a fight or two
Forgiving neighbors who will love your eggs are a must for keeping backyard hens as it can get very noisy as they go about their day. As they establish their pecking order they can become aggressive, but things do settle down quickly.
5. Ensure that you can acclimatize to the smell
Keeping your coop clean makes all the difference but you will still have to get used to the lingering and pervasive odor of chicken waste, which can become quite pungent in warmer weather.
4. Costs can add up
Keeping backyard chickens comes with the unavoidable upfront expenses of housing, bedding, and feed. Investing in a good quality hen house and decent run will improve the health and welfare of your hens and of course.
The payback will be a clutch of fresh eggs to shave off your grocery bill. In addition, you will find yourself becoming an avid collector of all sorts of accessories and treats to pamper your hens.
3. After the eggs have gone you still have a chicken to look after
Even the most vigorous layer will eventually enter retirement. Chickens live for up to 10 years and lay for up to 7. So you will have a few years of egg-free TLC to provide your hardworking hens.
2. Look out for Neighborhood predators
Foxes, badgers, weasels, raccoons, and even aerial opportunists are likely to zone in on your little flock. You will need to remain vigilant for them and keep your hens very secure at night. Negligence will be exploited
1. Poop gets everywhere!
If you free range your chickens, be prepared for smatterings of chicken poop all over your yard. You’ll need somewhere to dispose of it safely. When chickens poop, their poo is actually not very healthy for anyone and isn’t even good for plants or the compost heap.
Only rain and cold weather will breakdown the harmful acids in their poop. So having somewhere to dispose of it safely is key.
Rounding up: Keeping backyard chickens
For us, the benefits well outweigh the challenges of keeping hens and if you are not put off, it’s likely you are going to do a great job of looking after your chickens.
A lot of the downsides can be reduced by getting a good quality hen house that is easy to thoroughly clean with a sturdy and secure run that works with the space you have available.
Read widely, check out blogs and forums run by chicken owners and get yourself as informed as possible before bringing your own feather babies home. We are sure that you will definitely enjoy your new residents!
Happy hen keeping!