Saturday, May 24, 2014

Don't Get Chickens (?)

Chickens and homesteading seem to be natural mates. Other blogs have listed all sorts of reasons why to have chickens. And I agree with most. But chickens aren't for every wannabe farmer, in my opinion. I can see where there could be problems. So here's a different sort of list.....why NOT to have chickens.

Predators-- Some areas are plagued by predators that can decimate a flock. I can tell you lotsa stories of the ways I've lost birds to them. Lets see, there was the time a mongoose got into the chicken tractor and killed every young pullet. They the time a mongoose managed to grab hens through the wire fencing and pull them through it in pieces, eating off chunks along the way. I now hate mongooses. Theres too many here and they can wreck havoc. I've never lost a bird to feral cats, but wandering dogs have killed their share. Then there are hawks. They've taken a couple dozen hens over the years. And I hate to admit it, but my own dog killed several before I got that problem under control. 

Disease-- In my area fowl pox is the main repetitive disease. But I can vaccinate the birds if I so choose. While my flock has been hit by fowl pox each year, I've never had birds die. But others around me haven't been so lucky. A number of people no longer will keep chickens because of fowl pox. They simply can't deal with it. Other people report having non-pox diseases kill their flocks. Obviously, having chickens is not for them. It makes no sense to buy chicks every year only to have most die before laying age. 

(The black dots on the red comb are residual spots from fowl pox.)

Deaths-- If you can't deal with an animal dying, then don't have chickens. Even with the best of care, a flock will have individual chickens die from time to time. Every serious chicken keeper has found a dead hen in the nestboxes. Sometimes it just happens. There's lots of things that can wrong with a bird. 

Cannibals -- yes, chickens are cannibalistic. It's not uncommon for the flock to pick on the low man to the point that it gets eventually killed.....then eaten! The bigger the flock the more apt it is to happen, especially if they are penned or crowded. If you can't stomach that, then don't have chickens. 

(The current low man on the pecking order. She constantly has her head feathers plucked.)

(Current head honcho of the flock. One mean old biddy!)

Labor-- chicken care takes time. They need clean water daily. Fresh food that never runs out. New bedding. Eggs need to be picked at least daily, if not three times a day. Then the eggs need to be cleaned and refrigerated. It all takes time and work. Plus there's the labor of buying and hauling the feed. And the bedding/litter. And the cleaning the pen. Plus guess what?'s 365 days a year. No time off, no holidays.....somebody's got to take care of them. If not you then you'll have to pay someone to. 

Expense-- first you've got to buy the chicks. No, first you've got to buy food for the chicks. No, first you've got to buy the chick feeder and waterer. Oh no, first you've got to buy a pen. And don't forget a heat source, the bedding, the perches/roosts as they get older, and the nest boxes. The first year you have chickens, those eggs are going to cost you a lot of money. 

Disposal Dilemma -- what will you do with the hens who are no longer laying eggs? Occasionally you'll get a "poor do-er" or one with deformed legs. Once in a while one maybe too aggressive to safely keep around. Are you willing to kill them? Plan on giving them away or selling them? Have you checked out your market? If you're a "no kill" person, you may have a problem. Perhaps not getting chickens in the first place is the kindest solution.

Slaughter/ butchering time -- will you be able? Butchering takes time, it's work, and it smells. Yes, it stinks. At least I for one don't enjoy the smell of wet, hot feathers being scalded off a bird, nor the smell in fresh entrails. I take no enjoyment in killing a bird, though I can do it. Butchering the bird out doesn't bother me, but I know of plenty of people who just can't de-gut and cut a chicken up into pieces.

Neighbors-- not all neighbors will approve of chickens, not even just one hen. And forget roosters! I'm not even fond of some of them. Some zoning excludes chickens, and don't expect to be able to appease the government inspector with a dozen fresh eggs like you could do to win over your neighbor. 

Chickens aren't for everyone. For many people it's just better to buy the eggs from the closest flock keeper. 


  1. OK, it ain't what it's cracked up to be, but even if they lose their little chicken haids, y'all can sing "Winnah Winnah, Chik'n Dinnah!!

  2. Chicken for dinner, yum! To me, chickens are the perfect homestead animal. But they are not for everyone.