Over 100 billion eggs were produced on chicken farms in the United States last year. This number only continues to grow as the demand for chicken byproducts goes up.
To meet demand, many homeowners have turned to keeping their own chickens for self-consumption and local markets. This is fun and exciting, but the reality is that there are many disadvantages keeping chickens as well.
These are some of the first questions owners tend to ask. How much space does a chicken need? Do chickens smell? Are chickens hard to take care of?
I’d be lying if I told you keeping chickens in your backyard was all sunshine and rainbows. You’ll need to be prepared for the following:
Are chickens loud enough to disturb your neighbors? It depends.
Chickens aren’t the quietest creatures around, especially if a rooster is involved. Actually, I would strongly advise you to speak to your neighbors before you consider chickens at all.
You will also need to find out what the law says regarding the noise. Some states and countries have a rooster ban in place but allow hens. This is due to the level of noise a rooster can make.
Hens are generally a lot quieter, only really speaking up if there’s danger around or if they just laid an egg, but certain hens can be just as loud if not louder than a rooster.
As a chicken keeper, you will soon learn how to distinguish between the different sounds your flock makes. If you ever hear a warning call, make sure to investigate to keep your flock protected against predators.
Okay, hear me out. Chickens are actually very clean animals. They will spend hours preening and dustbathing to keep their coats looking pristine.
Their poop, on the other hand, smells terrible. Your coop will get smelly very quickly if you don’t clean up after your flock.
Unfortunately, chickens also produce a large volume of poop, so you will have to clean up after them quite regularly. If you and your neighbors don’t mind that barn smell you get when there are animals around, then you don’t have to clean that often.
But if you want your yard to smell fresh and look great you will have to make some effort at least every other week to keep things clean and smelling great.
No doubt about it: properly caring for chickens will take up a bit of your time. They need to be fed every day, cleaned at least once every other week, and will need a sitter if you go away for more than a weekend.
Depending on where you live, finding someone knowledgeable enough to look after your chickens could be quite a challenge. It won’t become your day job (most likely), but keeping chickens does require some amount of effort, just like any other hobby.
Chicken keeping isn’t free. You will have quite a few starting expenses, but the good news is that it gets better after the initial down payment.
Chicken feeders, waterers, the chickens themselves, a coop, and several other smaller items you need will all have to be factored into the calculation when working out if chicken keeping is something you can afford.
You will also have a few ongoing expenses like chicken food, chicken bedding, cleaning supplies, and anything you need to do maintenance. Your chickens probably won’t save you much money, but the products you can get from them are definitely much healthier than anything you can find in a shop.
Last, you’ll need to keep in mind that chickens need space. How much space do chickens need, you ask?
For a standard chicken, you will need at least a minimum of 4 square feet per bird in the coop and 8 square feet per bird in the run (don’t worry, more to come on these terms later). Your chickens will also need high-quality feed, stored on site.
The circle of life also applies to our feathered friends. Chicken health problems set in, and deaths do occur, particularly if you are raising chicks.
Further, if you want to keep chickens as table birds, meaning keeping them for their meat, you will have to take into consideration that you will need to slaughter one every now and then.
It is always best to not get attached to any birds due for the table. Slaughtering chickens or seeing a dead chicken you got attached to can be quite a traumatic experience.
Depending on your breed of chicken, you will also have to deal with deaths. Some chicken breeds have a very short lifespan of only 3 years.
What can start as chicken eye problems or chicken foot problems can quickly lead down a slippery slope. You will need to prepare yourself, and your kids, if you have any, before slaughtering a bird for eating or when losing one at the end of its life.
Overcoming The Challenges and Disadvantages of Keeping Chickens
Overall, the advantages of a home flock far outweigh the disadvantages. If none of what I’ve mentioned above is a dealbreaker, I would say get the chickens! With basic preparation, you can plan for all of the above and have a happy farm life ever after.
Go for it! If it doesn’t work out, at least you tried. Just make sure to do your homework by reading our other basic care articles so things can go as smoothly as possible.