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For the Love of Chickens

Chicken in Hen House

From the title of this blog, I am sure you can tell this is not a health and fitness blog.  However, it could (and does for me) fall under the realm of wellness. 

After four years of living here, my town recently passed an ordinance where people could finally have backyard chickens within the town limits.  On our town Facebook page, hundreds of comments were rolling in with people tagging each other excited for the change and ready to go to Tractor Supply to pick up all the chicks they could possibly get (within ordinance rules of course – which of course limits the number of chicks per household and absolutely under no circumstances permits roosters).  While I can appreciate the new ordinance I also sit here and roll my eyes and breathe a huge sigh of “oh great!” which is completely sarcastic by the way.

Now before you judge me and say, “Anne, why are you being a negative Nancy about this?  It’s great news!  People want chickens.  They want fresh eggs.  Why does it even matter to you?  You have chickens. So, who are you to poo-poo on their excitement?”- please keep reading.

Chickens ARE great.  They are so therapeutic – for me at least.  I could sit and watch them peck and play all day.  Each one has a distinct personality and you can’t help but fall in love with them.  Just like dogs and cats, they become a part of your family and BONUS – they give you breakfast in return!  Who doesn’t love a fresh egg from your very own pet chicken? 

Nobody tells you about all the other aspects of chicken ownership. So let me share some inside chicken knowledge for all those newbies out there who are lining up outside of Tractor Supply to buy all the things to start their new flock.


If you think you are going to make extra cash selling farm fresh butt nuggets– you won’t.  Unless you are a large-scale hatchery or process your own birds for meat, there is no profit with chickens.  You will spend more money than you will ever make selling eggs. 

If you are looking for quiet chickens – they do not exist.  Chickens are noisy.  All the time!  They cheer each other on when laying eggs.  They scream bloody murder when they lay their own eggs.  They fight with each other for pecking order, for food, for the same nesting box, the same dirt pile, etc.  They sing (if you can call it that) and squawk just because the sun is shining.  They scream when a predator is nearby.  They compete to cluck louder than each other at all times of the day – and sometimes at night.

If you have never had a problem with predators in the past – having chickens invites all sorts of predators to your property.  Never seen a raccoon, possum, snake (if you live in the south), fox, hawk or owl?  Get you some chickens and wait.  Not only will they show up but they will be a nuisance on your property and your neighbor’s property.  And speaking of predators….

If you don’t mind bagging dead chickens or picking up body parts or constantly fixing your coop because a predator figured out another way to break in – then chickens are for you.  Just this weekend alone we lost 4 chickens to a raccoon and since March we lost 16 chickens to a hawk.  Last summer we relocated 13 raccoons after they killed some chickens and we had a fox coming every morning for breakfast which cost us money to figure out how to keep the chickens in during “breakfast time” because foxes are smart and you can’t easily trap them like you can a raccoon or possum.  Lastly, if you figure out how to protect all your chickens, the predators will settle on your pets (if small enough) and your neighbor’s pets.  They aren’t picky killers. 

If you aren’t able to cull a chicken (if you don’t know what cull means now would be a good time to educate yourself) then you probably should avoid chicken ownership.  There isn’t a chicken vet.  There might be a vet in a 100 mile radius that will look at your chicken but at the end of the day, chickens are a dime a dozen and not worth the cost to take them to a vet.  So if you treat them like your pets – and they need to be put down, you need to be able to do it quickly.  They carry diseases that can and will spread to the rest of your flock.  Speaking of diseases…..

While it is rare – you can get salmonella from a chicken.  I know tons of chicken people who have never had this issue.  I unfortunately was not so lucky.  Moreover, salmonella is NOT pretty.  It’s like a severe case of the flu but worse –think having to sleep on layers of towels because you don’t know what you will wake up in.  Like I said, it is rare.  Nevertheless, it CAN happen.

If you dream of free ranging your chickens so they can explore your entire yard – even if it is fenced in – be prepared for them to take over.  They poop everywhere.  EVERYWHERE.  They seem to love to find your patio furniture and door mats and shit on the, then walk through their shit and spread it everywhere.  Go ahead and get you one of those signs that says “Chicken Shit Everywhere” as a reminder of what you signed up for when you got chickens.  Your flower beds will be ruined and unless you clip your chickens wings they can fly up to an 8 foot fence and jump into your neighbor’s yard to ruin their flower beds too.  And oh by the way, Chickens = no grass.  So wherever you put your chickens you will not have grass.  It’s science. 

They do not lay eggs every day.  They need 16-18 hours of sunlight to produce an egg.  So in the winter – you may go weeks without an egg.  But you will need to feed them.  So during this time – consider your chickens nothing but freeloaders. Speaking of winter….

If you live in Wisconsin like me – or any state where snow and freezing temperatures are normal – you will need to make sure your chickens have heated water to it doesn’t freeze.  That might mean running electricity out to the coop or changing their water multiple times throughout the day.  You might even decide to put a heat lamp in their coop – which is INCREDIBLY dangerous and highly discouraged – but even so you will have to figure out a way to secure it and hope a coop fire doesn’t cost you your entire flock.  You will still have to collect eggs during the winter and hope they aren’t frozen and cracked by the time you get there.  Then again, egg production slows WAY down so it’s not likely you will collect more than one a day.  And they will lose toes and their combs will turn black from frost bite.  There isn’t much you can do about that.  The chicken doesn’t seem to be bothered by it – so you shouldn’t be either.

Don’t be suckered into buying “straight run” chickens.  My theory is that straight run bins are the hatchery’s way of getting rid of their roosters.  Therefore, if you are NOT allowed to have roosters – DO NOT and I repeat – DO NOT buy from the straight run bin.  9 times out of 10 (unless you are like me where it’s 100 percent of the time), straight run chickens ARE roosters.  And roosters are hard to rehome.  And don’t think about making money off of them.  Not likely to happen. Be ready for your neighbors to complain at the cock-a-doodling and be ready to cull your roosters.  This would be a good time to learn how to process your own meat.  I know the low price on the straight run bin is hard to resist – but DON’T BUY STRAIGHT RUNS.  You will thank me for it. 

Remember – you are required to follow the ordinance to the letter.  Don’t go on Facebook bashing your town or HOA because you are not following the rules and you have to rehome chickens or do something about the smells (yup, chicken coops stink – remember, poop everywhere).  The usual posts I see on social media are “my HOA is not telling me what I can and cannot have on my land” or “I paid for my home so I can do what I want” because the reality is – no you can’t.  And you will not win in any chicken battle.  If chickens are that important to you to own – you need to find a place in an agricultural zoning or where there are no restrictions on chickens or livestock and live there.  Simple as that.  Don’t be one of those people who think they can rally up and fight the process.  You can’t.  Follow the rules, don’t get chickens, or move.   

At this point you are probably wondering if there are any pros to chicken ownership.  There are.  Chickens eat bugs, ticks and spiders.  So there’s that. 

In all seriousness – I don’t say this to scare anyone.  I just hate to see people get into something without being educated.  Chickens are easy to maintain.  But they are also hard work.  Chickens bring joy, but they also cause heartache and test your ability to handle death and being able to cull when needed.  Chickens are educational – it is amazing what you can learn from chickens.  But chickens can also ruin relationships with neighbors.  

For the love of chickens…  before you run out and get some – do your homework.  Be smart about it.  Go visit someone who has chickens.  In fact – offer to clean a coop for someone.  It will give you a great idea of what to expect when cleaning your own coop.  It is a dirty, smelly and gross job.  And if you’re interested, I am always looking for people to help clean our coop.  Just sayin’.



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