So it may seem like this is a strange time to talk about chickens but this is the point that you need to make a decision on having backyard hens so that you can place your order for spring chicks! At least that was what I was told! For the record, I made the decision to buy chickens way before the fad of backyard chickens really took off. With a property in the country, I thought that having some happy free-ranging chickens would not only be idyllic, my family would also benefit from all of these fresh eggs that the experts say are both healthier and tastier. As a naïve cidiot (idiot from the city) I happily placed my order for ten chickens for a grand total of $49.85.
Here’s what I didn’t know…
Chickens come as babies; usually three days old. They don’t get to be free-range for at least 5 months, so be prepared to provide housing, heat lamps, food and water dishes, and bedding for your baby chicks. Also be prepared to clean some bums. I ended up with a little chick that had “pasty-bum” which required cleaning every few hours to prevent blockage. Total spent $320
Chicks live off of cracked corn and fresh water for the first several months. Of course there are cheap options or you can be like me and provide your chickens with organic cracked corn with reduced dust. Also consider the bedding for your chickens. It needs to be good at absorbing moisture and also non-toxic as the chickens will spend the day trying to stuff the bedding into the water dish. Total spent (to date) $295
Everything wants to eat your chickens: the cats from three farms away; the visiting dog from the city; the vultures that circled overhead for several hours; the raccoons; and especially the weasels and their relatives! The horror stories I heard after getting the chickens were impressive. It seems that most of these animals just want to kill the birds (they don't even really eat them). Plan to invest in a good coop. I got mine from Northcountrysheds.com. It came complete with a solar door, nesting boxes and heated roosts for winter. Total spent $2250
The smell as your chickens age is impressive. Most cities have passed bylaws preventing people from having backyard chickens, and I believe that the smell is a contributing factor. As my birds get older, I think the smell gets even stronger. Good thing I put the coop at the back end of the property. Even with cleaning the coop every other day, you just can’t stay on top of the fragrance. This is why most chicken owners let the chickens free as often as possible, to air out the coop. With all of the predators though, that means building a chicken run out of the most evil material possible (chicken wire). Total spent $685
Every single day is a learning experience with my chickens. Thankfully I have seven left (compliments of that dog from the city and an owl that decided to stop in for a light snack).
Between the seven of them laying an egg every single day for the next four years, I might financially break even given the going rate for farm-fresh eggs.
In hindsight, would I do it again? With names like “Cutlet,” “Pot Pie,” and “Nuggets,” my chickens have gone from backyard livestock to family pets. It will be an interesting family discussion when the chickens stop laying; usually at the tender age of four. Who ultimately knows where this experience will take us…but we are definitely better for having had it.