So you are thinking about getting some chickens? I love mine, I mean really, really love them. There are some things you need to think about before getting chickens.
Can you have chickens?
First off is, can you legally have chickens where you live? Check with your county, city, and HOA. Many places will allow hens only and limit the number you can have. It’s best to know your chicken laws before you get attached to those little fluff balls you bring home.
Then what kind of housing will you be able to provide for your birds? Will you be able to keep it warm enough in the winter, and provide some cooling in the summer? (We will get into how you can do this in future posts) Chickens require about 2-3 square feet inside a coop, and 8-10 square feet in an outside run per bird. Say you wanted to get 10 chickens, that would mean you would need a coop with at least 30 square feet, and a run with at least 80 square feet.
How many eggs do you want per week? Depending on the breed, you will get an egg a day, or one every other day. So lets say our 10 chicken flock lays every other day. That’s about 35 eggs a week. In a flock that lays everyday it’s about 70 eggs a week. But not so fast. There are times of the year when it is too hot, or too cold and they will not lay as well during those times. During times of molt (dropping and growing feathers) they may stop laying altogether for a short period of time.
And speaking of laying, most breeds of chickens are only in prime lay from about eight months old to four or five years old. What is your retirement plan when they stop laying? The birds are still perfectly healthy at this age and can live another four or five years. It’s a difficult thing to think about. Will you butcher them? Can you butcher sweet old Emily who has faithfully given you eggs all her life? I am not meaning to sound like I am against this, but I want you to really consider what your tolerance will be for ending your chickens life. Could you eat a dog you have had for 5 years? I am just going to throw out here that I personally fall into the, wimp that can’t cull my own flock category. I do want to say that butchering is a better end than dumping at a shelter. You can also take them to a vet and have them put to sleep. This is an expensive way, but it works for the squeamish.
If you want to know how to butcher a chicken this is an excellent article, but it is very graphic. Don’t look if you think you will be disturbed. You can just cull (polite word for kill) them and not eat them. You can make them into dog food as well if you can’t eat them yourself.
Another option is to continue to feed them and just not get eggs. If this will work for you probably depends on how many chickens you have, or see yourself having. 100 chickens eating and not producing is a whole different feed bill, than 3 or 4. If you just have a small flock, like our flock of ten, you still get to enjoy them and their antics, and you can add some younger birds to the flock for eggs. Shelters are starting to feel the fallout from the backyard chicken movement as people get to this point and just turn them in. Bottom line, they end up being put down anyway most of the time. There are far fewer rescue organizations for chickens than dogs.
Do you want, and can you have a rooster. You don’t need a rooster to get eggs. Roosters can be charming, or mean. They don’t just crow in the morning. They crow whenever they feel like it. So if you want, and can have a rooster in our little flock of 10 hens you would only need one rooster. Too many roosters together will fight, so the fewer the better. The main job of the rooster is to fertilize eggs, and to help keep his hens safe. Roosters are not PG. If having a child ask why the rooster keeps jumping on the hens is not part of your vision, don’t get one.
So if you have a place for chickens to live, and a plan for them, chickens are wonderful to have around. They are fun to watch, and will follow you around your yard and garden. You can play get the bug with them when you pick up rocks, and come up with many wonderful chicken games. Just know your chicken facts before you decide to add some to your small farm. Till next time…