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7 Downsides to Raising Chickens

Okay folks, it’s about to get serious up in here. With the arrival of spring and chicken-keeping fever striking many, I feel the need to offer up a small dose of reality to prospective chicken keepers. There are a few downsides to raising chickens.

Please don’t get me wrong, I love to encourage people to get chickens. I’ll always be a big supporter and pusher of bringing chickens into your life. But, with that said, I think everyone who’s considering getting chickens needs to go into it with all the facts.

There are a lot of reasons that chickens might not be the right animal for you. We’ve picked out the top seven to share with you today.

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A red chicken free ranging in a field.

7 Downsides to Raising Chickens

1. Chickens Require a Lot of Space

Unless you’re planning to keep these birds in your house, (don’t) they’ll need an outdoor space to live. Their chicken coop  needs to be big enough to have at least 3 square feet per chicken, but that’s only if you also have a chicken run for those birds to stretch their wings. Most urban and suburban lots can only accommodate a coop and run that are large enough for a few chickens.

Here’s the problem though, you might plan to get only a few chickens, but that number can grow so easily. A lot of chicken lovers jokingly call it chicken math, when your chickens mysteriously multiply without any doing from you.

Chickens are addicting, and you’ll find yourself making excuses to get more. Maybe you want some different colored eggs, or you feel bad that one of your hens doesn’t have any friends, or your old ladies stopped laying and you need some youngsters to keep up production.

Whatever the reason, you should build a bigger coop than you plan to actually use with your first flock, and boy can that take up  a lot of space.

A chicken coop with chickens inside.

2. You Might Get Attached

You may think getting chickens is no big deal, because they’re livestock, and their main purpose is to lay eggs for your breakfast.

Chickens are more than livestock to most people. Unless you grew up on a farm and deeply understand the nitty gritty of owning livestock, it’s likely these animals will be more like pets than strictly food providers.

You will likely get attached to these animals the same way you do to a dog or a cat, especially if you raise them from teeny helpless little babies.

Getting attached isn’t a bad thing, my husband and I are certainly attached to all of our chickens, but it can make things harder and be one of the downsides to raising chickens.

You see, chickens can be pets, but they’re much different from most of your pets. They’re more prone to accidents and illness because they live outside. Chickens are prey animals so they’re likely to get attacked by predators. If they get sick you might have a lot of trouble finding a vet that is willing to treat them, and even more trouble paying the bill.

This is all to say, if you choose to get chickens, go into it knowing full well that these could become pets with benefits, and you may have to deal with some heartbreak and hard times because of that.

A woman with a tshirt that said mommy all over it holding yellow chicks.

3. Chickens Can Outlive Your Other Pets

Chickens can live up to 12 years.  Twelve years!  Just think about that.  If you’re going to keep chickens as pets, they could outlive your dog! Now this can, of course, be a good thing if you’re a chicken lover. But if you’re on the fence about whether or not you want chickens, it’s more important to consider their lifespan.

As with getting any new pet, it’s important to think about the future right from the start. Consider any life changes that may come along in the next ten years, such as moving to a new home, getting married, or having kids. Do chickens fit into your life plan for the next decade? If not, they may not be right for you.

A yellow chick balancing on a dog's nose.

4. Chickens Can Be Expensive

At $5 each, chicks themselves are likely to be the cheapest part of this new hobby. It’s all the other stuff you have to buy for your new pets with benefits that can rack up the bill!

The chicken coop, even if you built it yourself, will cost at least a few hundred dollars, and can run up to several thousand dollars for big fancy coops. Chickens need daily feed, feeder, fount, Nesting Boxes, roosts, treats, and healthcare. This can get expensive quickly!

If you’re like every other chicken owner ever, you will get addicted and end up with more birds than you planned on.  How much will it cost you to care for them all for the next decade?

A momma hen and her baby chicks eating chick feed.

5. Chickens Can Make a Lot of Noise

While chickens aren’t quite as loud as a barking dog, they can certainly make quite the racket when they get going! If you plan to keep a rooster, know that roosters don’t only crow at dawn. They crow all…. day… long. There’s no rhyme or reason, they just do.

Even without a rooster, hens can be noisy as well. Hens love to sing what we crazy chicken people call the ‘egg song’ every time an egg is laid. The whole flock will join in the chorus and it can certainly be enough to annoy your neighbors.

A colorful rooster crowing.

6. Chickens Require Your Time Every Single Day

Chicken’s don’t top the list as the most time consuming of animals, but they certainly require time and energy every day.

You’ll need to care for your chickens every morning to provide feed and water, let them out into the run, and collect eggs. They also need care every evening, to be closed up in the coop and, again, to check for eggs. Every weekend you’ll need to clean out the coop and check the birds over for wounds and insects.

All told, chicken care is about as time consuming as cat care. They’re simple animals with simple needs, but if you’re a super busy person who can’t fit that into your life, they’re probably not for you.

A yellow chick.

7. They Can Be Destruction Machines

If you’re the type of person who has a perfectly manicured lawn and gardens that could rival Martha Stewart’s, you definitely, absolutely don’t want to be free-ranging chickens on your property.

When we raised chickens in the city, we had 8 birds on our tiny urban lot. We let them out to free-range daily so they could get some exercise, and boy did that end badly.

By the end of summer the yard had no grass. I mean it, not the tiniest sprig of green. The gardens were all destroyed, plants upturned, leaves and fruits devoured, and what was left got pooped on. Even our potted plants took a beating. They destroyed everything.

Now there are ways to have your gardens AND your chickens, but it takes some extra effort. Choosing not to free range your birds will keep your garden safe, or you can follow our tips on how to chicken-proof your garden!

A flock of chickens outside.

Now, if you’ve made it through this whole post and said to yourself, that’s it? I can handle that! Then congratulations! It’s time to get some chickens!

Chickens truly are delightful pets with benefits, and while we do want to get chickens into every backyard, we want prospective chicken keepers to go into this fun hobby with as much knowledge about the downsides to raising chickens as possible.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them down in the comments, we love to chat chickens!

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Cassandra DuBourdieu

Friday 27th of November 2020

How do I buy just four chicks? Should I get six in case of dieoff? What might theydie of? I'll have a pretty large coop so crowding will not be an issue. How do I know they won't have bird flu?

Meredith

Saturday 5th of December 2020

I think in general most places won't sell less than 6 chicks, in most states it's not legal to do so. You'd likely be better off buying 6 chicks. We haven't found chicks dying off to be a problem when buying them locally, we've only had that happen with mail order chicks. Bird flu is not really a concern when buying from reputable hatcheries and stores.

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