We’re living in a wonderful time when getting backyard chickens is all the rage, and believe me, we’re all about it. But even so, there are some things to consider before getting chickens.
We want to help you make absolutely sure this is the right choice for you and your family. Before you go all out crazy chicken lady, and believe me, it happens faster than you think, you need to consider these six things and whether or not you can handle the reality of bringing these critters into your life.
6 Things to Consider Before Getting Chickens
Are you allowed to get chickens where you live?
This may seem like an obvious consideration, but you’d be surprised how many people just don’t think about legality before bringing home their first box of adorable chicks. While the popularity of backyard chicken keeping is leading to more and more cities and towns changing their laws, there are still plenty of places that don’t allow them. Be sure to check your local ordinances before getting chickens.
You may think, hey, who would even know? Well… chickens can be loud, even if you just have hens, and your nosy neighbors might not appreciate your new pets as much as you do. It’s easy to bring chickens into your life, but it’s hard to get rid of them. Save yourself a lot of grief and just check with your city or town before leaping into this venture.
Do you have the space?
Unlike other pets like cats and dogs, chickens really need to live outdoors, and they need enough space to live comfortably. Chickens that are overcrowded will be stressed and unhealthy, and you certainly don’t need that drama in your life!
At the very least, chickens will need a coop, and ideally also a connected outdoor run. The chicken coop and attached run combined need enough square footage to allow for at least ten square feet per bird, and ideally even more space than that. The more space your chickens have the happier they will be!
Many cities and towns that do allow chickens also have minimum space requirements and placement requirements for the coop, so be sure to know your laws and follow them so you don’t get in trouble with the fuzz.
Do you have time to raise chickens?
While chickens are very low-maintenance pets, they do have daily needs which will take a little time. The time you need to spend on your flock every day depends entirely on how many chickens you have as well as how you maintain their coop. If you do the deep litter method, like we do, that will drastically cut down on the amount of time required to keep the chicken coop clean.
If you have an average sized flock of under 15 birds, you can expect to spend 5-10 minutes per day caring for your chickens. The flock will need fresh water daily, a refill on their food, a general body check of your birds for health issues, and collecting those sweet, sweet eggs.
All told, chickens take very little time and effort. You might find yourself spending way more time chilling with your chickens in the yard and watching their antics than you do actually taking care of them.
Can you handle gross or disturbing sights?
Here’s a rough consideration… when things get nasty, will you be able to handle it? Chickens shit, a lot. Like, constantly. Can you handle the smell and cleanup? What about when your chicken suffers an injury or needs to be put down? While these issues are pretty rare, if you’re raising chickens you will no doubt run into them at some point or another. Raising animals of any type is not all hunky dory all the time, eventually the nasty reality will rear its ugly head.
We’ve dealt with plenty of health issues with our flock, from a prolapsed vent, to torn comb, bumblefoot, and lice. Will you be able to handle it if your chicken is badly injured? Running your chicken to the vet for every little problem will get expensive quick, so you may need to put your big girl panties on and buck up when the time comes.
What if you end up with a rooster?
While we’re on the subject of tough matters, if you’re going to get chickens you need to have a plan for what you’ll do if you end up with a rooster.
While many chicken breeders and hatcheries will tell you they can positively sex their birds and give you only females, this isn’t always true. Sexing chickens is a tricky business and it’s easy to make a mistake. People inadvertently end up with surprise roosters all the time, and then the question comes, what do you do? Most city and suburban ordinances don’t allow roosters, and even if you live somewhere that does allow them, your flock will probably only tolerate one or two roosters at a time.
You need to have a plan in place for roosters before any chickens step foot on your property. Your options for surprise roosters are pretty slim, and most aren’t a happy ending for the bird.
Do you want to spend the money on your chickens?
Taking any animal into your home comes with expenses, and chickens are no exception.
The most expensive part of chicken keeping by far is the chicken coop and run. This is a big up front investment before the chickens even arrive. Chicken coops can vary widely from practically free DIY coops to uber fancy designer coops. If you’re handy, or know someone handy, building your own coop is totally the way to go. We even have a post with 10 free coop designs to help you out! On the other hand, buying a chicken coop is incredibly easy and fast, you can even order one on Amazon or Etsy and have it in two days with the magical prime account!
Besides the building costs, chickens will cost you over time. Chicken feed is a recurring monthly expense. This cost is entirely dependent on how many birds you have, what type of feed you buy, and where you live. Here in Western NY, we feed our 18 chickens on about $30 per month.
We feed our chickens quality layer pellets that offer balanced nutrition, but are by no means the most expensive feed in the store. We supplement their feed by giving them lots of kitchen scraps and letting them out to free-range several times a week. When the birds free-range they hardly touch their chicken feed as they’re gorging themselves on wild food that they forage in our woods.
We’ve covered just the basic expenses here, if you really go full-out crazy chicken lady and buy your birds toys, treats, fancy nesting boxes, and chicken swag, then you’ll of course need to budget more for your lovely flock.
If you’ve made it this far aren’t scared off by any of the points above, then congratulations, you are indeed ready to get some backyard chickens! This is an exciting new adventure for you and your family, and I just know you’re going to be a total rockstar at it.