Over the last five years I’ve learned a few things about keeping chickens in the back yard. And while, for the most part, chickens are really fun and the positives far outweigh the negatives, it’s not all roses. No, they are not noisy. No they don’t stink. But there are a few lessons we have learned about the urban homestead’s favorite creature feature:
- Don’t name them. Chickens are so far down on the food-chain that they are pretty much dinner for everything except insects. Naming them is just setting yourself up for heart-break. We named our first five chicks. But the tears when Daisy was killed by a fox were enough to cure us of this. The next two rounds of chicks were nameless. While we still knew them as “the red one” or “the big one,” it kinda kept our feelings a bit more protected. And we were able to eat the ones without names when the time came.
- Every one will ask if you need a rooster to get eggs. I’m not really sure why this is a question? If there is no rooster, the eggs will never become chicks. Eggs are not baby chickens. Eggs are just eggs. At some point you will find yourself, once again, explaining that eggs are basically like a tasty chicken period that happens daily. Yum, right?
- Baby chicks are messy. Very, very messy. Our first chicks were raised in a box in our office. They were so cute. When they finally moved outside, the office was completely covered in a very thick layer of dust. It was awful. The next chicks got the luxury of a heat lamp in the garage instead.
- Chickens dig deep holes. Like, to China. We used to let them free-range through the whole back yard. Our yard is small, but they never ate all the grass. They pooped everywhere, but we could hose off the patio. The real bummer were these gigantic, deep holes. They use them for dust baths. Later, we moved the coop to one area of the yard. The hens still free-range, within their area, and they’ve eaten all the grass back there and dig to their hearts’ content. And we are no longer breaking ankles in the giant holes. Bonus: the kids can now roll a ball in the remaining grass, poo-free.
- You will be spoiled by the eggs. If, for some reason you need to buy eggs from the store, you will scowl at their sickly, yellow insides and scoff at their bland taste. They literally pale in comparison to your awesome, dark-yolked, delicious, home-grown eggs.
So while others continue to extol the merits of the back yard flock, don’t come to me saying you weren’t warned.