Things I wish I had known before getting chickens

This may come as a no-brainer to most of you, but I find there’s a direct correlation between exercise time and blogging time. As in, when I slack off with exercise, I have more time to write. I suppose it helps when I have motivation, like things to give away and posts to declare winners. It does not help that I am terrible at remembering to take pictures of anything. So, I’ve been absent from posting lately, even though I’ve been doing a lot of cooking! Travis likes to pull things out of the pantry that are going to expire (he doesn’t believe canned foods have a really long shelf life!) and then I have to make something with them or throw it away – so I did (pasta with roasted pepper sauce, frozen chicken meatballs with peanut satay sauce, drumsticks braised in coconut milk) and was so successful he thinks he’s going to do it every week.

I don’t remember how much detail I’ve given on our chicken escapades (and I’m way too lazy to go look it all up), but it got me thinking about our chicken raising and wondering if I’d do it again, had I known then what I know now (and this is not even a year into it all!) I’m no chicken expert, but here’s what I would advise past-me before getting chickens:

  • The first set of chicks will be your favorite and you’ll spend more time with them than any other batch. Along the lines of having Lexi well-trained and Sadie not-so-much. First-borns just get more attention, sorry to say.
  • Just because you have a convenient spot to locate the coop doesn’t make it the best. But, other options will probably take too long to ever make chicken-ready, so that convenient spot will do okay.
  • Everything you think will be easy, will not be. When Travis says it’ll take X amount of hours/days/weeks, he actually knows what’s he talking about and is more often than not right.
  • Some people might be able to suppress their dogs’ prey drive, but your dogs are really fast. Really fast. Plus, they have the advantage of Lexi’s smarts. The chicken enclosure needs to be idiot-proof.
  • Once you think all the gaps of the chicken coop are sealed, poke everything with your finger. If your fingers makes it through a space (like, between the top beam and the corrugated roof), a rat can get through. And it will. Worry about a rat scurrying off with a tiny chick is not fun.
  • Two chickens do not actually give you enough eggs for eating AND baking. Sometimes, it’s not even enough for eating. Just a heads up.
  • If you let Travis pick out the chicks, he’ll get attached to them and actually take responsibility for them, meaning less work for you.
  • Buff Orpingtons are ridiculously broody. Crazy broody. But also easy to fool with a baby chick. Just know that they also become seriously protective. Like, if you pick up her chick and walk away, she will fly at your head. But, she’ll also be good at teaching her chick what to eat and how to get in and out of the coop during the day.
  • The Backyard Chicken Forum is not really full of people who truly keep chickens in a backyard. There are a lot of people who have hundreds of chickens, which means 90% of their advice doesn’t apply to urban chicken-keeping.
  • This is not an economical way to get happy-chicken eggs, but the eggs you will get are really, really good.
  • It’s a lot more work than you thought it would be, but only when you have to repair/fix/move the coop.

For a while, off and on, I toyed with the idea of raising chickens to eat. I figured they’d be happy and healthy and I’d be stickin’ it to The Man by not buying Factory Farm chickens. I’ve come to realize that I wouldn’t have a problem eating chickens I’ve raised, but I don’t want to process them. If someone else could process them, I’d be all over that. Travis has no problem dealing with that, but he doesn’t want to have to do the work (it would be time consuming). Then I read a post from someone who routinely raises about 100 chickens every year and splits the birds between a couple of families. She determined that her costs saved her about $1/lb compared to market organic, free-range chickens. Her typical hens weighed in between 3-4 pounds. And that’s her cost dealing with things in bulk! I’m pretty sure I would end up spending way more. I figured, if I’m willing to spend that much money to raise my own chickens, why am I not willing to spend that much money to buy someone else’s happy chickens, especially when I don’t have to do the work? So, now we’re going to try that. I’m still experimenting with grass-fed beef to see if I like it. Small steps.

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3 responses to “Things I wish I had known before getting chickens

  1. My friend Eva told me of a place on Spring Mtn. Rd. in Vegas that has live chickens. You tell them you want a chicken, they go in back and bring you out a fresh-butchered chicken. She said the meat is extremely sweet. Sorry, I couldn’t think of eating a fresh-butchered chicken. I am used to the old, dead ones.

    • But, it’s still a dead plucked chicken. Just fresher. It’s not like they let you pet the live chicken before they process it, right?

      I think you should go get one and see if it tastes better. I grilled a grass-fed ribeye for Travis and he said it was more flavorful before I told him what it was.

  2. I had chickens growing up. We lost quite a few to the family dog :(.

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