So you think you want chickens?
It’s okay to not be sure. I mean what if you get yourself a backyard flock and then decide chickens aren’t for you? Then what?
If you’ve been wondering if there’s a way to figure out if chicken ownership is for you before you take the plunge, the answer is YES…sort of.
First, before you do anything, it’s probably a good thing to find out if you can even own chickens where you live. Does your town/city/area allow them? If so, what are the rules? Each town has different rules, so make sure you talk to your city hall to find the specifics for you. While you’re at it, if you live in an HOA or other area that has a set of rules apart from the city you live in, check with them too. Even if your city allows chickens, your neighborhood might not.
One you’ve uncovered the laws in your area, it’s time to talk to some folks who already raise chickens. If you don’t personally know anyone, or can’t find any chickens in yards near you when you go out on walks (and hope to catch their owners out in the yard), look for a backyard chicken class (many are free) or find a feed store and see if they can direct you to someone. Be prepared, however: Most backyard chicken owners are flipped over their flock. Their enthusiasm is catchy.
Books are also a good place to gather practical information and there are lots of good books out there. Here are a few I’ve books collected on my website which will give you a place to start. Reading about chicken ownership and the specifics required for their care will help you start thinking about whether you have what they will need. Do you have space in your yard? A good place for a coop? An area for them to free range? A fence to keep out the predators? Enough money to get going? (You can also hop over to the City Girl Chickens website and find lots of information to get you started.)
If you’ve made it this far and found out you can have chickens where you live, talked to people who have had them, and think you can swing it, take a deep breath. We’re not quite done.
It’s time for some soul searching. This part can be a bit tricky because you might not always know what you really think. But here are some questions to ponder:
- Why would you like chickens?
- Do you like eggs?
- How will you take care of them when you’re gone on vacation, etc.?
- Do you have the time and money to care for them?
- What will you do with them when they’re not in their egg-laying prime anymore?
All the education, talking, researching and thinking might give you a good idea about whether or not you should jump into raising chickens. But sometimes it might not. It didn’t with me.
When I was a kid, we lived on the outskirts of a tiny town in Montana and raised chickens, horses, occasional 4-H animals, and random other critters. I don’t remember bonding much with the chickens. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember much about them at all, except that I had a Polish hen named Phyllis Dillar.
After I moved to the city as an adult, I contemplated chickens, but I wasn’t sure I even liked them. I worried about smoldering mile high piles of chicken poo, and millions of buzzing flies. I worried that I’d be stuck with these creatures that might have the personality of a slug and smell badly and wreck the yard. I worried about costs, and unhappy neighbors and all sorts of things.
And honestly, I didn’t really see myself as an ‘animal person’. And, since chickens are animals after all, I didn’t know if we’d be a very good fit. So, I stalled and thought and worried and wondered…
One day a friend talked me into going to a backyard chicken class with her. I went, mostly to humor her (she’d just moved to a farmhouse just outside the city and romanticized a flock of her own pecking the grass beside her bright red barn). Little did I know that a beautiful gentle Buff Orpington hen in that class would sweep me off my feet and send me straight into chicken ownership as fast as my legs could carry me to the feed store. Nobody was more surprised than me (and believe me, most of my friends and family were quite surprised)!
If I would have been practical, I might not have rushed down and brought home 9 fuzzy peeping balls of cuteness. I still had tons of doubts how it would all pan out. But, all these years later I can say with CERTAINTY that bringing home those first chicks completely wrecked me. It changed my life for the better and I look to that one decision as a big turning point for me. My outlook on life, the way I relate to food, and what I think about animals and the world around me in general have all been greatly influenced by that small box of baby chicks.
For me, I’ve been nothing but pleasantly surprised. I thought I was bringing home chickens for eggs, but the eggs are such a minor side point to me now. My only regret in chicken ownership is that I didn’t do it sooner. I’m completely smitten with my hens. I can’t imagine not having chickens in my life. Ever.
If I would have gone through the above exercises, I would have decided chickens weren’t for me. But thankfully I got them anyway. Sometimes you just don’t know until you do it, I guess.
There are some programs that have sprung up in a few places where you can rent a flock of hens for a while. They bring you the birds, the hen house and the things you need to take a trial run at the backyard bird gig. You try it, and if you like it, you can opt in to own the birds you’re renting, or buy some others of your own. It’s a great way to get your feet wet, so to speak.
If that isn’t an option in your area, spend some time around hens if you can. Offer to help clean out their coops. Do whatever you can to get a feel for what it would be like to own a flock of your own. (But also know that just like children, it’s a lot easier to care for your own than for others because they’re yours and you love them.)
So, I guess my best advice is, yes, study, talk, do your research and think things through. But don’t let fear stop you. Dig down deeper than those fears and see if there’s something more than fear telling you not to get yourself some hens.
Equally, don’t let popular trendy opinion sway you if chicken ownership really isn’t for you. They are a commitment and they do take time, thought and money, just like any other animal you own.
In the end, you have to go with your gut. I did. And there’s no turning back for me! (And because I’m super pro chicken, I’ll leave you with this list of over 20 reasons to consider raising some chickens of your own.)
Good luck in your decision making process. Let us know how it all turns out!