First, no one is debating that chickens can be wonderful animals and have fun personalities. However, we keep chickens at Honest Desires Farm for a reason. Food. They are livestock. Not pets. I can easily see how people can get attached to their chickens and then struggle with the what-do-I-do-with-them-now after they stop laying everyday or every other day but I am going to gently remind you:
If you are getting chickens to have an urban farm, a homestead, or to be more "self-sufficient" they aren't pets. They are livestock.
Why am I even talking about this? Because of this inflammatory article from NBC News about "hipsters" in the "locavore" movement who are dropping chickens off in the hundreds at shelters across the nation.
To quote the article:
“It’s the stupid foodies,” said Britton Clouse, 60, who admits she speaks frankly. “We’re just sick to death of it.
People entranced by a “misplaced rural nostalgia” are buying chickens from the same hatcheries that supply the nation's largest poultry producers and rearing them without proper space, food or veterinary care, she said."
“People don’t know what they’re doing,” Britton Clouse said. “And you’ve got this whole culture of people who don’t know what the hell they’re doing teaching every other idiot out there.”
Apparently, we are "hipsters" but we wouldn't want to be the idiots spreading false information, so I am here to give you a clue. IF you are getting chickens to become more self-sufficient please know the following:
- Chickens can be noisy. - Um yes. Even the hens. VERY. Most hens aren't though. Be prepared if you get a noisy one. You will need to do something about it. Like eat that hen.
- Chickens can be smelly. - Use a dirt floor coop and deep litter and you will will do wonders to save yourself time, trouble, and smell.
- Chickens do stop laying well after two - three years. - Fact.
- Chickens are expensive. - Yes! Especially in your backyard. You have the coop, feed, bedding, and other chicken needs. This isn't a save you money kind of thing in comparison to store bought eggs. (Of course you can do it rather inexpensively but time is an issue here and time costs money as well).
- Chickens (like all birds) are messy. - If you have ever lived with a parrot of any kind... never in my house again.
- Chickens can live a long time (DUH!). - Why would you not think about this before getting an animal?
- Chickens get sick. - We have had several in our last 5 years unexpectedly die or get ill in such away that they needed to be put out of their misery. Be prepared for this. It can happen. Mostly though they are very healthy animals. And a vet for a chicken... well. I think that is crazy talk but you decide your own money. There is a LOT you can do for the health of your chicken in your own backyard.
- Chickens need care everyday of the year. - Think about vacations, weekends away, etc. Even in winter. Even is storms. Even when you are sick or exhausted.
- DON'T do something because it is "cool". - Hello this isn't high school. - Please don't just do it because it looks so neat and the "idea" of chickens is fun.
- Chickens don't bring predators in the city. - Our neighbors garbage cans already do that. However, chickens are very easy targets for predators and your expensive investment in backyard hens can be gone in a flash. Take strides to protect your hens so that you can eat them and not your neighborhood coon.
Remember why you are doing this:
- Feeding your family.
- Chickens can be educational.
- To make sure the animals you eat live a good life.
- To be a locavore!
- Whatever personal reason you put here.
Don't give keeping backyard chickens a bad name. Help your kids have a real understanding of the food they eat. Don't cloud the issue with keeping pet chicken "Sally" around forever all the while saying you are trying to be sustainable or a homesteader. Be honest. Say this is my pet chicken and I have her for 14 years. Eggs or no eggs. However, another option is to honor "Sally" for what she is. Livestock. With a noble purpose and good life, surrounded by people that appreciated her chicken-ness and then let her do the honor of feeding your family. That oddly can be a very beautiful thing.
For another view point (and I am sure there will be many more over the next couple days and weeks) read: