Cute. Cuddly. Cheeping, fuzzy little bundles of joy… and oh-so-tempting to bring home! If you’ve ever been to a local farm store in spring, you know what I’m talking about!
You may not know this, but it’s pretty trendy right now to have your own chickens 😉 …Although bringing home a pet chick (or two, or three… or six) can seem like the best idea ever in the moment, there are a few things you need to consider before attempting to play homesteader and getting your own brood. Not to deter you from trying your hand at raising chickens… but we had a few surprises last year when we brought home our own furry peepers, and hopefully our experience can spare you some unnecessary complications!
7 Things to consider before bringing home your own flock of “Backyard Chickens”
1. Most cities have guidelines and/or laws in regards to having chickens
You need to check your local laws & ordinances to make sure you are in compliance with them or that having chickens is even legal where you live. Even if there are no city stipulations, there may be county regulations or, if you live in a neighborhood and have a homeowners association, there are likely even stricter guidelines. Some cities won’t have issues with chickens, but will stipulate that roosters are a no-go. And, just as a side note, if you don’t like your city/state/county laws on having chickens, you can always contact your local representative to encourage some changes. 😉
Click Here to check your state/city regulations and rights.
2. Chickens smell… really bad
This seems like a no-brainer, but seriously, they stink. I thought I was prepared for this, but I don’t think you can really be prepared for the smell. Chickens (including the cute little cuddly ones) have a distinct “chicken” smell… think “barnyard on a warm, summer day”. yeah. Because we started the chicks inside for the first while, this was slightly problematic. Not the hugest deal, but just so you can’t say I didn’t tell you so!
3. You have to wipe their bums
When chicks are little they can get clogged vents on their behind, otherwise known as “pasty butt”. Eww. In order to prevent this, you’ll need to check their hind-ends at least once daily to check for trapped poo and cleanse the area. This honestly didn’t bother me too much, because the chicks were little, and frankly, since I’m a nurse, poo just doesn’t bother me. But it is still kind of gross. It’s easy enough to deal with… I would just take one chick at a time, take a little gander at their hind-end, have some warm water and use a q-tip (you could also use a washcloth) and gently wet and cleanse the area. It’s time consuming, but if their bums get clogged, it can be life-threatening, so this is a necessary task, at least for the first few weeks.
4. You may end up with a rooster… or 3
There you are in the farm store picking out your perfect little darlings… visions of going out to the coop on a warm spring morning to gather the perfectly laid eggs in a bed of simple, soft straw… with all of your perfect and obedient little laying hens mingling around your feet as you sashe back into the house with your bounty! …Not to dash your hopes and dreams… but reality check time. Some of those cute little fur balls you brought home, may turn out to be roosters, and roosters don’t lay eggs. And, roosters are noisy.
When the chicks are little it’s nearly impossible to determine whether they’re male or female, so you kinda just have to pick some and hope for the best! My husband and I turned out to be really bad pickers (or maybe just sorely unlucky) when it came to our first batch of chickens. We called them “the girls”, until it was discovered that all three of our surviving “girls” were actually “boys”… oh dear. There go my dreams of going out to the coop to get breakfast!
5. You may have to decide what to do with said rooster(s)
When we realized we had some males (very Noisy males, I might add) on our hands, it became abundtly clear that the time was coming very quickly that we’d have to make a decision on what to do with them.
If it had been up to me, we would have just kept them, they are pretty entertaining after all, and had become quite the lawn attraction. However, because of regulations in our area against having roosters, we were forced to figure out how we could be rid of them. My husband and I deliberated over whether or not we were “homesteader-ish” enough to actually do the unspeakable and perhaps enjoy the boys’ more savory qualities. (eeeeeh) Anyways, when all was said and done, we had some gracious friends, who have a big yard with a big flock of hens ready and waiting for some gentlemen callers 😉 who volunteered to take them off our hands!
6. You may come home with more birds than you initially intended to
Most places that sell chicks require you to purchase at least a minumum amount of them at one time. This one actually took me by surprise at the store. We went to the tractor supply expecting to bring home three or four chicks and ended up with six (their minimum purchase requirement). It wasn’t really that big of a deal because what’s one or two more, right?! But just so you know you may end up with more than you bargained for! It actually turned out to be a good thing, because we started with six, and ended up with three, which leads me to my next point…
7. You can probably count on at least one casualty
Chickens are not the hardiest of all animals. And sometimes chicks (and chickENs) can die for seemingly no reason. We had one baby that I literally nursed until she finally passed away in my hands. I will not deny or confirm that I shed a tear or two at her loss… but unfortunately, it’s just the facts of life here people. The weak ones will struggle and the strong ones will persevere. It would probably benefit you to think of having chickens (emotionally speaking) in the same way you would think about having a pet fish. It’s cool when they’re around, but don’t get your hopes up too much for longevity and emotional connection.
On an upside, if you’re prepared (and maybe even if you’re not!), chickens can make for great fun! We learned a ton through our first experience, and I’m sure we’ve got lots more to learn!
Have you tried your hand at having backyard chickens? Did you have any surprises?! Hit me up in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!
photo credit: depositphotos.com/Maridav