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0 Adventures of the Yellow School Bus | "The Chicken and the Egg: Pros & Cons of Chicken Ownership" | Video, Text, 12 Photos by Candice Granger

"Chickens in your backyard. Sounds so nostalgic - a few chickens pecking around, eating grasshoppers and giving you fresh eggs everyday. What's not to love about chickens?



A lot.  I wouldn't say I love chickens, I love their fresh eggs and very grateful for them but I don't love the chickens.  I like them, most of the time.  I have a friend who desperately wants chickens for her beautiful backyard.  She asked me my thoughts on the matter.  I didn't want to be Debbie Downer, but chickens are destructive and messy. 


 You always hear people talking about how awesome chickens are and how easy they are to care for but...there is more to it than that.  I wanted to paint a realistic picture for her before she made that leap into the chicken world.  So, I thought I would share my view on chicken keeping.


Little baby chicks are adorable.  They are sweet, cuddly and make the softest little cheeps.  You can't help but love them.  Unfortunately, those same adorable creature are also dirty little birds that require lots of attention.  A clean brooder box is an absolute must when raising chickens from chicks.  That is waaaaay easier said than done when they poop in their water and scratch all of their feed into their box.  They are cute but just be aware that you can't buy 6 baby chicks and let them loose in your backyard.  Keeping the chicks in a clean brooder box and keeping them warm with a heat lamp for at a least a month is an absolute must and a huge pain in the toosh. 

This chicken ALWAYS finds it necessary to get in the water bowl to get a drink.
I guess it was pretty warm outside and that would be a good way to
cool off.  Chickens. 

The coop.  You do NOT want chickens just roaming, especially if you live in a neighborhood. You definitely need a coop, for several reasons.  # 1. They will be eaten by something if you don't pen them up.  Raccoons, skunks, coyotes, dogs, the chupacabra, your neighbor - everyone loves chicken!  # 2. They will destroy or eat your plants.  Yes, chickens eat those pesky grasshoppers but they will also eat plants, grass and your prize winning flowers or they will dig them up and take a dirt bath in the whole where your plant used to be. And don't get me started on mulch.  Chickens see mulch as a contest.  A contest to see who can remove and scatter the mulch the fastest and the furthest and then they will take a dirt bath where your mulch used to be.  # 3. Chicken poop.  Next to cat pee, I think chicken poop is the worst.  If they are free ranging chickens, they will poop wherever they feel the need.  On your patio furniture, your table, your back steps, the porch, the bar-b-que pit, it does not matter to them that you have company coming over to eat at that table in a bit.  

You definitely need a coop to keep the chickens safe, your plants safe from the chickens, and the chickens safe from your husband when he finds the rooster is roosting on the hood of his truck (true story.)   Chicken coops can be crazy cool.  There are lots of books and websites dedicated to the poultry house.  We let our chickens free range...meaning they are not kept in a coop at all.  We basically have a roost for them that they come and go as they please.  As the sun starts setting, the chickens will naturally go to find their roosting spot and go to bed.  Since we have awesome dogs here that keep the chupacabras away, I don't close the chickens up at night.  They are as free as they can get!  Some of our chickens prefer to roost in the trees too.  
  


Okay, so I am telling you all about how important a coop is for the chickens safety but I didn't like having a coop in the backyard at all when we lived in Alpine.  Why?  I hated to watch the chickens walk their fence line all day everyday trying to get to that grasshopper on the other side.  I even tried the chicken tractor - we out grew it quickly.  So, I would eventually cave in, open the coop door and out they would come and then hell would break loose!  I had chickens on everything, in everything, jumping the fence and getting into our neighbors' everything.  Luckily, we moved out here and the chickens are no longer walking a fence line but now I have problems #1, #2, #3 mentioned above.  

Scientist have discovered that chickens are the closest living
relative to the dinosaurs. They do look like tiny raptors!

When I watch our chickens walk around pecking at each other, eating anything smaller than they are, I think two things: 1. that chickens looks SO much like a dinosaur and 2. I am so lucky to be bigger than that chicken or it would eat me without hesitation.  I have seen our chickens eat grasshoppers, any kind of insect, spiders right out of their webs, mice, snakes and scorpions.  I have saved countless frogs from the grasp of a chickens beak.  Nothing is safe around here.  Even our cat gets attacked by a chicken once in awhile.  The goats were kicked out of their house because a broody hen decided she needed her space.  I thought the day old baby goats were going to lose their eyeballs because that chicken was totally freaking out that those babies were born near her nest.  Crazy hens.  So yes, they are good at eating up the insects but not all insects are pests!  Chickens don't care about keeping a natural balance or that lady bugs help us out around here.  I want frogs to hop around and croak through the night and even the snakes have their place in the big circle.  

We bought a "brown egg laying mixed breed" package from
Ideal Poultry.  We have a little bit of everything!  Look at all those colors.

We have two roosters that are about 4 months old right now.
So far they are sweet but only time will tell.  

Ah, then there are the roosters.  We didn't have a rooster for a long time.  I missed his crow for sure. That is one thing I do like about chickens.  Their noises are great.  They can get pretty loud though.  I have one chicken that almost yells at me.  I tell her to be quiet or I'll eat her.  Just kidding.  Roosters are aggressive.  I have had 6 roosters over the years and they all turned aggressive towards us.  They didn't last long.  We recently got two roosters from a family member who bought 10 chickens from mypetchicken.com.  She paid extra to have female chickens and she still got 2 roosters!  Always a gamble.  So, we thought we would give her unwanted roosters a home.  Maybe the 7th and 8th rooster will be the charm.  Fingers crossed!  You don't have to have a rooster to have eggs.  You only need a rooster if you want to hear a crow during the wee hours or if you want baby chicks.  If you don't have a rooster, the chickens will still loyally lay their eggs. 


A chicken can lay one egg every 25 hours.  This will change depending on the
breed and age of the chicken and the time of year.  Chickens usually
don't lay eggs during the winter when daylight is short.   

Zeb is pretty good at catching chickens these days.
That is a Speckled Red Sussex he is holding, one of my faves.

With all their cons, the chickens biggest pro (besides the eggs) is how great they are with kids.  They are easy going and pretty hardy when it comes to a kid's handling skills.  


Chickens do need a place to lay their eggs, unless you want to go on egg hunts often.
They like to lay their eggs in the same place each time, even if
some other chicken is in their spot.


So, is there a balance when keeping chickens?  I think so.  I just haven't found it yet but I will. Although, out of all the animals on our farm, the chicken is the easiest to keep, they still seem to be the biggest pain in my overalls.  


 ......... Let's review: ........

Pros: 

- fresh eggs 
- great with kids
- keep the insect population down
- crows and noises are fun to listen to
- fresh meat is great
- something about watching chickens peck and scratch the ground is very entertaining
- great at eating your leftovers


Cons: 

- chicken poop
(even if they are in a coop all the time, you will still have A LOT of chicken poop to deal with.  We used to give it to our neighbor in 5 gallon buckets for their garden!)
- eat your plants
- dig holes for dirt baths
- eat all of the beneficial bugs
- the eggs could attract snakes
- need to build a chicken coop (although this could be on the pro list too)
- neighbors might not enjoy the chicken's noises like you do
- they are on everything!  Nothing is safe!
- broody hens can be dangerous (kind of joking)


Would I recommend chickens to everyone?  Heck no.  You need a good space, a coop that will keep them safe, and time to clean it out, keep them fed and watered.  But what about fresh eggs?  You could go to your local farmer's market and support the farmer that is crazy enough to keep the chickens.  Go ahead, live vicariously through them - they won't mind.


---
Candice Granger and her super cute brood call home (and art studio!) to a 16+ acre homestead in Gonzales County. They live in a converted yellow school bus with a large cast of furry characters including sheep, goats, chickens and 1 sassy donkey named Choncho. Candice focuses her many talents towards 'healthy and homemade.' Candice is an artist, home-schooling teacher & mother, and partner to her potter husband Jim Bob.

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