Please tell me the realities of owning chickens! DH wants to convince me but I think I'll end up doing all the looking after!(18 Posts)
Thank you everyone. What I really would like to know is what level of commitment it entails. If it is as much as, for example, a dog or cat, then I may use my right to veto!
Do you need to get up early? Will they start clucking at dawn and wake us up?
Do you always need to get home at a certain time 'for the chickens?'
What do you do if you are going away?
I'm also wondering about small children and chicken droppings. Do you let them roam in the garden where the children play?
If not then I guess they would need quite a large fenced off area to roam around.... and how big would be big enough for 3 (seems to be minimum number recommended)
I'm not averse to the idea, as we'll be living abroad, with space and people at hand to help.
I just need to know what I'm letting myself in for if I agree!
Depends what you mean by early. Mine get let out about 8am during the week, after I've got ds off on the school taxi. It's a bit later at the weekends, but if you have small children you are unlikely to be lying in past 9am anyway . They don't make a lot of noise in the mornings but then we have a lot of seagulls and magpies which are always making a racket and probably drown them out! Getting back 'for the chickens', well usually we are back but on the few occasions we haven't been we've been fairly confident they are safe because their coop is in a secure run (they've got about 7ft sq for 3 of them as that was the space we had next to the shed - seems to be fine for them). However you can get an automatic door opener/closer if that would make you feel less tied. We are considering this ourselves.
Ours don't roam in the garden as it isn't secure ( and we are renting and don't want the garden wrecked), so no droppings to worry about there. If we are going away we ask the neighbour who is feeding the cat anyway. She doesn't mind as we keep her supplied with eggs and bring her back a nice thank you pressie. Actually I think she is quite fond of them, she puts little bags of veg peelings over the fence for me to find and included 'the girls' in our Christmas card!
Cleaning-wise, I spend about five minutes a day scooping up droppings in the run. Every few months I top up with fresh bark and if it threatens to get smelly use chicken run sanitiser powder which deoderises and also kills worms. I scoop droppings out of the coop every day (another 5 minute job, the roof lifts up) and fluff up the hay in the nest box. About once a week it gets a 'proper' clean which consists of rolling up the newspaper I've used as lining along with all the shavings etc, spraying some anti-mite stuff around and then replacing with clean paper/shavings. It doesn't take long, or wouldn't if the chickens didn't insist on 'supervising' my every move!
They have layers pellets, greens and fresh water in the morning and then some mash or corn or leftovers (whatever I've got) before it gets dark. They have a permanent hopper for grit so I only have to top up occasionally. Mealworms for a special treat .
I have a very demanding cat who is permanently hungry and insists on going in and out 100 times per day so they are definitely less trouble than him!
Sorry, that came out a bit long .
OK, well here is for the alternative point of view.....
I have had chickens for 3 years. They are a novelty and rewarding when they are giving you eggs but the downside is:
They need a lot of mucking out;
The accommodation is expensive;
The food is not cheap;
They poo everywhere;
They can make a lot of noise especially when they lay early on summer mornings;
They will trash your garden unless you invest in an enclosed run - V expensive;
They stop laying after about 18 months to 2 years and as they live for between 3-5 years you either have to be prepared to cull them when they stop laying or put up with expense and hassle and commitment of looking after them in all weathers;
They are not pets as they do not interact with you but they will follow you for food.
I have had enough of mine now as they have hardly laid for nearly a year. I am wasting money on them which I could spend on the kids and it is just another commitment I could do without.
I have just phoned a farmer and asked him to despatch them for me. I feel bad about this but chicken keeping and egg eating inevitably requires culling. For example, the hens that lay the eggs you buy in the shops will be culled at 18 months and for every hen that hatches a cockerel will be killed.
My advice is don't do it. It is not like having a dog or a cat. The novelty is likely to wear off one day.
I check mine and let them out in the morning. Check them and lock them up at night. Muck out once a week and occassional delousing/worming.
Other than that I give them plenty of space to scratch about and they look after themselves.
Do not under any circumstances get a cockerel.
I have one that attacks me every day, makes a lot of noise, digs huge holes, kills other birds, knocks his hens about and generally is a nuisance.
Another point to think about if you have children under 5...
My son had a very nasty illness which turned out to be campylobacter. It was almost certainly from the chickens. I called various poultry vets who all said that all chickens carry it and yes, good hygiene is very important but almost impossible to monitor properly with little ones.
I was advised to get rid of them!
I forgot to mention the risk of attracting rats too.
I had an under 5 and chickens - no probs.
Chickens are a responsibility and no, you don't want to get saddled with the care of them if it's not your thang!! Hubby would be out of order not to take responsibility for cleaning them out
Upside of chickens - Watching them harass the cats (I love my cats but also loved the bird world revenge that took place in my garden!)
Eggs - lovely, lovely eggs.
Potentially some fantastic characters - my best chuck Maude would sit on my arm for a fuss and a stroke and would wander into the kitchen given less than half a chance... I loved these visits - my ex did not! boring!
But, she also destroyed any tasty plant life in the garden that took her fancy.
A big lawn would be good for an outdoor run - there are two houses near where I live now with big outdoor runs and a coop with five chucks... the work load seems much diminished when you have space!
Yes, I forgot to mention we had a lot of rats. In fact a lot more rats than chickens. Your run needs to be absolutely secure from rats. If they cant get at the food they go away. If they can get to the food they stay, breed and have a fantastic life.
As a child we had loads of chickens, a variety, maybe 40 or so at times. I would never consider having any as an adult. Lots of muck, hard work, diseases, rats, escaping into other gardens (and ruining them), handful of eggs at best. Plus they can be quite mean to each other which is distressing when one chicken is being bullied by the others then eventually dies.
Also: we had to have someone to shut them up at night else a fox would kill them, usually all in one go if he could, although these days I hear you can get auto doors.
I wouldn't say the food was expensive . £7 down the road from me for a big sack of layers pellets which lasts them months. It's nothing when I think what the cat costs me and he doesn't earn his keep with eggs.
We have chickens and the eggs are great, plus I like using our food scraps in a useful way, but I wouldn't do it again. Whilst we've had them for a couple of years now I suspect (well actually, I know) that we are still running at a big loss when you add up the cost of coop, hens, run, food, bedding, worm treatments, vets bills etc etc. Ours lay well, in fact they haven't stopped at all this year, even during the snow but all in all I'd not recommend it.
They are a bind if you want to go away (our chicken sitter charges £8 a day to come and feed them), cleaning them out is a pain and if you do let them wander around freely then yes you need to be back before dusk when the foxes become really active.
We have only had chickens since last September. We bought an eglu cube so that was pretty expensive. I have found the food very cheap - dog food is much more expensive. Cleaning out is easy. I actually like poo picking....it's a bit like looking for head lice!
We have a dog, gerbils and guinea pigs so we always need someone to look after our animals if we go away, which we hardly ever do. We went away for a couple of nights at Christmas and my friend loved looking after the chickens - she got her egg reward!
Thanks everyone! That was just the kind of information I was after! You have all saved me valuable time trawling google.
Although I quite like the idea of chickens, and I LOVE fresh eggs, I'm not sure it would be a good idea!
We are moving to Malawi, in Africa. I will already be living a daily battle against mosquitoes. I also will have a garden for the first time ever and want to grow vegetables etc.
My children will have a garden for the first time ever and I do not want them playing in chicken poo! And I think it would be mean to keep them consigned to a fenced off area all the time.
I always think with animals there has to be a lifestyle to go with them, not sure small children and back-garden are it!
I was definitely worried about rats and thanks for those who confirmed - visions of rats finding their way in to the children's bedroom!
I think I'll have enough stress settling in to a new house etc.!
My 3 year old still has many nights when she doesn't sleep, so really not looking for any reasons to be woken up by clucking hens!
We will be living in a bungalow so definitely would hear them in the morning.
Still, you never know! If the garden turns out to be huge you might see me back on this topic sooner than you think!
If not we'll just wait for the children to get a bit older.
In the meantime I will get my way and we'll get a few cats!
Wow, that was a lot of exclamation marks.
Sleep deprivation has made me manic...
Actually having lived in Africa I would keep chickens there. We used to buy eggs and you never knew how safe... I remember on more than one occasion breaking an egg into my cooking and finding a little chick or such in there . Would rather know they were fresh....
I agree with Stubbed, in Africa it may actually be a good idea to have chickens (in a fenced off area though).
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