We got chickens in April 2017 after doing a few months of research; true to our nature, my husband and I scoured the internet and learned all about everything from care to supplies to breeds. But, like many things in life, there are some things which can’t be taught except by experience. Here are the five biggest myths about backyard chickens: take it from us!
Our goal here is to have family pets who just happen to live outside and poop out breakfast. We do live in a zoned neighborhood so we have a limited number for our little flock, but we still wanted to do everything “right.” But, just like learning to drive a car (or giving birth, or a hell of a lot of other things), there’s only so much reading you can do before you just dive in.
Having Chickens Means You’ll Never Buy Eggs Again
I love my birds, but right now they’re just freeloading. Hens on average won’t start laying until they’re about 18 weeks old; usually they’ll lay one every other day, depending on the breed. This can go on for years (except in extreme hot or cold spells), but even then, they’re not going to save you immense amounts on groceries. A dozen eggs at the store is about $2, anyway.
Chickens Are Expensive to Keep
Now I know I just said that these birds won’t save you much money, but they won’t cost you much either. Chicks are usually less than $5 each, and most of their food (unless you go organic and/or medicated) is really inexpensive. They drink tap water and can have some kitchen scraps, too. And their coop – which is a one-time purchase – will be the only expensive thing, though you can get a kit like we did our build your own. We love our kit and it was less than $200.
There’s No Law for Chickens
Chickens have to be regulated just like any other animal, so be sure that you look up your city’s laws on “domestic fowl” before you buy anything. We called our city and were really upset to learn that the number of fowl allowed had recently dropped from six to three. Luckily we’re down to the legal number now, but it’s always important to keep your pets legal. Even the feathered ones.
They’re Just Outside, So I Won’t Get Attached
Our “Feathered Six” are the first outdoor-only pet I’ve ever owned, and I’ve had a lot of animals since I was a kid: from 100 pound dogs, to cats, parakeets and cockatiels, freshwater and saltwater fish, various rodents, and an ancient turtle. But all of my pets have always been indoors. It was strange for me to start leaving my chickens outside overnight once they were old enough to live in the coop, and not in our brooder inside.
But I’m definitely attached to these fat, dumb birds. We make an effort to spend time with our backyard chickens daily, and they literally run to us when they see us! We love our little flock, and they’re a part of our family, even though they stay outside.
All Chickens Are The Same
If you’re not looking into backyard chickens, you may not even consciously realize that there are literally hundreds of breeds, bantams, hybrids, etc.
Once you decide that you might get some chickens, start looking for good breeds for two conditions:
- The weather/temperament where you live (very hot, very cold, dry, etc.)
- What purpose you want your birds to serve (meat, eggs, showing/breeding, combination)
For example, we’re in south Texas and I wanted birds to be decent egg layers (and kid friendly), so we settled on wyandottes, Rhode Island reds, black sex link, and gold sex link. I’ll have another post later that talks about what I’ve noticed in my research and experience with these breeds.
Anyway, even once you pick out your specific birds, they’ll each have a very distinct personality. Some, like my gorgeous BSL Calypso, is extremely intelligent, curious, and independent. Lollipop loves to climb stuff and she’s really laid back. Rey is a quiet, confident leader who knows what to do and how to help his flock without being a jerk. (See this?! These are $2 chickens I’m talking about!) These ridiculous birds will gently nuzzle their way into your heart, each in their own way.
Oh and did I mention this little thing called “chicken math”? The law in my city is the only thing keeping me from being addicted to chickens! Chicken math is an internet joke which basically means you get more and more chickens due to loving the breed so much. It becomes more and more feasible to say “What’s just one more?” or “Ooh that one is cute!” or “I don’t have one of those!” Chicken collecting is real! I’m being good just because I don’t want Animal Services to come confiscate my birds, but otherwise I’d totally be ok being the crazy chicken lady.