The Dark Side of Keeping Chickens

Overall,  I’m amazed at how easy chickens are to take care of. But sometimes the whole situation reminds me of breastfeeding. Everyone’s so busy talking it up and saying how great it is that they forget to mention that there are moments when it truly sucks.

For instance:

1. Culling

Sometimes a chicken that was supposed to be a girl turns out to be a boy. In fact, I think it happens about 1 out of 10 times since chicks are so difficult to sex. After about a month of non-stop crowing for a half hour every morning, something had to be done (see above photo). What we thought was a butch hen was quickly becoming a rooster with a capital ‘R’.

Turns out there isn’t a drive-through slaughter house in our area catering to wimpy wannabe farmers. Even though we were fond of Miss Rooster, the rest of world saw her/him as a disposable entity that we needed to deal with ourselves. Gulp.

Apparently there will be more culling in two to three years when our hens are past their prime. They can live for several years, but if you’re in it for the eggs like we are it doesn’t make sense to keep them around. I’m not looking forward to it.

2. Start up costs

We found our little blue coop on craigslist, but it was still $500. I’ve seen fancy new coops for $1500. Then you have to build a yard around it. We used a healthy amount of hardware cloth to build ours so the yard cost somewhere between $100 – $200 more. Then there’s the food and the bedding. I don’t even want to do the math to figure out how many eggs our hens would need to lay to make up the costs. And I really don’t understand how farmers manage to make any money off of this kind of stuff.

The good news is that the chicks cost next to nothing.

3. Maintaince

Chickens poop a lot. So far it hasn’t gotten too smelly. But I’ve heard it can be a real stinkfest.

So all in all, I’ve discovered that keeping chickens is not always a pastoral love fest. But then when you’re cleaning out the coop for the millionth time, you find one of these:

I’m still a newbie, so it still feels better than Christmas morning to find a little egg hanging out in the nest box. It’s a miracle. I wonder if it will ever get old.

Thank you little hens.

Author: Cindy

Born in Charleston. Raised in the Silicon Valley. Live near Hartford, Connecticut with my husband and two children. We have lots of tropical fish.

6 thoughts on “The Dark Side of Keeping Chickens”

  1. Just wait until they start laying every day- then it’s totally worth it! We had to get rid of a rooster early on as well- but we live in a residential area so the cock-a-doodle-doo-ing only lasted a day or two for us!

  2. It gets easier! Not in that taking a chicken life means less, but somehow it starts to fit into the fabric of chicken keeping easier. Or that has been our experience anyway… Start up costs are a lot. It’s true. But we haven’t bought eggs in MONTHS and since our chickens free range, we go through about a bag of feed every 4 – 6 weeks (in the winter. Less in the summer) for the 9chickens we have (only 5 lay actively). And the entertainment value alone makes up for a lot!

  3. Caitlinvb, Thanks for the pep talk. I’m sure it’ll all start to seem normal soon. And it is true that they can be quite entertaining. I’m going to try to score some blue egg layers in the spring and that will go a long way to making it all worth it. :)

  4. I love your blog! I am all the way in Western Australia and we have chickens too. The kids love them, bu yes the roosters can be a problem, three of our last lot turned out to cockadoodledoo…although we just take them back to our chicken lady and she does all the dirt work for us (but I tell the kids that they are going back there to live, I am such a wimp!). We have a New Hampshire named Sunny, a Ancona called Rocky, a Belgian Bantam (called WAFFLE ofcourse) and a Punk Rock chicken which looks like a cross between a vulture, a turkey and a chicken called Mrs Ong. our turned the kids old cubby house into the chicken coop and then I had a big fence built around it. I would love to let them free range, but I dont think our Irish Wolfhound would be able to resist. Chickens are wonderful pets, I think we will keep ours even when they stop laying as the kids LOVE them.

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