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Goats, gripes, and grasping for greatness
The latest contemplation of insanity: chickens 
11th-Jul-2013 04:03 pm
I keep saying that I don't want chickens. But lately I've found that I think about having them more and more. I found a mobile chicken coop - complete with roofed yard area - that is light enough for me to move, and easy enough to clean, that most of those objections are satisfied. (www.chickenlounger.com)

So here is my list of pro and con thoughts. Help me add to either one, please.

In favor of chickens:
They eat flies and bugs in general.
They turn over garden soil, loosen thatch, and aerate soil.
They eat kitchen scraps that the goats don't.
They provide fresh eggs.
They provide fresh meat [if I can bring myself to take them to slaughter].
My farmsitter peoples think that chickens are cool. (I.E. I won't piss off the peoples by getting more things for which to care when they are sitting.)

Against chickens:
They add 5-10 minutes to my morning outdoor animal chores.
They are [usually] stupid and [possibly] loud.
They attract predators. Most interestingly, there is the possibility of finding snakes in the nest boxes by putting my hands in there.
They get sick and die in smelly and puzzling ways.
They create tons of mud during the winter if they don't have sufficient bedding and/or are moved enough.
They will far outlive their egg production years.
11th-Jul-2013 08:38 pm (UTC)
Pro: Chickens are awesome. Fresh eggs and fresh chicken meat.

A coworker of mine started raising chickens a year or two ago. She loves them.

Cons: When chickens get sick they will eat their eggs. If that happens, they will not stop. Two roosters can not live in the same place, when/if they start fighting, they'll fight to the death. My coworker friend had to give up one her boys because they started to fight.

I've always wanted chickens, but I don't have the space or time for them. Add to that, I have no idea how to take care of chickens, so probably safer for all if I do not. :)

The snake finding thing sounds... odd... and a little eerie.
12th-Jul-2013 02:39 am (UTC)
I didn't know about the egg distruction. I'll have to look that up.
11th-Jul-2013 09:14 pm (UTC)
I don't know if this is a pro or a con. Do you eat meat? Chickens stop laying and can live a long time after. When chickens stopped laying is when my Grandmother-in-law would go out and kill them for dinner. That would be a problem for me, but I'm suburban. :)
12th-Jul-2013 02:40 am (UTC)
Yup, I'm a carnivore. I don't have much problem eating someone else's farm animals. I have vague plans to research chicken slaughtering (by someone else) if I continue down this path.
11th-Jul-2013 09:27 pm (UTC)
I've had chickens for the last three years, and I do enjoy them. The amazing eggs, amusing breed varieties and antics outweigh the fact that they are stupid and self-destructive, for me. They don't add much time to daily chores, IME, especially if you have a large feeder and waterer. They are one more thing to clean up after, but their bedding can be composted. They can be alarmingly vicious hunters; I've seen mine take apart mice and a sparrow with no trouble. IMO, meat chickens are more trouble than they are worth, unless you particularly relish the experience of plucking or skinning chickens. If you do opt for those, make sure you do get the cornish cross breed, as other breeds take forever to reach full size and eat a *lot* for what you get back from them. My chickens have died from almost anything possible, ranging from drowning themselves in the yak tank (we lost about 5 that way; chickens are not strong swimmers), being eaten by coyotes, and being raped to death by particularly awful roosters.

And yet, despite having lost *all* of my starter chickens, I still love having them. I raise little supplemental flocks every year, and typically integrate them to the flock when they are of the appropriate age. This year, I've got polish chickens for my newbies, and a rooster that seems to like to pluck his girls bald around the head, so they will be founding Flock B: The Ornamentals.

Here's the key, for me, though. They are amusing, but they are utilitarian. I loved my first flock, I gave them all names and got to know them, and they all died, sometimes in front of me. So, they don't get names anymore. (Aside from Black Dynamite, the rooster, who sounds like a stereotypical rooster when he crows, and struts like the big pimp he is.) I call them and feed them treats, but they are farm animals, not pets. I have them for the awesome eggs (I shudder to think about going back to store bought!), not for companionship, as many flock owners are.

I obviously have Opinions (TM) about chickens, so if you want to hear more, feel free to poke me via email. I am an advocate of owning chickens, but in a pragmatic fashion.
12th-Jul-2013 02:39 am (UTC)
They are one more thing to clean up after Yup. Hence the "add 5-10 minutes" part to the chore routine.

If I get chickens, I don't plan on making friends with them. In fact, I have vague plans to find out what the local slaughterhouse charges for processing non-laying hens.

The self-contained coop should help keep some of the stupid accidents in the "vastly improbable" category, but I still have no illusions as to how many ways chickens can die.
11th-Jul-2013 09:37 pm (UTC)
An acquaintance of mine posted a two-part blog on why they are no longer keeping chickens here: http://alifeunprocessed.blogspot.com/2013/02/the-economics-of-keeping-chickens.html and http://alifeunprocessed.blogspot.com/2013/02/hens-and-garden-tragedy.html Maybe it will help?
12th-Jul-2013 02:33 am (UTC)
Thanks. Yeah, the mud issue is a big one, and one I'm already dealing with for the goats. I expect the solution is the same, too - get the coop under cover and provide LOTS of bedding.

If I get chickens, I will buy pullets or yearlings from locals. I'm not planning to try to raise chicks. That's a lot of work for animals that I don't want to love.

I'm not sure what I would/will do about non-laying hens. There is a local slaughterhouse, but I don't know if it's silly to contract out for three or four chickens.
11th-Jul-2013 09:46 pm (UTC)
They need to be completely closed up prior to dusk, otherwise while you are home they can be let out to play for an hour or 2.
Their egg production is not consistent http://arccjournals.com/pdf/Animal/43-2-b/ijar1-43-2-002.pdf this means you have to do things like separate and mix ages to get consistent egg production if that is what you are looking for.
Hens are loud enough to wake a light sleeper when they get excited, rooster are loud enough to wake a heavy sleeper (but we just go back to bed)
It's much harder to keep chickens in the winter than in the summer because they make more mud. Well they probably make just as much as during the summer but in the summer the grass grows back faster.
If you do let them out in the garden you need to be more careful about letting them out before your plants have had the ability to develop otherwise they will eat the little plants #Yum
Yeah, they do die in puzzling ways, but that was why my family had a lot of doctors of poultry medicine .

Not all chickens are stupid, but they are pretty much the equivalent of guard dogs. Some breeds are better than others. Most people I know have liked Rhode Island Red hens (NOT roosters) as they have a good temperament and lay a decent amount. http://www.ithaca.edu/staff/jhenderson/chooks/chooks.html
If you have fox proof run, then you don't even have to worry about long weekends. Although that doesn't help with the goats, and cats, and frogs, and lama, and snake, and, and, and
12th-Jul-2013 02:36 am (UTC)
We've suffered guinea hens before, so I'm very familiar with LOUD birds. I don't have any plans for a rooster, thanks.

The fully-enclosed chicken coop/yard thingy should keep the plant destruction contained to those plants that I don't mind losing.

And yes, as I mentioned to SometimeRose, the mud issue is one with which I'm quite familiar, as I have a herd of much larger animals right now preparing to DESTROY my pastures come winter...
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12th-Jul-2013 02:37 am (UTC)
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