The Pros and Cons of Owning Chickens in the Suburbs
During the first few years of my marriage, my wife and I have been a part of many different co-ops and have tried to eat organic as much as possible. One of these co-ops was a farm where we received fresh milk and eggs, and the difference is staggering from what you'd find in a grocery store.
Our first home was very nice but had a very small backyard. Once we had kids, my wife and I were looking for a new place with a bigger back yard, but my wife had a secret poultry agenda. She wanted chickens and a coop to keep them in for her birthday and our anniversary, which occur in the same month. She did all the research to find out which breeds work best with younger children and what kind of henhouse to buy for them.
We now happily own chickens, and this is what we've learned.
Which Make Better Pets: Roosters or Hens?
When buying baby chicks, there's always the chance that you buy a baby rooster. We knew that we didn't want an angry mini-dinosaur running around acting like he owns the place, so my wife found a farm that charged a bit more but guaranteed hens. This is not a necessity for everyone, but for us, it really helped out.
The Positives of Owning Chickens
- Fresh, Organic Eggs: This is the number one reason to own these birds. Fresh eggs from healthy birds are so delicious that you'll never be the same again. They do need some washing beforehand, but if you desire to crack one into your pan, then you won't be disappointed.
- Fertilizer: Chicken poop is high in nitrogen, which is a good way to fertilize a garden or yard. I've heard of people using it in their compost as well.
- Insect control: My chickens love to chase and eat any bug they can get their beaks on. Depending on how many birds you own, this could really help with your insect problems.
- Companionship: Chickens have the potential to be very friendly animals. We have one hen named Iris that will come and sit in our lap and want to be petted. Our other two, Petunia and Marigold, are still warming up to the family. I'd recommend buying some dried mealworms; chickens go crazy for those little guys.
- Responsibility: If you have children, it can be a good lesson in responsibility. My son loves our three ladies and my wife and I try to get him involved in taking care of these animals. He feeds them, makes sure that they have water, and loves to give them the mealworm treats.
The Negatives of Owning Chickens
- Mess: Their coop and nesting box has to be cleaned almost daily. They poop a lot, and it is gross.
- Daily care: Like any animal, they need to be taken care of and it's a daily thing. We try to feed them some appropriate leftovers and scraps, but it's mostly chicken feed for the gals.
- They need to be protected: I'm pretty sure that if left to their own devices, our dogs would gobble up our chickens with no hesitation. If the ladies are out free-ranging in the backyard, the dogs cannot be let outside. If they even see them from the window they will bark and jump like absolute wild animals. It's probably the biggest negative for my family right now because we thought that our dogs would be friendly and gentle instead of bloodthirsty.
- They're sensitive to insect and weed control: Spraying for weeds and bugs with traditional products can be dangerous for your birds. This is frustrating for me because if I want my lawn short, I'd have to mow these weeds down every week. We're hoping that the chickens develop a taste for mosquitoes and junebugs too.
- They're vulnerable to predation: In Texas, we have birds of prey in the sky and as a kid, I have seen them nab chickens in broad daylight. If you let your chickens free-range, then that is a real risk that you are taking. There's also stray dogs, cats, raccoons, and even rats that can go after your birds.
Are You Ready for Chicken Ownership?
After my wife and I considered all these pros and cons, we decided the positives outweigh the negatives and decided to be chicken owners. They're a fun and productive animal to have on your property, and while they may not be for everyone, the eggs are still delicious.