More people are investing in backyard chickens than ever before. Which is fantastic, but doing so sometimes means dispelling backyard chicken myths to appease neighbors! It’s worth the effort through time and education if you want to learn how to raising chickens for their eggs.
Chickens seem to be a gateway to homesteading, because despite what people say, they’re fairly easy to raise.
My Experience with Backyard Chickens
I’ve been raising chickens off and on for around 7 years. We first got chickens before moving into an HOA which prohibited chickens. We actually didn’t realize they weren’t allowed until after, I assume, someone saw them in our backyard and decided to tattle on us. We got a letter a couple weeks after moving in saying they had to go. Luckily, our friend had some land and was happy to give them a good home.
After that, we got chickens again when we moved out of the home owner’s association (as an aside, avoid HOAs at all costs, just saying). Unfortunately, the chickens we got were quite aggressive and we decided to adopt them out to a good home.
Up until that point, we had only bought full grown chickens. We decided that we wanted to raise chickens from chicks so that we could control their upbringing. This was the best decision we had ever made. If you’re planning on getting chickens, try to get them from chicks. They’ll take over your bathroom tub for a couple weeks, but you’ll be able to raise them exactly how you want. We had those chickens for several years until raccoons weaseled their way into their coop and murdered them. Broke our hearts.
Now, we have 14 Ameraucana’s that we raised from chicks. We’ve learned from our past mistakes, though not without hearing all the nay-sayers and poo-pooers first.
People can be weird about chickens and I don’t know why. They are one of the easiest animals to raise.
Top Backyard Chicken Myths I Hear
Let’s dispel some of these myths now, shall we?
#1 Chickens smell.
Ok, this isn’t exactly a myth, because they do stink, for sure. But, people make this complaint as if the chickens are living inside of their house. I had chickens free ranging in a small urban backyard and the stinkiest part about them is their poop, and the majority of their poop is contained within their coop. I can only smell it when I get within a foot of their coop. Otherwise, I never them, they don’t even smell bad when I pick them up. Their coop smells, because it’s filled with poo and needs to be cleaned regularly, but chickens themselves aren’t that bad.
#2 They eat everything.
While yes, chickens can eat a lot of things, they’re not garbage disposals as people claim. There are a lot of things they can’t and shouldn’t eat. Chickens should not eat raw beans, nothing moldy, no uncooked potatoes, no chocolate and no junk food. In general, chickens have an instinct for what they can and can’t eat, but they may also get into something they shouldn’t eat. Also, it helps if the foods should are cut up/ripped apart a bit to help them pick at it.
#3 They can’t handle the heat.
I’ve only ever had chickens in hot regions and they’ve all been just fine. Offer them plenty of shade, plenty of water, give them cool treats like watermelon and ice cubes, offer plenty of scratch and they’re good. There may be some breeds that can’t handle the heat as well as others, so look into it a bit, but many breeds can handle extreme heat just fine.
#4 They can’t handle the cold.
Yes they can. I advise against chicken sweaters. Chickens stay warm by fluffing their feathers and a sweater can hinder that and it can even be painful for them. Personally, I’ve never put our chickens in sweaters, even in below freezing temps. Also, skip the heat lamp. Not only do they not need it, but it’s a serious potential fire hazard. Make sure there’s some ventilation to keep moisture out, keep the direct wind out and let them snuggle up with each other and they’ll be good. Make sure they have plenty of scratch and fresh water available at all times.
#5 Chickens need to free range.
While it’s nice to have free range chickens, don’t beat yourself up over it if you can’t let them free range. We currently live in the desert with A LOT of predators and I’m not comfortable letting them free range. So we built a huge run for them to roam around. I feel bad that they can’t free range, but I also spoil them with scratch and treats and I do everything in my power to make them happy and entertained. If you can’t offer a ‘huge’ run, then offer them ‘some’ run and some entertainment options like a mirror, lots of perches and even a swing. Tend to them everyday and they’ll be happy chickens.
#6 Chickens are stupid.
I don’t know why people keep saying this. Chickens are pretty smart. My rooster only crows when he sees me outside. Our old hens would come running when they heard the backdoor open because that meant I was coming out to give them treats. Our chickens learned to drink from nipples and eat from a device that you have to step on in order to get to the food within a day. They are far from stupid.
#7 Laying eggs is torture.
No, it’s not. It’s natural. That’s what laying hens do; they lay! You’re not forcing them to do anything. They lay more often during certain times of the year than others, but other than that, it’s a natural part of life; they lay eggs.
#8 Chickens are loud.
Roosters can be loud, cause, you know, they’re roosters. Sometimes when a chicken is laying an egg they sing the song of their people. And if there’s a predator nearby, they’ll alert you, but other than that, hens are quiet. Maybe some breeds are loud, but I haven’t come across them yet. If you’re concerned about loud chickens, do some research on the breeds you’re looking into to learn about their traits.
Should You Add Backyard Chickens to Your Home?
There are a wide variety of chicken breeds, they all have their own personalities and traits. Whenever you’re looking into getting chickens, make sure to do your due diligence with plenty of research first. But also keep in kind, that even if you hear that a breed is, for example, extremely friendly, sometimes it’s all in the upbringing. We once had Buff Orpington’s because everyone said they were so friendly, but the ones we got were aggressive, skittish and simply not what was advertised.
This is why I suggest getting chicks, if you can. You have full control over how they’re raised. Also, don’t get taken advantage of when it comes to paying for chickens. Full grown, egg laying chickens should be around $20-$40, depending on breed. I was about to buy chickens from someone who nickel and dimed me for everything and after it was all said and done, wanted to charge us almost $200 for two almost egg laying hens. Don’t be taken advantage of.
If you want to learn more about raising backyard chickens, consider these titles:
- Backyard Chickens: A Practical Handbook to Raising Chickens by Claire Woods
- Backyard Chickens Beyond the Basics by Pam Freeman
- Raising Chickens for Dummies by Kimberley Willis and Robert Ludlow
- Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens: Breed Selection, Facilities, Feeding, Health Care Managing Layer & Meat Birds by Gail Damerow
- The Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Anne Kuo
Now, build a chicken coop from free plans and buy some chickens. They are goofy, a little wild, and absolutely fantastic.