Think twice about raising chickens

Roberta Henry


It is during this winter cold snap that I feel compelled to enter the backyard chicken debate. While I have to agree chickens are relatively quiet birds and, with proper maintenance, are fairly clean, to me the problem arises when the temperatures are no longer moderate.

I began with a flock of four birds in a very quaint backyard barn purchased from one of the local farm supply stores. Fortunately we had a warm winter that year but, even so, keeping my birds slightly warm – above 32 degrees F – was a challenge with a heat lamp. In addition, my flock became bored. The small backyard coop was perfectly sized for four birds sleeping at night, but there was no room for those same four birds to roam, entertain themselves, or get any exercise. I can’t imagine trying to keep my flock in that backyard barn under these conditions.

This brings me to my point which is, people can be very responsible while things are easy, but in these conditions and temperatures I’ve seen many animals suffer greatly because owners don’t want to do the hard chores. Today my flock lives in a larger barn (a 12′ X 24′ building). They count on me to come out every morning to make sure they are warm, clean, have enough feed, and have plenty of water. They are able to move around freely and have enrichment areas for entertainment. I have to go out at night and do everything all over again; making sure they are warm, are well fed, and have plenty of water before I close up the barn for the night. This isn’t always convenient and hauling water is hard work.

I would like to conclude by saying really think about what you’re getting into before getting backyard chickens. Realize this isn’t going to be an easy endeavor in the winter. All confined animals are at the mercy of people. All the animals on our farm are rescues or have had to be rehomed to our farm for whatever reason. Some of these animals were greatly abused perhaps due to people who thought the animal was cute as a baby, but didn’t want to commit to the years of care necessary for these animals to live their entire lives. Animals outside in these conditions take a lot of work, a lot of food and water and a lot of commitment. Along with this comes a lot of expense.

So, when you dream about sitting at your kitchen table, clasping your coffee cup with both hands, gazing out the window at a quiet flock of chickens pecking poetically at the ground, snap yourself back into reality by remembering the cold snap of December 2017.