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What are the pros and cons of keeping backyard chickens?

by Here and There (follow)
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It seems like a great idea to keep a few chickens in the back yard but what are the things you need to consider? What are the benefits? What are the possible problems?

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Pros - fresh eggs that really are free range, big yellow yokes and great taste. Chooks also eat every creepy crawly in the garden, good or bad. Even any mice attracted to their food will be fair game. Chook poo fertilises the soil, also their poo is firm and in a clump, quickly dries out and crumbles away. Much easier to negotiate or clean up than duck poo that is wet, sloppy and splat out over an area. If you don't plan on restricting their access to verandas and areas near house doors, this can be managed with a broom easily. And the girls do like to hang out near the back door in case of any food action coming their way.
Chooks can be ideal pets for young children as some love being cuddled and having their heads stroked, Children soon learn confidence with handling their pets. Hens don't crow, but they will cluck loudly to let you know they have laid an egg for you
Pro or Con you decide! -The eggs don"t always come in those nice standard sizes. Young hens and at the start of laying season after moult usually lay really small eggs. Old hens can lay hugh eggs!
Cons - they really only lay well for 12 months from about 6 months of age if I remember, which is why you should only buy pullets if you are interested in the eggs .After that eggs drop off quickly to once a week or none at all. My chooks all lived to 10 plus years, being a softie I could never eat them because they stopped laying eggs! So if your like me, you face a lot of years of having lovely friendly ladies that keep your garden pest free. And of course they will prefer to eat the vegies in your garden over anything else, so you need to keep those fenced off. If you have a bigger garden they wont destroy your lawns much at all, having one or two preferred dust wallows in garden beds where the soil is already exposed usually.
You need to fox proof their living quarters If you let your chooks out during the day, you should return home to lock them up before dusk as the chance of a fox killing all of them ( not just one) is fairly high no matter where you live. So this can make your plans less flexible if you really value your hard working girls. We live in the suburbs and our rear neighbours have lost their chooks to fox raids many times, including early morning in the daylight! The same neighbours actually prefer to leave their chooks free to roam when their laying drops off so Mr Fox can do the dirty work and they can buy new pullets and start again.
I have also witnessed more chooks being taken to the vets. So where past generations would once go get the axe, our generation may need to factor in vet costs for euthanasia or pick up the costs of dealing with problems such as prolapse of the rear end from all that egg laying which is not so uncommon.
Their bedding does need mucking out regularly and if you are a lazy owner, leftover pellets and muck will attract vermin.
I wouldn't consider owning chooks lightly without thought to all these things if you want to be a responsible owner.
As well as saving money of buying eggs, you'll know you'll be getting free range produce from animals that live a happy life. It can be fun mucking out in the garden with them, and you'll have something interesting to talk about with your friends.

Chickens will scratch at the lawn though, and you'll have to be careful about foxes. You'll also need a fairly large garden so they can roam about.
A while ago I wanted to keep chickens - what could be better than fresh eggs every morning?! I was put off though as apparently it can encourage snakes into your garden (in Australia).
by Jane
Great question! I don't have chickens myself but I'm hoping to get some soon when I move into my own house with a fenced yard. What I hope to get out if are fun, a good experience for my children and ethically produced eggs, which are so hard to come by with the recent changes to what constitutes "free range" in Queensland from 1500 to 10,000 chickens per hectare! My kids like eggs and it would be nice to be able to get some from chickens that have a decent life. Also, free range eggs are better for you because they're higher in omega 3 from the bugs the chooks eat.

Judging from my neighbour's experiences it's worth fox proofing even if you live in an area full of houses where you'd never expect foxes to be. They lost three chooks to foxes in the suburbs. Pythons are another concern, though I don't know how you can prevent them getting in.

I want to look into getting rescue chickens taken from a battery farm. I know people who have done that and rehabilitated the poor half bald things into healthy, happy chooks.
Oops, I meant to add a link about the change to the law about free range eggs in QLD.
http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/free-range-eggs-definition-scrambled-20130728-2qshq.html
Pros- Fresh eggs
Cons- They don't lay eggs and you get a very smelly backyard (if it's small)
We kept chickens before but they laid an egg every two weeks or so, we weren't quite sure why! We also had a very small backyard and had to regularly make sure it was cleaned every so often to avoid neighbours complaining!
by WSW
We have 2 ducks and 3 chooks in a regular sized suburban back yard. I love it! W have more eggs than we can eat and are always giving them away to friends and family.

I love knowing that we aren't encouraging unethical industries. Our birds are happy!

The only downside is that they do scratch up the grass. It seems to be sprouting back now that it's spring. But over winter half our yard was a big dirt bowl! We also have to keep them out of our veggie garden.
Pros - eggs, a social pet, garden fertiliser, nice clucking noisies
Cons- poo, early morning noise, having to de lice and de worm them
You do get fresh eggs, but perhaps not as often as you expect - they can go for ages without laying for no apparent reason or even stop completely. As has been mentioned, if you let them roam the backyard, they'll scratch up all the grass, though they can help with certain weeds. You can also give them leftover food scraps, which stops it going to waste, but generally you'll have to buy extra food for them.
Pets with purpose. You get a pet and you get eggs. Kids love it. They might stink a bit, run away or scratch up your yard...good pro list, really.
My parents kept chickens when I was little and I must say it was great to collect still warm eggs from the nest. My most vivid memory however remains from a grey rainy afternoon when, wearing gum boots way too large for my small feet, I set out to collect eggs and became stuck in the "poo mud" mix. I remained there for a looooooonnnnnng while because there was no way I was going to step out of those boots and squelch bare footed to the chicken coop door! Finally my dad came down to the bottom of the garden, to my rescue. Back yard chickens? nup, nup, nup !
I would think the noise could be subject to neighbours complaints and most backyards arent big enough for the chooks to roam in, in this area anyway. We did have chooks as well as my grandparents so enjoyed fresh eggs but the crowing of the rooster was annoying. Their pen was large and well fenced so we had no problem with foxes but the odd cat would pay a visit.
I researched carefully before getting chickens. We built a foxproof enclosure, and I found out about problems so I could stay on top things.
My girls and boy have a well insulated house within a pen that opens onto a large fenced area in my backyard. I have recently bought 6 pullets so have 12 chooks, including a rooster. If necessary, they could stay within their house pen for a weekend if we are away. I don't like to do that though.they spend most of the day in a 60 square metre fenced area away from my main garden. I like to let them out into the rest of my garden for an hour at the end of the day. They like to move mulch onto paths and scratch up small plants, but they eat insects and some weeds so it's a give and take situation.
I enjoy wandering down to observe their behaviour and try to keep an eye on each bird's health. Birds are good at hiding illness and when they get sick nursing them can be time consuming.
Pros are eggs and manure. They are great at turning mulch into beautiful compost.it is peaceful watching them and sometimes they are very funny. They look beautiful. They drop really pretty feathers every now and then. Caring for them keeps me motivated. I love to collect eggs each day.
Cons are- having to make provision for their care when we go away. Rats are attracted to spilled food have to be managed. I pick up manure from their sleeping area every day to keep their straw clean, and it isn't my favourite job although it is great in the compost.
L love my girls, they all have different personalities, and they lay beautiful eggs ofcourse,the cons are we don't hve them fenced in so they poo everywhere,we keep a pair of old clogs outside so when we do need to go out we change into them, otherwise we bring the poo inside yuk!
I have chickens, and every one of my girls have their own personality, I love them to bits, and I enjoy watching them eat, the only thing I don't like is they poo everwhere, and what a mess!
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