So…I caved (or rather, my husband did). I got chickens. Our friends who were relocating from a house into an apartment offered them to us and…well, that’s pretty much the whole story. Now, technically, I’m not supposed to have them in my neighborhood, but I find they’re relatively low-profile.
As with everything, there are pros and cons to the chickens, and some of these go hand-in-hand.
Pro: They’re fun to watch!
Con: Watching them usually entails letting them out from their enclosure into the yard which leads us into…
Sub-con: They poop on the deck if we’re not watching.
Sub-con: They eat our nommable tomatoes if we’re not watching.
But…Sub-pro: Free-ranging them means low feed costs. They eat very little feed if I let them free-range.
Sub-pro: They also eat slugs, fertilize the garden area, and turn over the dirt.
Pro: Their eggs are bigger than quail eggs! 2 vs 10 for an omelette!
Con: Their eggs are bigger than cute widdle quail eggs
Pro: Hens are very quiet most of the time.
Con: Their bok bok ba-GAWK hey-I-just-laid-an-egg-song can be noisy and nerve-wracking if you are not technically allowed to have chickens. It’s at a dog bark decibel level and goes on anywhere from 0-5 minutes a day.
Pro: If you give them plenty of greens, their egg yolks are orange and the eggs amazingly delicious.
Con: They need more space than quails and are more conspicuous.
TIME INVESTMENT: 5-10 minutes a day. I put them somewhere between fish and cats on the upkeep scale.
COST: $2-3 for a baby chick at your local feed store + $25 for a bag of organic feed (less smelly poop with organic feed) + $90 to build the coop = $124 start-up costs for three hens. If you add on pine shavings, a heat lamp, straw, store-bought feeder/waterer, the cost would be something closer to $150.
Raising baby chicks is adorable, but keep in mind, they will not lay for six months. A hen at laying age costs somewhere around $10.
So…keeping chickens is not the most money-wise venture in the world. If you value fresh organic eggs, then keeping hens may be a good idea for you. If you could take them or leave them, you could probably leave the chickens out of the equation as well.