backyard chickens 101.

backyard chickens 101

We bought our chickens about one year ago now and have had a lot of questions from people about them since day one. The hubs and I have had a relatively good experience with them thus far, and many people we know have been wondering if chickens could be a good fit for them as well. Here’s a basic overview that I created to help determine if chicken-keeping is right for you!

The Pros of chickens:

  • Having fresh, organic eggs on the daily! Compare organic, free-range eggs to that of the super market kind and you won’t want to go back. They’re also more nutritious!
  • They are entertaining to watch. Who needs TV when you have chickens?

chickens 101My little sisters with the chickens as babies.

  • Most are very friendly and good with kids.
  • They help to fertilize the lawn + garden. Their waste also makes excellent compost matter.
  • They eat the bugs that otherwise might take over your plants such as slugs. On the flip side to that, the chickens will most likely go after some of your plants, such as hostas (reference picture below).

chickens 101My little sisters with the now full-grown chickens.

The Cons of chickens:

  • Start-up cost… heat lamp, food + oyster shells + grit, the coop, straw, water heater (for colder months), etc. —  it can add up to be a hefty price tag, especially if you are buying organic feed.

chicken coopWe purchased our coop from Fleet Farm, but we’d love to upgrade or make our own. (Check out these ones!)

  • They won’t start laying eggs until they are about 6-7 months old, so be prepared to have a delayed return on investment.
  • They are dirty. A chicken poops 20-40 times/day on average. If they are not free-ranging in a wide open space, the waste piles up in their coop fast and needs to be cleaned frequently, about once a week. If you’re not one to get your hands dirty, chickens are probably not for you.
  • The threat of other animals. We learned this the hard way when we lost one of our three chickens to an animal that dug a hole next to their coop overnight and snatched one right out! We think it was a fox, but chickens could also be harmed by dogs, cats, raccoons, coyotes, etc., so make sure to take the necessary precautions. (We now have the base of the coop surrounded with large rocks).

chickens like hostas

  • They might eat certain plants in your yard/garden (reference pic above)… It didn’t take long for me to realize why our hosta plants had big bites taken out of the leaves… With that said, be sure to fence off gardens and plants that you don’t want the chickens to potentially demolish.

Some other things to note…

  • First and foremost — check with your city to make sure you are able to have chickens and if so, how many. From there you will need to apply for a license to legally house chickens in your yard. Here in Rochester you can have three hens but no roosters.

baby chickens

  • Like the old saying goes, “Birds of a feather flock together!” — chickens are social creatures so they always need at least one other chicken to accompany them (they won’t survive otherwise).
  • Chickens have a pecking order in which one of the chickens in the clan is the dominant, another is second dominant, so on and so forth. (If you watch them closely, it is pretty easy to find out which one is the Queen Bee).

chicken dirt bath

  • Chickens love dirt baths so it’s ideal to have some areas of dirt or sand in your yard for them to “clean themselves” in.
  • If you choose not to clip your chicken’s wings, be aware that they can get over a standard chain-link fence. (I am talking from experience)
  • Different breeds produce different kinds of eggs and some are better layers than others, so do your research! (We have Goldstar and they each lay one brown egg per day)


If you’re interested in urban homesteading, have a decent-sized backyard and some extra funds, chickens would make a wonderful addition to your home. Hopefully this post helped for those who are interested! Still want to know more? The Community Chickens blog is a great resource!


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