I always find it funny how people react to the printed words in articles and on the internet. The last two articles I wrote about chickens have caused the single largest number of emails I have received on any subject I have written about to date. In just the last two weeks I have received over 400 emails from readers. Most of those emails have been yelling at me saying I was “down on raising chickens”.
I assure you, nothing could be further from the truth. I love our chickens and I find it difficult to think of not having them here at Six Acres. I’m a realist too however. In my experience talking with hundreds of other self-sufficiency enthusiasts and even preppers (sigh), several people go into things with little knowledge or incorrect beliefs that this lifestyle is somehow a cakewalk.
When animals are involved, that upsets me greatly. It’s akin to my belief that buying an Easter bunny as a pet for your children is a bad idea.
I am normally a huge cheerleader for this rather odd way of life, and I think any fair assessment of me would say I am particularly encouraging to beginners. But a chicken is not a seed packet. It’s a living breathing animal and that is a game changer. It’s a decision you should not take lightly. It’s a responsibility and it is expensive.
Raising chickens is an awesome way to increase your self-sufficiency. We eat breakfast every day because of our chickens. But the investment in the fortress we call a chicken coop kind of offsets any other savings having the birds would provide. We didn’t build it to save money though. We built it to protect our flock.
In keeping with the mindset of opening everyone’s eyes to the pitfalls of raising chickens, I do want to point out a few more things you should be prepared for before you start raising a flock.
Expenses – Store bought eggs are less expensive when you add it all up. The cost of building the coop, along with the cost of feed (if you don’t free range) can be staggering. This is especially true if you let my wife tell you all the predator protection you need to build into your coop. LOL
During the average hen’s first 18 months of life, she will lay approximately 250 eggs. At a store bought price of roughly $2 per dozen, that’s about $42 worth of eggs. Assuming you would have only six laying hens, that equates to about $210 worth of grocery savings. If you spent a few hundred dollars (a very low estimate) on your coop and equipment, it could take three to five years or more to break even on the initial investment.
Culling – This is a reality that every flock owner has to face. Chickens will become sick or injured, or they will simply become non-producing. Sadly, some of the chicks you purchase from the local feed store, etc. will turn out to be roosters.
While a person could argue having a single rooster is helpful to the flock, having multiple roosters is not a good thing at all. Culling therefore, becomes a very real issue. Killing a chicken is not fun. Taking the life of any living animal SHOULD give anyone pause. But it is a necessary evil for every flock owner. Are you prepared to kill your chicken when the time comes? If not, then buy the eggs elsewhere and forget raising chickens.
New chicks – Introducing new chicks into your flock requires a separate brooding area and separation from the bigger birds. You have to be certain the new chicks don’t bring with them any parasites or diseases before placing them with your main flock. Failure to do so, can wipe out an entire flock in just a few days. And of course, the bigger birds will brutally attack the smaller chicks so you have to keep them separate until the chicks are big enough to defend themselves.
Garden damage – Chickens are living cultivators and rototillers. If you have a garden, you will have to find some way to keep the chickens away from it, or you won’t have a garden for long. Chickens love the soft freshly tilled dirt and will scratch and destroy your entire garden in just a few hours.
Until next week…
Vern Six is a freelance computer programmer and entrepreneur. He is a United States Army certified survival expert and former Christian missionary. Vern has been a hobby blogger for nearly five years and now has his “According to Vern” blog published in numerous newspapers around the world. You can learn more about Vern by visiting his website at http://AccordingToVern.com