The Reality of Owning Chickens
Rewind 5 years ago, I never dreamed of owning chickens — ever.
Since the start of my real food journey 3 years ago, I have grown an appreciation for raising animals to eat, along with the farmers who work extremely hard to raise their animals in the right way. With that appreciation came the longing to raise animals that would produce food to nourish my family. The idea of having farm fresh eggs that literally skipped the farm and were produced in my backyard was thrilling! I truly couldn’t wait to start a little flock of chickens and literally day-dreamed about them. I even started a Pinterest board called “Dreaming of all things chicken.” Yup.
Then, that glorious time came.
I had a bit of a whirlwind experience when I purchased my chicks and learned a lot of lessons in the first three days of owning them but that’s how life goes, right?
Of the many lessons I learned was that hens only lay eggs for about 2-3 years. That means Scott and I would face the decision to either keep them as pets for the next 7 or so years with no eggs or butcher them and make stewing hens out of them. It’s the harsh reality of owning chickens.
We thought long and hard and came up with the conclusion that we were going to butcher them at the end of their egg-laying span and give thanks multiple times during the process. Each year we would add another 4-6 girls to the flock so we would be in a constant rotation of eggs. We would not become attached and we would not do things like name them. You know, like real farmers do.
Yeeeeeaaaaahhhhhhh, about that….
It’s all Scott’s fault. No really, he was the first one to start naming them. We have one New Hampshire Red (a brownish-orangeish color) and Scott named her Red. Then he named our flightly and dramatic Americauna, Chica. I told him to stop naming them because it would defeat our original plan.
Then, I received a text while I was visiting my sister in Buffalo a week ago.
Scott: I played with the chickens. So I have a theory
Me: What is that?
Scott: We keep this round forever. And all of the rest are just for a purpose.
Some farmers we are, huh? It’s hard to not get attached — they all have their own little personalities and are excited to see you when you walk into the run with fresh weeds that you just hand picked for them because no greenery grows in their run. They’re slightly spoiled.
You hand feed them, talk to them, pet them, hold them, watch them (more than I’d like to admit). Your husband even finds you super cute rain boots like these Wellies to wear while being out in the coop. You never imagined a pair of cute rain boots would be so versatile in the chicken run. Step in chicken poop? No problem. Spill water all over your feet? No problem. Walk through the dew-kissed grass early in the morning and not have to worry about your feet and long yoga pants (since you’re short and too lazy to go get them hemmed) getting wet and dirty. Absolutely no problem. Yup, I’m in rain boot heaven.
This whole no getting attached thing is definitely harder than we thought but I guess we just have to take it one step at a time. Although I have to say — since we’ve declared our flock as pets, I’ve found myself to let loose a little more and really allow myself to enjoy them. I’m basically becoming “a chicken lady” and I’m proud of it.
Want to learn more about raising chickens? Check out this guide to keeping backyard chickens.
This post is sponsored by Joules. However, the opinions and photos are of my own. Authenticity is important so I would never promote any brand or product that I wholeheartedly don’t believe in.
Great article Loriel! I love to hear about your experiences! I can’t Wai until we get our own flock.
Thanks Rob! I can’t wait for YOU guys to get your own flock. Don’t ever hesitate to ask me any questions along the way!
I love it all! The chickens, the boots, the pictures, your hat, the story. I seriously love it all!
<3 Thank you Tara!
We said the same thing! Oh we will keep four and use four to butcher….wrong! I’ve never appreciated a pet like our chickens…I actually get happy to come home and see them. They have wormed their way into our hearts. Glad to hear you are enjoying yours, thanks for sharing!
HA! I am happy to see mine as well and I think it is so relaxing to hear them clucking and making their noises. Ahh.. this is going to be hard!
You look absolutely adorable! And I have to admit I was drawn to Chica, maybe because my little one and I watch the Chica Show a lot lol.
Thank you! HA, oh Chica…. She’s nothing like Chicaa on the morning Chica show. I wish she was!
And you just wrote out the story of my life! This was a great read and yes, three years later and my first flock have become pets too.
HAHA! I’m SO glad I am not the only one! I guess you’ve got to allow yourself to enjoy the process with the first batch. Did you add on more? Are they more for “purpose” vs pets?
I am about to enter the world of chickens and I am a little nervous! The coop is not in my backyard and so I will not be able to monitor things that happen at night. I feel like the coop is safe, but not having done this before- I am unsure. Any added advice for safety? Have you had any experiences with predators?
Hey Melissa. Congrats on starting your new venture!! How is your coop laid out right now? I’m not worried about predators for my girls because they are completely enclosed in the run. We put hardware cloth on the bottom around the run and dug it about a foot in the ground so nothing can get in and no girls can get out. If you are free ranging them during the day and putting them in the coop at night, i’d assume you’d want a secure locking system to make sure no animals can get in.
This made me so happy. I want to become a chicken lady when I have my own home one day. I love that Scott wanted to keep this group of ladies too.
This is how attached my sister is to her last remaining chicken: She is moving her indoors, keeping her as a pet and sewing diapers for her. However, her diaper-clad chicken doesn’t have a name. She just calls her “chicken.”
I’m reading this post several months after you’ve published it, but I love it! Thanks for the information, we are getting ready to purchase our own little cheeping furry butts here as soon as I get my “hens” in a row 🙂 I love your hat and boots – I totally agree with the necessity of boots for farmers, they are so helpful! I will be keeping up with your other posts for information on all other things chicken, too! 😀
Hi Bethany! Eeek — how exciting! Your life will be changed forever… and for the better! Since I wrote this post, we’ve added an additional 6 to our flock and it seems like you can never have enough chickens. 🙂 Thank you! My boots have been such a saving grace… there is nothing worse then getting chicken poop on your favorite shoes. Excited to have you on this journey with me!
Your flock is beautiful! Right now I have 4 buff orpingtons and 2 production reds, and I get a mix of medium and light brown eggs from them, which is lovely. We’ve had a LOT of people asking to buy eggs from us since we got our hens this last year, and we recently moved to a 3.5 acre farmstead, so we’re planning to expand our flock in the spring by another 12 or so hens. I definitely want a mixed flock — right now my heart is set on some easter eggers, black austrolorps and barred rocks. Wyandottes seem really popular around here too, and I wouldn’t mind a welsummer or copper maran if I could find one! SO much fun! 😀
Thank you! 🙂 Australorps are such sweethearts. My barred rock is definitely the “fatty” or “big bertha” of the group. And my easter egger? She’s a little kooky but we love her for who she is.
Loved your article. We have a very mall flock and recently lost one to old age. . . 19 years! We couldn’t believe chickens lasted so long. She was one of the very first chickens we got and out lasted many that came after her. Always the grand dame of the roost the others were in awe of her, or possibly just intimidated. My children grew up with her. It was a very sad day for all when we buried her.
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Erm, hens lay eggs for more than just 2 or 3 years. That’s just when production starts to decline. I have 10 hens in my flock of 30 who are all 4-5 years old and they’re still laying well enough to justify their feed.
Whoops! Thanks for that clarification. 🙂
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