On Sundays and the cons of raising chickens
Around here, Sundays are sort of sacred. For our family, it’s an unwritten rule that we all get a 24-hour reprieve from many of our responsibilities. Yes, I know the world has largely moved on from such antiquated ideas, but my husband and I believe humans still need a weekly day off.
Now, we’re not inflexible about this; if something needs doing, and it needs doing on a Sunday, we do it.
Like when the door to the chicken run falls off its hinges.
When we began our chicken journey, a sweet widow gifted us with a 20-chicken coop and attached run (and Speckles, an ornery silver-laced Wyandotte) The whole thing is sturdy, but old, and it’s seen two rather harsh winters at our house. Yesterday, my son went out to “water the chickens,” and the run door wobbled and tumbled to the ground. So, instead of exploring the Michigan Lavender Festival, my husband spent the day repairing the run.
This brings me to and update to one of my first posts, Why You Absolutely Need Chickens in Your Life, which was a list of pros. I promised a list of cons, and it wasn’t until our door debacle that I felt compelled to write one.
So, without further ado, here is my personal list of chicken cons:
- Coop and run maintenance – with any outbuilding, you’ll have maintenance. Still, between painting and repair, I can’t see this taking up more than one or two days a year.
- Coop cleaning – chickens are dirty. A monthly coop-cleaning is vital. Time spent: 1/2 hour per month.
- Vacations – as in, be prepared to find a chicken-sitter. Although chickens only require attention for a few minutes per day, this must occur every day. For us, we recruit neighbors’ kids who enjoy the chickens (and earning a few extra bucks) as much as we do.
- Playing veterinarian – chickens are hardy little creatures, but sometimes they get sick. You must be willing to either become familiar with chicken symptoms, or box ’em up and take them to the vet. For us, my son (11) took it upon himself to check out several chicken books at the library. He is well-versed in…um…chicken medicine? Enough to be able to discern whether or not we can handle the problem on our own.
- This is our third year raising chickens, and we’ve only visited the country vet once. We’ve had about four hens fall ill and, much like humans, they needed a little quiet, rest and relaxation before they were back to their spunky selves.
- Predators – Hawks, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, possums. This list sounds ominous, but awareness is key. So is a coop that locks. Aside from hawks, the rest are night predators. We’ve never lost a hen to a hawk; the girls always sound the alarm and run for cover. As for the rest, the girls file into the coop just after sundown, and we lock the door NO LATER THAN dusk.
- Full disclosure: We lost three hens to a fox last year. Foxes are smart, and this one showed up an hour before dusk.
- We do what we can, but the truth is that chickens are at the bottom of the food chain, and they will always, to some degree, be hunted. Best to accept that going in.
- Expense – Unless you are procuring a new coop and run; however, the expense is minimal.
I suppose we could add to the con list the sunburn my husband got on his nose yesterday when what he thought would be a quick-fix became a three-hour ordeal. Or maybe that belongs on some other con list. The cons of sunshine?
Anyway, that’s my list of chicken cons. For us, they’re far outweighed by the pros – even after they interrupted one of our precious Sundays. If you’re considering raising chickens and you have any questions, feel free to contact me, or reference the Backyard Chickens website.