10 Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Owning Chickens
Updated: Jun 9, 2020
1. Chicken math:
Chicken math is very real! In the beginning we were only going to get 2 Silkies but came home with 9. One year later, we have so many I can't remember all of their names. And the temptation is so hard to resist when you walk into the feed store and hear the sweet sounds of baby chickens or worse yet, walk around a flea market or poultry swap. It's crazy how fast a flock count can escalate.
We were oblivious to how many different illnesses chickens are susceptible to, and how serious each specific illness can be. A runny nose and sneezing is never a simple cold for chickens. We learned the hard way to always have medicine and vitamins on hand at all times and to never ignore symptoms, no matter how badly we want to believe they are doing fine.
3. Financial cost:
We had no idea what the financial impact of owning chickens could be when we brought home our first 9 chickens. Building coops, feeders, waterers, fencing, feed, bedding, medicine...the list goes on and on. We shudder to even think of how much we have actually invested in the flock and their well being. But I can tell you that they are worth every penny.
We very quickly learned how time consuming chickens would be, and how much they would become a part of our lives. Aside from the daily chores of feeding, watering, egg collecting etc, there is also an incredible amount of time spent just enjoying them. Even something as simple as going away for a weekend can be a struggle with having to find someone to care for them in your absence.
5. Emotional attachment:
Although we cherish our pets as part of our extended family, We did not expect to grow such a strong bond with our chickens. If you are an animal lover, we can tell you with confidence, there will be tears......lots of them. Nothing can quite prepare you for the loss of your favorite chicken.
6. Chicken community:
It's surprising how many chicken obsessed folks are out there! It's amazing and humbling. One of the most helpful pieces of advice we would offer anyone considering starting a flock be it small or big, take the due diligence to seek out chicken communities on social media BEFORE you bring your first chickens home. Had we done this it may have saved us from some of the first time chicken parent stress.
7. Winter weather:
Living in Iowa, we knew we had to prepare ourselves for our first winter as poultry owners. We spent countless hours researching, planning and preparing. Heated waterers, insulated coops, plastic on the runs. Despite our best efforts, we still lost 4 chickens our first winter.
8. Addiction to all things chicken:
Our home is filled with all things chicken! It's with good reason we do not track how much money we have spent at hobby lobby secondhand stores on chicken decor.
9. Hatch day:
Hatch day is by far one of the most rewarding moments of being a chicken owner. The moment we saw the first little pip...the anticipation was unbearable! I'm quite sure we checked the incubator every 5 minutes. One of our fondest memories is our children's squeals of joy as they watched our first chick hatch! Each and every time we watch a baby chick hatch, it's as beautiful as the first time. It's easy to see why some people become hatching addicts.
10. Hen to rooster ratio:
We like to call this the rootio! We were clueless on what is considered a safe number of hens per roo. So, when we brought home our first batch of chickens, we bought 2 - 8wk old roos, a 9 month old roo and 6 babies (2 of whom ended up being roos). The pecking order amongst roosters can be quite tense and physical until it is established. Even long after they've settled into their hierarchy there can still be aggression from the roosters at the top if the less dominant males are discovered to be mingling with the head honcho's hens. Our head roo is a gorgeous Buff Orpington named Big Papa. He is as sweet and gentle as can be. But when our ornery teenage roo Richard comes too close to Big Papa's ladies or even his favorite humans...it's game on.