Growing veggies, picking berries - you've got it under control. You think you might want to add some animals to your farm or homestead. Delicious fresh eggs for breakfast every morning sounds fantastic, right? Here are some key questions to ask yourself as you contemplate raising chickens.
Do You Like Chickens?
This seems like a no-brainer, but be sure you enjoy being around chickens before you get them. If you haven't spent time with them before, visit some local chickens. Do you like them? Or do you feel not-so-friendly with their pecky personalities?
Do You Have the Time?
Chickens are about as low-maintenance as it gets for farm animals, but there are plenty of farmers who decide never to raise any farm animals. They can pull the garden in late fall and when the snow flies they're free to leave the farmstead. When you have animals, you can't leave unless you have someone to provide care for them.
So all though they're "easy" to care for, chickens do require daily chores. You'll need to check their feed and especially their water - they can't live long without it. And periodically you'll need to clean the coop. If they're laying eggs, collecting them daily will be on the list of chores.
Baby chicks require near-constant monitoring of temperature, so you need to plan to have someone around to check on them every hour or two for the first few weeks.
Do You Have the Space?
You will need at least 10 square feet per bird to have chickens live in a coop full-time. If you have a run or let them range, you will need 2 to 4 square feet per bird inside the coop. If you pen them in a small run, the run will be cleared of vegetation quickly unless you have it sized very generously (more than 10 square feet per bird), so keep this in mind.
Is It Legal?
Many towns and cities allow chickens, but not all do. If you have a homeowner's association, you'll need to read the bylaws to see if they have any restrictions on livestock.
Can You Afford It?
Acquiring chicks and supplies costs money. There are many DIY ways to save on feeders, waterers, and a coop, but it is still an investment. And, until the hens are laying eggs, you'll be subsidizing their feed. Unless you are working on the scale of dozens of hens, you won't do much more than break even on eggs for a while until you pay off the initial investment.