i bought 5 layer chicks in march or 2014 and gave myself a year to try out backyard livestock, however after 10 months it was time to cut the experiment short. the birds were easy and provided an abundance of eggs, too many in fact (or not, if you are one of our neighbours.) in hindsight i think 3 hens would have been plenty.
there is no denying that fresh laid eggs are the best! i might also add that home-grown chickens soon become another pet and are fun to have around with their constant banter and attractive plumage.
the reasons for ending the experiment are three-fold:
cost to maintain – break even or loss for feed, bedding and other supplies vs. value of eggs. i can buy fresh, free range eggs locally at a competitive price.
maintenance – as an avid gardener i looked forward to the « free » fertilizer i would get from the chickens. alas, there was much more than i bargained for. the volume was overwhelming my compost with the mixture of dropping and the shavings that i used for the coop floor. it did not help that my water system popped and flooded the coop, adding to the chore.
nuisances – rodents! in a short time i had rats even though i was diligent in storing feed and cleaning the area. within a two week period i trapped 5 large rats and discovered a nest in my garden with 5 young ones. since shipping the chickens off i have had no further signs of rats or even mice. the second nuisance was odour! and this i blame on both the volume of wast and the size of my yard. i believe it is best to have a fairly large property if you are going to raise chickens, ideally large enough to move the coop, run and compost well away from your residence. unfortunately the coop was a mere 8 metres from the house and the compost even closer!
finally, commitment. unless you have very obliging neighbours or friends you are pretty much committed to staying home year round. it is critical that the birds be fed and watered routinely and that a safe environment is available, which entails letting them out in the morning and locking them up at night.
the chickens, should you be concerned, were sold to a pleasant woman who has a five acre free range operation not far from where i live. i suspect the chickens are much happier with so many friends and more space than i could ever give them.
next task, take down the coop and run and create another garden for more vegetable…i’m sure it will be productive as it will have been well fertilized.