Monday 27 July 2015

5 things I've learnt from keeping chickens

So we've had our chickens for awhile now. Despite a somewhat rocky start, I think they are now well established. I've had a few people ask me what keeping backyard chickens is like, so I decided to put together a little list for those people who are interested. Here are 5 things I've learnt from keeping chickens...
They are destructive

These chickens have selectively destroyed all the best bits of my backyard. We let them free range during the day, so I perhaps naively expected them to range happily around the yard eating bugs and weeds. I was never told they would dig up my organic vegetable beds and strip all the fresh young growth from my fledgling vegetables. I didn't expect them to dust bath underneath my eggplants, and kick up soil all around. Despite preparing them a dusty area, I wasn't prepared for them to decide to remove all the mulch from my garden to make the entire bed their chosen dust bath. I did expect them to poop, but not on everything in sight.
They eat anything

I'll be honest, a big draw card of getting chickens for me was being able to use up some more food scraps by feeding it to them. It's sort of worked out. I mean, if we have some food that's about to go bad, I have the option of feeding it to the chickens before putting it to the compost heap. They are doing quite well at eating the weeds from the backyard too. Apparently they are also excellent for gobbling up ticks, flies and other bugs (I hate bugs). The thing is, they're not really particular about what they eat. I didn't know that styrofoam was like crack for chickens, and I've had to re-pot everything in my thriftily recycled foam boxes as the chickens were pecking holes and eating it with gay abandon. I've also caught them indiscriminately chomping on newspaper, the plastic bag their chicken pellets arrived in and various detritus that has blown into our yard.
They think they are people

Our chickens are quite social. They are now big enough to have learned to climb up the stairs to our back deck, where they like to frolic around merrily, pooping with gay abandon and eating the dog food. They respond with shame and disdain to being shooed back downstairs, leaving smelly little deposits behind. Although I have a gate at the top of the stairs to keep Jimmy inside, it also keeps the dogs inside which just makes it messy and annoying for everyone when I have to keep opening it on demand. I need to find a better solution to this!
They are smelly

I've had birds before, so I know what birds smell like. Actually it's quite a nice clean sort of dusty smell. That doesn't bother me. I also knew from gardening that chicken poo is quite stinky, but fabulous for the garden at the same time. The big surprise came in just how smelly fresh chicken poo is. How can it possibly smell so bad? They are eating plenty of greens and good fresh food, getting plenty of water, but it is seriously potent stuff. I was pooped on plenty when they were little chicks, but now that they're bigger, the output has also increased along with the smell. There sure is a lot of it! I've taken to watering it into the garden nightly, so that I can let Jimmy and Ellie play out on the grass the next day without fear they'll step in little chicken 'gifts'. I have to be honest, our dogs are much tidier poop wise than the chickens.
They have cool relatives

Apparently, they are apparently the closest living relative to Tyrannosaurus Rex! That will certainly come in handy in a few years for impressing my children with "cool stuff their mother knows"!
Finally, to be fair, I will note that although I've been quite critical, they are lovely things and they've got loads of personality. They've quickly become part of the family!

Please share your stories in the comments so I know my chickens are not unusually wilful!


  1. Good to know! we've been flirting with the idea of keeping chickens as well but just haven't gotten around to it. I love the idea of them being secondary composters. I have a worm farm and 2 compost heaps going already and I can't keep up with just veggie peels (the kids eat a lot of carrots).
    Not sure I'd put up with the smell tho. Have a very low ick thresholds for yucky smells.

    1. The chickens themselves don't smell. It's the poop. Which is everywhere...

  2. I've always wanted chickens! The poop issue is what's turning me off. We've trained our dog to do his business in the garden. Shame the same can't be done for chickens.
    Cheers, Lis.
    Visiting from Aussie Bloggers

    1. Thanks for visiting Lis! I have to be honest, our dogs are much tidier than our chickens....

  3. How do you go with the dogs + chickens combo?

    I feel like our dog would just chase them and give the poor dears a heart attack. Also I have a bird phobia so I don't know how I'd go!

    1. We got our chickens when they were small and fluffy. As you can see, our dog(s) are also small and fluffy. I suspect they think the chickens are some weird fluffy dogs and they actually get on surprisingly well. They play together which I find really odd!

  4. I'm not a chicken person but our neighbours have some and I will often look out the back and discover one in our yard or walking on the top of our fence. They really love it here, which is just awesome. Except that I can't go outside while they're here because they freak me out and they eat all our strawberries. My kids like to catch them and throw them back though (it's what the neighbour told them to do!)

  5. I love chickens! We had chickens growing up and I would love to have them again however I don't have the space for them now - hopefully again in the future. I had to giggle when you said they think they are people - they really, really do! I know exactly what you mean. And I had no idea they were related to the T-Rex. The things we learn! Stopping by from Facebook via Aussie Bloggers!



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