Pet ownership comes with its fair share of responsibilities. No matter what species, basic care like providing food, water, and shelter are everyday tasks that require time and dedication, with chicken being no exception.
So are chickens a lot of work, and expense? what type of responsibilities will be required of you when you raise them as pets?
Are Chickens A Lot of Work?
Like cats or dogs, chickens require food, shelter, water, veterinary care, attention, and companionship. Raising five chickens will cost, on average, about $825 a year, which is less than owning a cat or dog.
Caring for chickens is not hard, but we’ll cover what to expect when you get your flock below. That said, raising chickens is not for everyone, so it’s essential to understand what it takes.
Will Chicken Be a Lot of Work for You?
Whether you feel they require a lot of work will depend on your ability to provide them adequate care. If you can’t provide them with quality care, you’ll find caring for them problematic, and that chicken rearing is not for you.
What Basic Care Do Chicken Require and Can You Meet Them?
Suppose you’re looking for a low-maintenance domesticated pet to provide you with breakfast? But you’re still unsure if chickens are the right fit for you. Take a look below at their basic care requirements to determine if you can meet their needs.
- Food– Chicken should have food available to them for a recommended 23 hours a day. This may sound like a lot, but a growing chicken will eat approximately two pounds of feed per pound of body weight, with laying hens eating about a quarter pound of feed a day. Constantly checking to make sure your chickens’ food is full doesn’t have to be a daily hassle. Purchasing a feeder that holds several days’ worth of chicken feed can help alleviate the demands of this daily task.
- Water– Fresh water should always be available for your chicken. It should be kept clean and free of chicken poop, dirt, bedding, and any other grunge that may find its way in there. Chicken owners often find it challenging to keep water available in the winter. Extremely cold weather causes a chicken’s water source to freeze. Which means you have to check it more often to thaw it out.
- Shelter– Chicken coops do more than give them a place to sleep. It gives them protection from both elements and local predators. This may be one of the most expensive parts of chicken ownership. Thankfully it is a one-time cost ranging anywhere from $300-$2,000. As their main housing, it is essential to keep up on maintenance by removing discarded food nightly so as not to attract rodents. You will also want to clean their bedding once a week. The coop will require deep cleaning twice a year to avoid both you and your chicken getting sick from chicken-borne illnesses.
- Flock– Chickens are social creatures who do not do well in isolation. They will even form little cliques within a flock. As such, there is no such thing as getting just one chicken, not without it becoming stressed and depressed over time and making them more vulnerable to illnesses. It is recommended to start with a flock of no less than three chickens to meet their social needs. This can become problematic if you don’t have the space to take on three chickens.
- Space– This is important; if you don’t have the space to own a backyard flock, you’ll find more problems arise from owning them than having adequate space to roam. A lack of space can be problematic to their health, causing them stress through confinement or, if you have too many chickens, overcrowding and disease. It can also cause problems with your land, destroying your lawn or gardens through excessive trampling, scratching, pecking, and a build-up of chicken feces that inevitably kills your plants. This can lead to expensive restoration costs. When provided adequate space, daily chicken activities are less likely to harm your land and can improve the health of your yard.
- Veterinary Care– Compared to dogs and cats, chickens don’t require yearly check-ups, you can do it yourself. (source) Vaccinations are typically not necessary in small flocks unless your veterinarian recommends it for geographical purposes, state law, or health concerns. Finding veterinary care for your chicken can be a challenge, though. Not every veterinarian will specialize in chicken care. Chickens are classified as exotic pets and can cost more for a general check-up than your more commonly owned pets like dogs or cats. So, before you start a backyard flock, it is recommended you search for a local veterinarian.
What is the Financial Burden of Owning a Flock?
Don’t forget that when it comes to taking care of pets, being able to meet the added financial burden of their addition is an absolute necessity. If you need to take on more hours at work to be able to afford your pets, then caring for them becomes a lot of work and shouldn’t be taken on.
The bright side of having chickens as pets is that they cost less than common pets like dogs, even as a flock. Yearly, a dog can cost owners anywhere from $1,400 to $4,300 for basic care. In comparison, the high-end cost of raising a flock of five chickens is $825 a year.
That is a big difference, especially if you offset the cost by selling extra eggs to family and friends. Consider how much you save on purchasing eggs for your household. You can also provide your chicken with table scraps or edible plants. To help further offset the cost of feed.
There are also programs at local farms for you to drop off soiled coop bedding for its fertilizing potential and get credit towards fresh produce, further saving you money.
Many avid chicken owners find the payoff well worth the work put into chicken rearing. Now that you know the basics of chicken care, you can better decide if owning chickens will be a newfound and rewarding hobby or simply too much work.