Chickens aren’t right for everyone – even if you love the idea of having them. Here are a few things to think about:


Do You Think They’re Cute?

If you’re reading this book, you probably do. Excellent! Off to a good start. Seriously though, if you’ve spent time around chickens and you’re not particularly fond of them, or having them doesn’t appeal to you, you may be less inclined to care for them, which isn’t good for you or your chickens. And be forewarned: if you love them but your spouse or partner does not, be prepared to be the sole caregiver!


Dedicate Some Time Each Day

Although low-maintenance, chickens do require a small amount of daily care as well as some monthly and semi-annual maintenance. Plan on spending 10 minutes a day on your pet chickens, an hour or so per month, plus a few hours twice a year on semi-annual chores.

If that sounds like too much, then chickens aren’t right for you. (See our Caring for Chickens section for more on the necessary daily, weekly, as well as annual chores.)


Got Enough Space?

Chickens don’t require a ton of space. If they’ll be “cooped up” with no area outside to freely roam, your coop will need to provide a minimum of 10 square feet per bird. On the other hand, if they’ll have an outdoor “run” area or will be allowed to range freely, they can get away with just two square feet per bird inside the coop. That is predicated upon each chicken also then having at least 10 square feet (per bird) in the outside run.

The more space, the better; both indoors and out! Chickens are great foragers; eating insects, grasses, weeds, and many other tidbits they find in the yard. The more foraging they do, the healthier and happier they will be.

Also keep in mind that the less outdoor space they have, the more they will destroy the area they do have. Chickens obsessively scratch up the soil, peck at what they find, and scratch some more. They also dig holes for “dust baths”.

They REALLY love to eat plants and weeds. Consequently, if their run area is small, they’ll make a dust bowl out of it in a week. On the other hand, give them a large run area – or better yet let them range freely, and your yard will benefit immensely. Their scratching behavior aerates the soil; their droppings fertilize it; and they’ll eat pests such as grubs and ticks.

In case you were wondering, chickens are NOT easily “potty trained” — although it apparently *is* possible!  However, you CAN keep chickens indoors – at least for a bit. Many people do just for the fun of it, but if a chicken is ever injured and needs TLC, it can be a necessity, at least for a while. Chicken diapers can come in really handy in these situations! And yes, that’s a “thing.”


Does Your Town Allow Chickens?

Not all towns (or counties or even HOA’s for that matter) allow for folks to keep poultry, so be sure to check before you get chickens! In our suburban town, the health board had no regulations against keeping chickens, but the zoning board did.

Luckily, the county we live in does allow chickens, but we did have to apply for a (free) zoning permit, listing our property as a “farm” in order to keep chickens in our backyard. Even in towns that DO allow chickens, there may be regulations relating to waste disposal, the minimum distance required from the coop to the property lines, and so on. Research this first and you’ll avoid unwelcome surprises.

In addition, if you’re planning on keeping roosters you should find out about local noise regulations. If your neighbors complain you may be forced to get rid of them. Which takes us to…


Consider Your Neighbors

If nothing so far has given you pause, you still need to consider your neighbors, especially if they’re close by. They may not be educated about chicken-keeping and so could have concerns ranging from noise, to smell (which shouldn’t be a problem if you follow the guidelines in Chapter 7 – Caring for Chickens ), to feelings that you’re “downscaling” the neighborhood. It might be a good idea for you to check in with them early on and address any concerns. When you do, don’t forget to mention all the free, fresh eggs they’ll be getting! (Plus, having their support could mean free pet-sitting when you go away for vacation.) Still, if it’s legal to keep chickens in your town, even if your neighbors aren’t on board, you can rest easily knowing you’re in the right.


The Cost Factor

Having chickens won’t save you money any more than backyard gardeners save money on their tomatoes. There are plenty of good reasons to keep chickens, but this isn’t one of them. Between building or purchasing a coop, supplies, and the birds themselves, getting your brood up and running involves some significant upfront expenses.

These along with ongoing expenses for food kind of undermine the idea that the eggs are “free.”(Shameless self-promotion: at My Pet Chicken we sell handy chicken coops and kits containing everything you’ll need to care for your chickens, at really affordable prices! Click on “chicken coops” at left to take a look.)

Note: If you’re still trying to decide whether or not chickens are right for you, the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section of our website is another helpful resource.

Are Chickens Right for Me?