Backyard Chickens: Are they right for your family?
We can all agree: eating less factory farmed animal products is better for us and the animals! Many people like the idea of having home-grown eggs fresh every morning, and the BCSPCA supports this because it provides alternatives to conventional eggs produced by hens housed in battery cages.
However, raising hens isn’t for everybody! It requires a dedication to animal husbandry much in the same way that caring for a dog or cat does. We’ve compiled a 3 quick qualifiers for you to see if you’re up to the task!
** BE SURE TO CHECK WITH YOUR LOCAL MUNICIPALITY TO SEE IF YOU’RE ZONED TO KEEP CHICKENS **
1.) Are you in it for the long haul?
Chickens can live up to 10 years, and stop producing large volumes of eggs after 1-2 years. Are you prepared to care for this animal as you would a pet for the rest of their life? Many chickens end up in animal rescue simply because people get tired of them.
When handled from a young age, chickens make loving and interesting pets. However, over the course of 8-10 years your birds will rely on:
- Your ability to learn about common diseases and parasites
- Your dedication to researching and learning about humane care for chickens
- Access to a specialty vet who is familiar with chickens
- Pest control to prevent rats and predators
- Waste disposal of feathers, feces, bedding etc.
- Proper handling and transportation
- Specialty chicken feed (bird seed from the pet store is not suitable for chickens)
Are you willing to learn about all of these topics? Failure to provide adequate care for laying hens is considered an act of cruelty and can result in fines and/or charges.
2.) Are you in it for the money?
An old saying goes, ‘Your first egg will cost you $700’. If you’re lucky, that’s all it will cost. A nice coop and secure fencing system can run you upwards of $2000. Backyard chickens are not a money-saving investment. The upfront cost will easily overshadow any savings within the first 5 years or more. They are a pet, and pets are expensive! Be prepared to spend extra on finding a speciality vet that can treat your birds.
Chickens are also very ‘addictive’. They are wonderful to watch and easy to get attached to. Ask yourself if you are prepared to become a ‘crazy chicken person’, as it is an expensive addiction!
3.) Are you willing to pay to keep chickens who don’t provide eggs?
Unless you are willing to find means of ‘culling’ or euthanising your birds (we do not recommend euthanising healthy animals!), you are going to be caring for a flock of elderly birds eventually. They will still need to eat and have adequate veterinary care.
Remember, after 2 years you will likely be as attached to these birds as you are to your cat and dog. You should view this as a pet investment, and the eggs are a happy bonus!
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