Backyard chicken keeping is all the rage these days.
If you’re thinking about raising a flock of chickens, you’ll need all the facts, and there are plenty of things no one tells you about raising chickens.
When we decided to raise chickens we read every book on the market.
We learned how to care for them, the specifics of their anatomy, the abundance of different breeds on the market, and exactly how to build the perfect coop.
But, there are a lot of things the books just didn’t teach us about raising chickens. Things no one ever tells you when you’re jumping face first into raising poultry. These chicken facts may surprise you, delight you, or upset you.
Most of all, we hope that they’ll help to educate you before you enter the joyful world of raising chickens.
1. Each chicken has a unique personality
Before we invited chickens into our lives, we thought basically all chickens were the same.
How wrong we were.
Chickens tend to vary wildly by breed, just like dogs do, but even within that breed, each chicken will have its own distinct personality.
Some chickens are shy and skittish, others are outgoing and needy.
Some chickens are cuddly and can’t get enough human interaction. Others couldn’t be caught if your life depended on it.
We’ve had chickens that are talkative and will follow you all day chatting up at you, and others that don’t make a peep and hide from humans.
Each and every chicken is special and unique. Something you don’t really think about until you get to know them.
2. They poop almost constantly
The amount of poop you’ll deal with as a chicken keeper is simply astounding. The worst part is, they have no distinction about where they’ll let it all out. On your patio, your car, the yard, each other…. chickens just don’t care.
Literally no one warned us about the amount of clean up that comes along with chicken keeping. And, no surprise here, the more chickens you have, the more time you can expect to spend cleaning out their coop.
And chicken poop means one thing… flies! Here’s how to get rid of flies from your chicken coop.
3. You’ll give them five nesting boxes, and they’ll all pile into one
Every photo of ideal chicken coops on chicken blogs and books shows an abundance of nesting boxes ready to be filled with eggs.
But here’s the thing… hens actually prefer to all use the same nesting box.
We’ve even seen four hens at a time all piled into one box, with three empty boxes right next to them!
4. Chicken predators are absolutely everywhere, and they’re super tricky
You may think predators won’t be a problem because you’ve never seen any in your yard. We did too.
Chicken predators have a way of coming out of the woodwork as soon as those little fluffy chicks enter your property. You may not have noticed them, but they’ve noticed you, and they’re always lurking.
From hawks, to raccoons, to neighborhood dogs, all the critters living in your area will come to your property in search of some fresh chicken.
Predators are not only abundant, they can be unexpectedly intelligent.
Raccoons have nimble fingers that can open even the most complicated locks. Dogs can, and will, dig under or jump over fences to access your birds. Hawks and eagles will unexpectedly swoop out of the sky and snatch birds from right next to you.
Never underestimate the determination of predators in search of chicken!
5. Chickens can be super mean
While we had read about the chicken pecking order before bringing home our first birds, it didn’t truly prepare us for how cruel these creatures can be.
At the very minimum, the pecking order leads to higher order hens giving a harsh peck or jab to lower order hens to show them who’s boss. This behavior can get worse though, and lead to terrible bouts of bullying. Some hens can’t help but attack those that are lower, which makes for a sad environment for the victim and can result in bad wounds.
Roosters are the worst of the bunch. Roosters mate with hens by jumping on their backs and grabbing their necks while doing the deed.
The combination of the rooster’s talons digging into the hens back and their beak pulling on their neck feathers leads to distraught hens with missing feathers and scabs. The worst part is, roosters will choose only a few favorite hens, and they’ll have to take the brunt of the mating forever more.
Mean roosters have even been known to attack people. If you choose to keep a rooster in your flock, beware that they can be mean to both fowl and human alike.
6. Chickens eat the weirdest things
Chickens are curious creatures, and they just must test the edibility of absolutely everything in their environment. This is one of those traits that will really make you question the intelligence of these creatures.
We’ve personally seen our chickens peck at tons of completely inedible things, like styrofoam, nails, wood, plastic, glass, and each other’s toes.
7. They usually don’t do what’s best for them
While chickens can be extremely intelligent in some respects, in many respects they’re just not. Chickens make really bad choices all the time, and act on instinct more often than on reason.
For instance, you can spend $100 on a high tech watering system that will give your flock a constant supply of fresh, clean water, and they’ll prefer to drink out of dirty puddles. Chickens can also get themselves stuck in strange places, jump over fences without having any idea how to get back, and eat things that are indigestible or poisonous.
8. They will destroy your garden and landscaping
If you plan to free range your chickens, be prepared for the utter destruction to come to your property.
Chickens naturally scratch, dig, and peck at soil in search of insects, and your garden will be their prime hunting grounds!
They also love to feast on your vegetables, fruits, and decorative plants.
Keeping chickens out of the garden is very difficult, but it can be done with proper fencing.
As for landscaping, our chickens love to kick mulch out of our neatly trimmed gardens. They dig soil out of potted plants, and make a big effort to kill any newly growing grass in our yard.
9. They are exactly like tiny dinosaurs roaming your yard
We’ve all heard that chickens are closer to dinosaurs than other birds, but never is it more clear than when you actually have them roaming about in your backyard. It’s hilarious and jarring all at once to see chickens charging across the lawn like mini velociraptors on the hunt.
10. They will probably become your favorite pets
You may, like most people, start raising chickens just for the delights of fresh eggs every day.
What might surprise you is how quickly their delightful personalities will make you fall in love with them.
Chickens are not only a provider of healthy food, they’ll quickly rise to become your most entertaining and cherished pets.
These funny little creatures can be cuddly, sweet, funny, and chock full of personality. Most chicken keepers are surprised at how quickly they become attached to their flock.
Be prepared for these animals to quickly turn from livestock to pets!
You can make money raising chickens. Not a lot, but you can certainly generate some income from your flock.
Take a look at our article here: 14 Ways To Make Money Raising Backyard Chickens
And while you’re at it, why not read our article on saving money on your flock: Raising Chickens On a Dime: 14 Ways To Save Money On Your Flock