Important! Before considering raising chickens, be sure to check with your city council to see if chickens are even allowed in the city. If you raise chickens in a city that doesn't allow them, you may face a penalty. If you don't live in a city, but live in rural areas, chickens should be allowed.
I have owned chickens for over three years, and have tried to learn as much there is to learn about chickens in that time. I continue to tend to my chickens' everyday needs, including giving them food and water in the mornings. Let's look at the advantages of owning chickens first.
AdvantagesYou have probably heard from someone you know that the difference in taste between farm fresh eggs and the factory eggs you buy at the store are very different. I can conclude that to be true, and I never have had any interest in eating store bought eggs ever since our very first egg from our chickens. The difference in taste may be from a variety of reasons. It could be from the difference in food they receive, where they're kept, how much space (square feet) is allowed per bird, and/or the motive that many chicken farmers want with their eggs: quality not quantity. Raising your own chickens allows you to monitor what your hens consume, so you know what goes into the egg. Unless you work for one of the major egg factories, you may not know what went into the store bought egg(s) you ate for breakfast. Many people, including myself, enjoy farm fresh eggs because they are delicious and you know what went into that egg.
You can also sell the eggs to someone you know so that you can hopefully make a profit. Each hen lays about one egg per day, and if you keep 10 hens (as much as the city I know allows), that comes to about 7-10 eggs per day! Please note that some breeds of chickens do not lay one egg per day, but many breeds lay 3-4 eggs a week, which is very good. Most people are willing to pay more for better quality eggs, and you don't need to run to the store to buy eggs. (Read more about how you can make money via egg sales, etc here: Making Money with Chickens - Yes, you can!)
Some breeds of chickens lay brown, others lay white, and a few even lay blue or green. If you're looking for brown egg layers, Rhode Island Reds, Plymouth Rocks, Jersey Giants, Barnevelders, Delawares, Marans, Penedesencas, Dominique, Orpington, and Welsummers are ideal breeds. Common white egg layers include White Leghorns, Anconas, Campines, Hamburgs, and Hollands. Blue and green egg laying breeds are Easter Eggers, Ameraucanas, and Araucanas. (More here: Egg Color Chart - Find Out What Egg Color Your Breed Lays)
Chickens are also known to be very friendly, and they reduce my stress for sure! Whenever I feel depressed, a simple 20 minute session with my girls helps me to cheer up. They will do funny things, like hop up on your lap when you sit down, perch on just about anything, and pace the perimeter making a squawking noise as they go along. They may even all gather at the entrance to your coop when they see you coming! Talking to other chicken owners, the same thing works to reduce their stress as well.
You may also choose to raise chickens for their meat. You may enjoy the meat, provided you are fine with the process of getting the meat. It is a rather graphic process, but when I was forced to kill a rooster who was attacking and injuring my hens, I found the meal to be tasty and full of flavor. If you decide to raise chickens for their meat, consider the following tips: 1. Try not to get too attached to the chicken, as it would be harder to do this process if you named it and petted it. 2. It is better to have a hen laying about 1 egg a day, rather than kill a laying hen for 1 or 2 meals. (Ever hear of the saying, "A pig will give you one breakfast but a hen will give you many"?) 3. Once you are done completing the process, be sure to clean and sanitize any materials that were used. (Also see this article on How To Process A Chicken At Home.)
Chickens also produce a very effective fertilizer. Their poop can be treated and used in your garden to speed your plants' growth. You can add the poop to your compost pile, which is recommended. Before you put it in your garden, you must make sure it reaches a temperature of 130- 150 degrees Fahrenheit (54-65 degrees Celsius). Be sure that it does not exceed or reach 160 degrees Fahrenheit (71 degrees Celsius), as that may kill beneficial bacteria that help the plant to grow. Allow the pile to cool, and let it rest for 45-60 days. Once all these steps have been completed, you can use it in your garden or even sell it. (Also see this article on Composting With Chickens)
However, chickens can be dirty, and therefore their coop material needs to be replaced about every month or so (depending on how many chickens you have). I have used straw as the bedding material in my coop because it provides cushioning and is cheap. Another bedding option is pine shavings, which are cheap and provides cushioning as well. However, pine shavings may tend to stick to the egg(s). It is a dirty job, but it keeps your hens healthy. It is advised to wear gloves and a mask that covers your nose and mouth so that dust doesn't get into your lungs. A good alternative to this would be the Deep Litter Method - The Easiest Way To Deal With Chicken Litter Dlm.
You may also have to put your birds in at night, just for safety. That means that you'll have to set aside time in the morning to let them back outside. It shouldn't take much time, about 10 minutes each.
In addition, you constantly need to make sure they have enough food, water, and grit. Grit is crucial because it consists of small rocks, which help your birds to digest their food. You should be able to find all the supplies you'll need at a farm store, but it does require money. Farm stores also may carry chicks in the early spring, around March-April. If you don't have a farm store nearby, a hardware store may have what you need. You may also choose to build your own coop, which requires time, money, and labor. If you choose not to build your own coop, you would have to buy a coop from a farm store or online. Buying a coop would cost more, but it would save you time and labor.
Chickens require many needs, and the owner has to be willing to care for them and make sure they receive adequate nutrition. Oyster shells, which I have seen at a local supermarket, are an excellent source of calcium. Ground up egg shells can also be fed to your chickens, as the shell is mainly calcium. If a hen does not get enough calcium, the calcium that goes into the eggshell came from her bones, and you may notice little "bumps", or calcium deposits, on the eggs. Another sign of a calcium deficiency includes eggs that have soft shells.
Overall, the pros outweigh the cons for me, and I love raising chickens, and so do many other people. In my 5 years of raising chickens, I have never looked back to the day we got our first chicks and thought, "I wish I never got chicks." I do find myself looking back and smiling at what chickens do. Now it's time for you to decide if the pros outweigh the cons, or not.
Pictures from and credited to: https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/524071/first-egg-countdown/2040 picture by rocksmom
https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/a-couple-chicken-problems-and-how-to-fix-them picture by willowbranchfarm