Should I stop keeping chickens in my backyard?

Discussion in 'Pictures & Stories of My Chickens' started by Xtina, Dec 19, 2013.

  1. Xtina

    Xtina Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 1, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    Hi BYC,

    I have a problem and I need some advice. A family problem. Specifically, that my family hates my chickens. And it turns out, I am remarkably sensitive to stone-throwing and criticism and I just can't deal with it, to the point that I'm just about ready to throw in the towel after about six years of chicken-keeping.

    Here's the deal: my mother-in-law and my husband and my mother hate that the chickens poop in the yard. And I hate that they would be confined in a coop 100% of the time. I thought I'd be willing to have confined hens if I built a big enough coop, so this fall I made an 8x10...that's 80 square feet of run for 3 regular (not bantam) hens.

    My mother-in-law is in town visiting for Christmas and this morning I heard her griping to my husband about the fact that I let the hens out today for the first time in 3 days, which is in line with my maximum ideal confined time...about 60-70% confinement at max is what I am willing to accept. The hens are just so happy to get out and scratch and peck. You can tell that it is the ideal life for a chicken and that confinement is absolutely unacceptable to them.

    So I don't know what to do. One more complaint about how they come up to the porch and tap on the glass with their beaks and's true that it's gross. I have a dog who goes in and out and sometimes she steps in chicken poo and tracks a dry bit in. In my normal life I wipe it up and call it a day, but I can see how grandma would not be ok with that around a crawling baby. And I can't stand the dripping sarcastic tone about how she knows that it's totally unreasonable to ask for poop-free floors for the kids, but the only way to accomplish that in my backyard is with total confinement. And again, I'm unwilling to go that far.

    So what's the verdict? Am I crazy to think that 80 square feet is too small for 3 hens? Are they perfectly happy in there all the time and am I imagining their discontent? Or should I find them a new home in the neighborhood tomorrow?
  2. PolkaDot77

    PolkaDot77 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 26, 2012
    Boise, ID
    Sorry to hear about the stress the chickens and your mother in law are causing you! To answer your questions, yes, 80 square feet is enough space for them to be happy and healthy. With that said, I understand that free ranging is both joyful for your chickens to get out and explore different areas and for you to watch! It sounds like your chickens are very dear to you, so given the choice between keeping them with them confined or rehoming, I would certainly say keep them! Would it be possible to let them out "free range" but in say, half the yard at a time? Could you set up some temporary barriers to herd them to an area where the poop is okay? Maybe after a week or 2 of free ranging in that certain area you can spray it down, break up all the poo and let them explore another area?

    If this is not an option, but you do have the time to commit to it, you could also consider putting chicken diapers on them while they free range. Then they could do all the porch glass tapping they want with no poop left behind! Good luck to you. I really hope you can work out a solution to keep your happy hens. :)
  3. DuckLady

    DuckLady ~~~Administrator~~~BYC Store Support Staff Member

    Jan 11, 2007
    NE Washington State
    How about a hotel for your mother in law.

    She is only there for a visit. Eye rolling goes a long way or just tell her that the chickens are yours and are there to stay and any issues should be discussed with you, not whined about to others.
  4. donrae

    donrae Hopelessly Addicted Premium Member

    Jun 18, 2010
    Southern Oregon
    Forget your mother and your mother in law. They really don't matter, and a little time not seeing the grandkids will usually straighten out their attitudes.

    I'd be more concerned about the fact you say your husband hates them too, and apparently does not intervene. First, unacceptable that he allows his mother to disrespect you. He is YOUR husband first now, not her son, and his first allegiance must be to you. Even if he disagrees with you, in front of her he must back you 100%. This is his job.

    If he's that against the birds, honestly, they'd be fine in that amount of run. That's a lot more space than many birds get, and they'd live happy, productive lives and not really miss free ranging. You can do lots of things to entertain them in a run that can take the place of free ranging, giving them organic materials to scratch in, encouraging insects, things like that. Chicken are very simplistic and don't NEED to be ranged. My flock has been confined for a few years now, for the very reason of pooping on the porch and destroying flower beds. My birds are happy, healthy, and lay great.

    It's up to you, which would make you happier, having birds in the coop/run or not having birds at all.

    Or you could print out the studies that show farm kids, raised with dirt and poop, grow up to have stronger immune systems.

    edited--I'm with terrielacy--she needs to be at a hotel. And anyone who was not respectful to me, and could not speak to me in a respectful tone, would not be in my house. If she's not comfortable with my home, my husband could take the kids to visit her in her hotel room---and I'd have some wonderful alone time!!!
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2013
  5. onedoodle3

    onedoodle3 Chillin' With My Peeps

    I agree. She needs a hotel room....preferably in another city! I rent my trailer from my parents. My dad gave me grief when I first got my chickens, told me what an idiot is was, etc...I heard it all.... "Chickens are stupid", "Chickens are useless" "You're gonna have poop all over everything." Well, I've had them 2 years now, yes I have poop that gets tracked into the house but it cleans up. Your MIL sounds like a control freak. I would keep the chickens and get rid of her! Your baby will be healthier in the long run and your hubby needs to back you on that. Yeah, I'd ship the MIL out.....and keep the chickens!

 dad now walks over to my property and lets my chickens out for them to free range. He gets a kick out of their different personalities and even told me the other day that he enjoys their "attitudes"! Maybe they will change your MIL's attitude....
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2013
  6. Mahlzeit

    Mahlzeit Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 16, 2007
    Long Island NY
    Are you not able to build a run for the chickens that is connected to the coop? This way they are able to be outside and scratch and play in the dirt but you also don't have to worry about them pooping on the porch and in the yard.
  7. chicksurreal

    chicksurreal Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 3, 2013
    I'm sorry you have to deal with people who don't understand how wonderful chickens are and who are disrespectful to you.

    My opinion is that your MIL should stay somewhere else if she doesn't like how you run YOUR household.

    I can't imagine getting rid of my chickens, I hope you don't have to do that. [​IMG]
  8. Xtina

    Xtina Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 1, 2008
    Portland, Oregon
    Aack, my auto-responder didn't work and I never saw all of your wonderful, helpful responses until now. I thought the BYC had ignored me, but you guys came through as always, and I just didn't see the notifications. I'm sorry that I abandoned this thread.

    My husband and I are now in deep discussion about what to do with the backyard (MIL has gone back home after the holidays), and we are just not seeing eye-to-eye. I'm struggling still with his desire to keep them super-confined and my desire to have healthy, happy birds that get to hunt and peck.

    I don't think I can talk him into a coop/run that is any bigger than the 80 sq. ft. they currently have. Why do I feel like they are so unhappy? Is this just me projecting on them that they are unhappy? They just seem to congregate around the entrance and try to position themselves so they can look into the kitchen window to guilt me about why I'm not letting them out. Maybe they're really not that advanced.

    But the run smells just terrible. I know I need to stay on top of cleaning it more often to prevent that, but I just can't imagine them being happy in 80 square feet. Please reassure me once again that this space is enough for 3 full-sized hens!
  9. myfinefeatheredfriends

    myfinefeatheredfriends Chillin' With My Peeps

    Mar 1, 2011
    My dad was the same way when I was a kid. The chickens could only have a small plot of yard and my mom's answer when I asked to expand was "ask your dad". I didn't because I knew it was hopeless. Heaven forbid I let them out and they scratch around the house or I would have to fill the holes back in with dirt. I raised chickens for almost a decade that way before I moved out on my own. I was 21 when I bought a house with a big enough yard that I could take my birds along. Every time my dad came over he would complain about the chickens so finally I told him that it was my house and if he wanted to be welcome then he would have to deal with the birds. He stayed away for about a month but eventually came around and never said another word. To be honest I think the consistency of dog crap is much worse than chicken poo.
  10. Mahlzeit

    Mahlzeit Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 16, 2007
    Long Island NY
    80 sq. feet is plenty for three chickens. You could always set up some things to occupy them. Some people on here hang food for them to peck at or you could throw some hay down on the ground to let them dig around and peck through. There are things you can come up with to keep them happy and working.

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