Chickens. Throw ’em in the backyard, let them eat bugs and whatever else chickens eat, and reap the rewards of healthy, fresh eggs. Yeah, right. If it were that simple, I wouldn’t be writing this post.
Two little chickens. They look innocent enough, don’t they? They’re not. If I added up the cost of all the damage they’ve done around here, plus my time trying to prevent, and fix it, not to mention the cost of their food and shelter, the cost of their eggs would be approximately $5 per egg. But how could that be, you ask? I’ll tell you.
First off, chickens L-O-V-E mulch. Like, it is their favorite thing in the whole world. Unfortunately, I’m kind of fond of it myself. In my flower beds, though, not scattered out in my yard, leaving my delicate plants and flowers dead, damaged, unearthed, and open to weeds and death from drying out in the hot sun because the once thick, moisture retaining mulch, is gone.
Despite having a large yard for them to bug hunt in, those two little chickens prefer to hone in on my flower beds and go to town tearing them up. One minute, I’ll check on them out the window and they’ll be out in the middle of the yard being good little chickens, and the next time I check on them, they’ll have snuck into my flower beds where they are scratching around like it’s a contest to see how fast and far they can get all the mulch and dirt out.
To save my plants, flowers and my sanity, in the past, I’ve resorted to putting up ugly fences after I mulch, which means more cost, more work, more weed eating and more point deductions for the chickens. It also means that basically, my yard looks like the Clampitt’s moved in. All this drama and headache just to have some fresh, healthy eggs. And all because of just two little chickens.
By now, you are probably wondering why I don’t just fence the little troublemakers in. Well, I tried that. The little dum-dums could figure out how to get out of the fenced area, but then couldn’t figure out how to get back in, so they were stranded outside of their coop, away from their food, water, nesting boxes and roost. So the fence idea, while seemingly perfect, turned out to only be partially effective some days, like when I put out plenty of food for them, which is expensive and counter-productive to having free-range, bug eating chickens. Instead, I’m back to letting them have free run of the entire yard again, less the fenced in, mulched areas, and dealing with their annoyances.
And in case having your landscaping destroyed doesn’t bother you, you might want to know that when these chickens aren’t wreaking havoc on my plants and flowers, their next favorite spot to be a pain is on my concrete patio and walkway. Because chickens can’t be bothered to relieve their bowels in the grass, they just walk around dropping messes of all consistencies all over the place. It’s pretty gross and annoying, especially when it happens right outside a door.
Chickens are also kind of a stressful animal to keep since there are so many predators that consider them an easy meal. I thought having so many dogs around, mine would be safe from most predators. Most being the operative word.
A few years ago, when I had my original four chickens, the dogs and I went on a 20 minute walk and came back to find two of the chickens had disappeared. There was never any squawking, commotion of any kind, or remains found, including feathers, to indicate any sort of a struggle or incident. It was bizarre. The remaining hens didn’t even seem upset about anything. It was like those two had just disappeared into thin air. I narrowed their disappearance down to two possible scenarios. Either aliens or the children of the corn had taken them, because that’s where the chickens were last seen, near the corn field. Both scenarios are creepy, but if losing a couple of my chickens was the price I had to pay for the safety of the rest of us, so be it. Sorry, chickens.
It’s been pretty smooth sailing for a while, so it wasn’t totally unexpected when the routine was broken recently. We were due for some drama. I can’t be certain, but it was probably during a full moon.
I was out locking up the chicken coop, later than usual one recent night, and I discovered I was missing a chicken. Alarmed, I shone my flashlight around the yard looking for eyes or blinking lights, or anything unusual as I called for her. These two lazy birds had gotten into the habit of laying their eggs in the shrubs last summer instead of in their nesting boxes, and have even done it a time or two so far this year, so I decided to check there, just in case, before REALLY panicking. After some more calling, look who came walking out of the shrubs like it was another night at Hotel Chicken….
This nesting in the shrubs business has now happened a few times since that night and they have become hit or miss on using their nesting boxes, so now I’m checking my shrubs nightly for chickens and/or eggs. And no, they aren’t avoiding their coop because of predators or scary things, they are doing it because they are lazy and the shrubs are closer to the house, where they spend approximately 68% of their time. And as you can tell by now, chickens are kinda jerks.
I’m not sure if these two ladies have just had a recent disagreement and need space from each other, or what is going on, for this sudden change in their habit, but I’m not enjoying the disruption to our routine. Routine is what makes this place easier to run. That, and cooperation. Having both is ideal.
So in conclusion, as a current chicken owner who once erroneously believed that having healthy eggs from a few drama-free-range chickens would be a good idea, here’s my advice: Save your sanity, your plants, flowers, concrete and landscaping, possible alien encounters, and frustration, and just buy your eggs at the store, like normal people.