I've never seen a website, blog, or book discuss the negatives of raising chickens. Given that backyard hens are trendy now, and since I'm seeing some people unpleasantly surprised by what it's like to raise chickens, I thought I'd go out on a limb and talk about why you may not want to raise chickens. This is not to say I'm anti-backyard chicken; we have five of our own and enjoy them a lot. But it's important for potential chicken owners to have their eyes open before they invest their time and money into raising hens. So, without further ado...
1. Chickens poop. Everywhere. This is the #1 thing the former chicken owners I've talked to complain about. Chickens aren't like litter box trained cats, or even like dogs who tend to poop in the same locations repeatedly. Chickens poop wherever they happen to be standing or sitting. If you're holding a hen, she might poop on you. And you're certainly going to find poop in the waterer, feeder, and nest boxes. The good news is, the poop isn't smelly unless you let it sit around for weeks at a time. (I have five hens and I remove the manure from their hen house every two weeks or so. I have yet to remove the manure from their run; it decomposes into the soil and isn't smelly.)
2. Chickens aren't especially bright. Evolutionists say chickens are the closest living relative to the T-Rex. As my husband puts it, "If chickens are any indication of how bright dinosaurs are, then no wonder they are extinct." For an example of the frustration this level of intelligence can bring chicken owners, see #3.
3. Chickens peck each other. Ever wonder where the phrase "pecking order" came from? Chickens. Your hens will peck each other. That's a fact that can't be changed. And sometimes they will peck each other so much they bleed profusely and you fear for the life of one or more of your hens. I've even seen hens pecked by their flock turn around and peck themselves into more serious injury. There are ways to reduce pecking (like making sure hens aren't bored, being sure they get enough protein in their diet, using commercially prepared lotions to deter pecking, never introducing just one new chicken to the flock, etc.), but know for certain they will peck.
4. Chickens might destroy your garden. If left unsupervised in the average suburban yard, chickens will probably eat or otherwise decimate your garden and lawn. Much of the time, your chickens should be in a run. When you want them to free range, you'll need to either set up a portable fence to contain them or take up babysitting. We do the latter, and so far, we think it works fine.
5. Not all chickens are cuddly. You improve your chances of having hens that like handling if you raise them from a few days old and hold them frequently. But some chickens are flightier than others, and not all chickens enjoy being held. Similarly, know that not all hens are friendly. Choose your breed carefully, bearing in mind which are generally more friendly. (This chart at Back Yard Chickens is really helpful.) But know that some chickens - like some people - are just more cantankerous than others.