What are the Biggest Challenges When Raising Poultry?
What are you getting yourself into? You know you want to be self-sufficient and raise birds for either nice fresh eggs or your own meat or both. You’ve researched the basics for their care. But what are the biggest challenges that people experience in today’s world while trying to raise a healthy flock of chickens?
Predators are probably the most dramatic issue. There’s nothing worse than discovering that some animal has gotten into your coop or yard and killed your birds. Building strong and safe coops and locking your birds up every night without fail can thwart a lot of losses by predators. Fencing can also help, especially against neighbors’ dogs. Some dogs are fine with chickens, but others can wreak havoc in your flock in minutes. Hawks and other large birds of prey can be a big issue during the day and fences won’t make much of a difference. Foxes are also daytime predators that can climb or dig under a fence in minutes. Having a 3-part system for raising your birds can help a lot. A 3-part system will include, first, an interior coop for nighttime. Then a small outdoor but covered and super-fenced in paddock right outside our coop. And finally a perimeter fence around the property your birds free range and forage on. By having two outdoor options, you can let your birds free range when it is safe, but if you have a hungry den of foxes hanging around in April, you can keep your birds in the more secure paddock.
Diseases and parasites are another challenge that all chicken owners will be faced with at some point. Normal good husbandry practices can prevent a lot of these types of issues. Keep your coops dry and clean. Don’t over-crowd. Be careful when adding new birds. And if you still do end up with diseases or parasites, there are many very effective products now available to poultry owners as well as organic and natural options.
One of the biggest concerns I hear about a lot is the worry that you won’t be able to go on a vacation or long weekend away if you have chickens. Well, that can be tricky! Besides the obvious food and water needs, chickens need to be locked away securely each night and then let out each morning. Over the past couple years though, chickens have become very popular, and I find that people like to get a taste of chicken ownership. Ask a trustworthy and dependable person to come by your place twice a day and take care of your birds. Let him/her collect and keep the eggs. There are also farm sitters available in many areas. Although having a person regularly check in is safest, there are automatic options that can not only help out for vacations, but can also make your life easier in general. There are automatic waterers as well as
automatic door openers that operate on timers or according to the light.
Lastly, one of the biggest challenges is feed cost, and there is not much we can do about that! People trying to feed a certified organic diet or a GMO-free diet face even bigger cost challenges. A couple years ago, feed costs skyrocketed across the country, and backyard flock owners felt it more than most people. Don’t get chickens as a way to cut supermarket costs. Get chickens because you love the self-sufficient lifestyle, you want super fresh, super-healthy eggs and meat (much better than supermarket eggs), you enjoy watching and being with your birds, etc. These reasons add a lot more to your life than saving some money.