Keeping chickens means that sometimes you will lose chickens. Don't let this stop you from beginning your own flock.
Even though you will most likely experience the death of a chicken (one way or another) at some point during your chickeny adventures — keeping chickens is still a fun, rewarding hobby.
I was volunteering at an elementary school one day last week. One of the girls was talking about her recent "jump" to the country and all the projects they had going on their homestead. This is when the subject of keeping chickens came up.
"We haven't got any chickens yet," she said. "We want to put up really good fencing that is predator proof. I don't want to get chickens until I am sure they will be safe. I do not want any of my chickens to die."
Can we all just pause a moment and laugh?
If you have kept chickens for any amount of time, you know that they die. It's not that we are bad chicken keepers. It's not that we are irresponsible. It's not that we don't give our chickens the love, safety and protection they deserve.
If your chickens die it doesn't mean you did anything wrong.
You are not a bad chicken keeper.
The truth is: If you have chickens you are going to lose chickens. Chickens are suicidal.
Even if they don't manage to kill themselves, they will eventually die. It's just a part of life. Unfortunately. They are all going to die.
I'm not trying to be the Grim Reaper.
I just want to set realistic expectations.
All your chickens are going to die.
If you have perfect fencing. If you have the perfect coop. If you have the perfect brooder. Your chickens are probably still going to manage to find a way to die.
Side Note: If you are one of the 2 people on the planet who have managed to keep chickens for a length of time and have never lost one; you are weird. It's true. I've heard it can be done, however, have not experienced it. Most books, articles, and long-time chicken keepers will tell you that chickens die. It is common to lose chickens.
When people learn how we keep our chickens free-range, their first reaction is,
"How do you keep them from being eaten by the local wildlife?"
The truth is, that the local wildlife is not their greatest enemy. They have many enemies, including themselves.
I have some dear homesteading friends who keep their chickens fenced in and their chicken mortality rate isn't any better than mine. It seems that whether you keep yours free or locked up — you're still gonna lose chickens. It's all part of the experience, Clark. Name that movie.
Don't believe me?
Here are some of the ways chickens around our place have "blown the contract", "kicked the bucket," "ceased to exist," "ended their earthly career," or "fallen off their perch," so to speak ...
#1 Human Feet
Yes, my son and I have both stepped on a baby chicken. It was a horrible, sad day. I am a baby-chicken-squisher and should be punished. Go here to read all about that day.
#2 Drowning in their water (or someone else's)
In case you were wondering, no, chickens can't swim. They sink.
#3 Laying an Egg
#4 Spontaneous Unexplained Death
As noted we do not have an explanation to this type of death. It just kind of happens.
#5 Local Dogs
This has happened a few times and it isn't fun for the chicken or the dog, or us for that matter. For more on our dog problem go here.
#6 Wildlife (Coyotes, opossums, raccoons, etc)
Trust me, no matter how hard you try, you will never kill all the raccoons. LOL.
#7 Infectious Bronchitis
This, my friends, is a horror story.
We do not know how this happened but, yes, we have had a chicken go blind and had to cull it.
#9 Stew Pot
Who would eat a chicken? Us.
#10 Death by Heat Lamp
Yes, we have cooked a baby chicken to death under a heat lamp. Oops. Just so you know, he was already pretty sickly.
#11 Old Age
In case you are wondering, we have never had a chicken die from old age.
Yup, they are all going to die. One way or another.
And that's OK!
Don't let this stop you from keeping chickens.
They are a blast. They are easy. They are entertaining. They will give you eggs, manure and meat.
Just know going in, that it is a matter of time before you find a dead chicken floating in a stock tank. Don't let it ruin your day.
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