Thinking about raising chickens? Been there, done that — here’s what happened

Julian, then 4, helped care for the backyard chickens. Addie Broyles/American-Statesman 2011

Editor’s note: The city of Austin is offering chicken-raising classes and a $75 rebate on a new coop to help reach Austin’s Zero Waste goal. Addie Broyles kept chickens in her backyard for a little over a year and wrote about the experience in 2012:

I gave away my chickens.

It pains me to write those words, but sometimes, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta to do.

Early last year, we jumped feet first into the backyard chicken movement – which is dishing out some pretty strong Kool-Aid to people like me, says Texas State’s James McWilliams, who has written about the downsides for chickens of urban life – by buying a hutch and two chickens.

One of the chickens turned out to be a rooster, but we kept the other, gave her a name (Julia) and added a few more (Spots and Julie Andrews). For the past year or so, we’ve had three hens, who have given us more than 450 eggs.

Up until a few months ago, we were really enjoying the arrangement. We give them food, water and shelter; they give us eight to 10 eggs a week and some backyard entertainment.

It’s easier to write an editorial like the one I wrote late last year about the virtues of cultivating a somewhat rural life in the city when your chickens are productive, quiet and not bothering the neighbors.

But recently, life with backyard chickens started to get out of balance. The squawking got louder and started earlier. In an effort to shut them up so they wouldn’t wake up the neighborhood, I’d let them out of their coop and they’d promptly poop all over the yard, including on tables and chairs.

A pair of baby raccoons recently figured out how to get into the coop to get to the water and food scraps, which prompted middle-of-the-night and early morning clucks so loud that I knew neighbors within earshot had heard them, too.

It felt like I was living with a newborn again.

At 6 a.m. or so one day last week, I decided I was done. For now.

I haven’t quite swung so far as McWilliams, a vegan and well-spoken critic of many locavore assumptions, and I still believe in the cause, but when the reality sets in that chickens don’t lay eggs on my schedule and when my little hobby starts to influence how well I (or my neighbors) sleep, these chickens in this coop in this environment aren’t going to work for us.

I posted something short on Facebook about wanting to give away the chickens, and several local farmers and chicken raisers piped up. I ended up dropping them off Monday morning at Agua Dulce Farm, an in-the-works aquaponics farm in Southeast Austin.

Owner Jack Waite promised we could come visit them if we wanted.

I’m holding out that one day, we’ll have a bigger backyard and a better coop and a lower density of people living within a 200-foot radius, but for now, I might just have to take him up on that.


View Comments 0