Chickens are hilarious. They eat nearly everything, dig around constantly, have an Invincible attitude, and make free food. They're the perfect farm animal!
I wouldn't say chickens are easy to raise, but I would say they're medium-easy. We've had chickens since 2015, and for the first few seasons they enjoyed free ranging around the yard. They gobbled up bugs, helped mow the grass, ripped up big holes in search of dust to bathe in, and played "chicken football" with snacks we threw to them. They also were getting eaten by just about everything: coyotes, foxes, wolves, hawks, neighbor dogs, and occasionally a skunk would try to get in on the action. We always figured that if we lost a chicken or two to predators in a season, that was the price they all paid for having as great of a chicken life as you possibly could offer.
Until the weasels and fishers arrived. Three times our flock has been 100% destroyed by these bloodthirsty demons, all for a lap of blood. Talk about a kick in the chicken teeth. To combat the weasels, growing hawk threat, and coyotes that had learned where the larder was, we had to fence in a run outside of our chicken coop and harden our defenses to keep out all hungry wildlife. The chickens honestly don't know they're cooped up because their concept of freedom is not quite there, but to me it feels a little like a zoo. I throw them a handful of "greeny-greens" (grass) every day so they can get a taste for what they're missing. It's the best part of every chicken's day.
Our chickens are also lucky enough to get delicious leftovers from Rodeo Mexican Kitchen. It dawned on me while getting my weekly burrito there that they must generate quite a bit of veggie waste preparing salads, salsas, and other delights. A couple of full litter buckets a week, in fact! Nearly all of it is prime chicken food, with the exception of onion husks which are nobody's favorite. Tomatillos, roasted pepper innards, moldy tomatoes, and the end of the day's salad greens all help keep our chickens happy and healthy. Plus, it's less food that I gotta feed 'em, not to mention tastier eggs. And as if those benefits weren't great enough to justify scavenging veggie waste like a New York City rat colony, I also am helping to keep thousands of pounds of food waste out of the landfill every year. Who knew raising chickens could help save the planet!
In 2020 one of our aging hens went broody. We snuck some peepers under her in the cover of darkness and she raised them for us! If you ever have a chicken go broody, never miss this prime opportunity to save on heat lamp costs. Let nature raise the next generation of egg layers for you.
*May 2021: All of the chickens that were raised by the broody hen were slaughtered by a fisher. Even our rooster couldn't fend off this unstoppable murderer. Fishers are the largest weasels in our region and are just starting to make their way back into Michigan's Upper Peninsula. They climb trees, dig under fences, can swim across moats, and are generally the biggest asshole of the forest. Prior to spotting the perpetrator, I'd only seen a fisher once in my 15+ years of adventuring. Now they live in my backyard and eat nine chickens in one day. My next chicken run will be impregnable...