James McWilliams on some problems with keeping backyard chickens.
For those without the fortitude to self-slaughter, keeping older hens as companion animals is also an option. This choice, too, has a downside–one that applies to the chickens while they’re laying as well. Backyard chickens are like fish in a barrel for predators. As a quick perusal of any on-line forum for chicken keepers will attest, chickens frequently fall prey to dogs, hawks, skunks, coyotes, foxes, and, notoriously, raccoons. Owners often declare themselves completely helpless to protect their birds. Forcing chickens into semi-secure locations and inhibiting their natural survival tactics is in the same vein as a hunter loading a feeder with corn and sitting above it in a deer blind. And that’s no way to treat a pet.