I admit....I really love having chickens. It will be a year next month since I first brought home two, and we now have 4, plus two in the living room which may join the flock if the chick turns out not to be a rooster. (Banned in the City). I am tempted by every Craigslist ad for chickens, but I want mine to have plenty of space and a good life and so I think 6 is a reasonable max unless/until we create a bigger space. And really, 4 keep me in eggs so I should not exceed that number I suppose.
Several things led to me getting chickens. I was always interested...but discouraged by those who said chickens are a lot of work, cleaning the coop sucks, the can have mites, they are messy, etc. I'm not a big bird person either. And, I hate eggs. I wanted them I think because they represent the farm/ranch lifestyle I want, and I thought it would be interesting to try the difference between fresh and store eggs. (The difference between market organic veggies and the store is staggering, so what about eggs? Yes, they are better!)
I always enjoy seeing chickens in Africa, and of course I was struck by the irony that I got halfway around the world to see endangered species and I find the chickens interesting too. I was in Madagascar and found a chicken stranded on an island with no fresh water and I shared mine, and watched the chicken, and was surprised to find I had just as much sympathy for it and concern as I would for a stranded dog or cat. Unfortunately I knew the chicken would get eaten sooner or later, and I had no way to save it, but at least I could make it more comfortable for a day.
I read a few books in which chickens featured, and their pros were touted. The final straw was an ad on Craigslist for an affordable coop that came delivered - so I could try out chickens without creating infrastructure. Of course, we upgraded before long, but it was a great way to start.
Today NPR has a story on the increasing popularity of chickens in urban areas, which I can well relate to. I have really enjoyed getting to know the birds, their language, etc. And, it's a great help towards veganism - I can honestly say I don't feel any temptation to eat chicken anymore. Afer all, when you have one in the living room, it just would feel wrong to eat one for lunch!!
If you are interested in giving it a try, www.mypetchicken.com is an interesting website. Also, you can find chickens on Craigslist that are sexed, which I would recommend over mail order chicks (not fun for the chicks!). Chickens make good pets. While cleaning the coop is kinda gross, not really any grosser than cleaning up when the dog has an accident, etc. Comes with the territory. Overall the biggest worry is protecting them from predators - every night there's fox and racoon that could get them, and hawks during the day. But I have them in the Ft. Knox of chickens and they are happy. I let them free range in the daytime, and I know that something could happen - but I can't deny them the happiness of getting out and scratching around, so I try and make it as safe for them as possible and then home for the best. Unlike the other pets, I literally wonder if the chickens are alive when I come to tuck them in after a few hours of free ranging, but so far - despite a few heart stopping moments - they come running when I whistle.