Forrest Pritchard is a full-time sustainable farmer and New York Times bestselling author, holding a BA in English and a BS in Geology from William & Mary. Smith Meadows, his farm, was one of the first “grass finished” operations in the country, and has sold at leading farmers’ markets in Washington DC for nearly two decades. Pritchard's first two books received starred reviews from The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and NPR, and his latest book is set to debut in 2018.

18 responses to “Want to Raise your own Chickens?”

  1. David Smith

    Excellent article…very informative and entertaining. Great video too. Thanks!

  2. woolfarmgal

    Total agree on you analysis of chicken farming. My farm focuses on fiber, sheep, angora rabbits and such. I raise a few (34) chickens for personal eggs, their manure for the garden and some amusement. I also have 5 ducks, same purpose. The chickens are in two coop with a fenced yard. And ducks free range and are trained to go into a stall at night. I have shot foxes, I have dealt with halls, and I have cut the heads off snakes who invaded the coops. In fact, you chat call yourself a chicken farmer until you have killed your first snake. I cannot imagine raising the clucks on a larger scale. The sheep are hard enough. Can you say fly strike?

  3. hopefarms

    Spot on, again, Forrest! It seems romantic until a few of them disappear to a raccoon or opossum, get egg-bound, or are on a de-worming schedule (so their eggs cannot be used) and on, and on. This last year was not as profitable because of increasing feed prices and a few other time-management related issues, so this next season the price will have to increase. I won’t be insulted by those who say “that’s too expensive,” anymore, either. For if they’d like to raise their own, I’ll point them to this article.


    Great article, thanks again for keeping it real.


  4. Janet G

    HI Forest. I totally agree with your assessment on profitable chicken farming. that is why we just keep the hens for our family needs. I like to give the extras to neighbors and relatives when I have any with no obligations. I try to explain that I can’t count on the eggs but I am happy to share any extra we don’t need. They try to offer me money sometimes but I usually laugh and tell them they really can’t afford what the eggs would cost. I don’t think I would want to try raising laying hens for profit. But I love your stories and we have learned a lot from your pasture methods.

  5. Fresh Eggs Daily

    My husband always says that our eggs are the most expensive that we will ever eat! I agree with him, but they are also the best. Economy of scale does help, but you’re right then the work and problems also increase exponentially. Regardless, I wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything – and thank goodness I can make some money on the side writing as do you! Thanks for the mention of my book.
    Fresh Eggs Daily

  6. Susan

    I could write a comedy on urban chicken farming ……

  7. Lisa

    I have a question…. I have hens and roosters that keep missing. There is no sign of a killing with feathers laying around or anything… I cant understand what is getting my birds. If a wolf or Fox gets them… Wouldnt their be a sign of a fight with feathers or body parts laying around?

  8. Susan

    Lisa, I wonder if you have free range chickens, as we and our neighbors do. I can’t count the times we’ve exchanged chickens who’ve escaped. Fortunately we’ve gotten all ours back, but I know our neighbors haven’t always been so lucky, and report the same thing… feathers, just missing birds. :/ I think we’ve just been lucky, or maybe more diligent. Still sad.

  9. Ross

    Some farmers just ought not to be quoted out of context:

    “…Checking on my pigs, knowing that none have been eaten by hawks. Filling the lambs’ salt tub, without discovering they’ve gobbled up their own eggs…..”

    Pig-eating hawks? Lambs that lay eggs? It makes one yearn for the simple horrors of Monsanto.

  10. Anslie

    Hi Forrest! We are loyal clients at your Chevy Chase farmers market and enjoy your blog. This may be a silly question but how do you ‘track’ the age of a chicken? Do you mark them with a band on their leg or something like that? Also, do you allow your chickens to ‘replace’ themselves (lay and egg and let them hatch it) or do you buy the chickens from another source? Thanks for humoring these questions!

  11. So You Want to Be A Chicken Farmer? | The American Conservative

    […] Pritchard writes humorously and truthfully at Smith Meadows about the real-life challenges of chicken farming. For […]

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    […] Pritchard writes humorously and truthfully at Smith Meadows about the real-life challenges of chicken farming. For […]

  13. Jonathan Herron

    I really love your site and your energy that goes into it. I’m from Ohio, but living in South America (Peru). We’re starting a pastured hen farm after having “free run” hens for some time now. I like the “wagon wheel” idea with the fencing to act as sparks, but just wanted to know approx. how much space you’re giving to your hens since it seems like a huge parcel for only 900. What size “spokes” or areas should we use for let’s say 2000 hens?

    Thanks Forrest and I’m flying home to Ohio in May and would love to visit your farm if it’s ok with you?

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