Lets limit ourselves to the topic of backyard chickens and not some large scale operation of running a commercial chicken farm. What leads to a hard decision to stop raising chickens?
Just like with any hobby, because raising backyard chickens is a hobby, it comes from the misalignment between initial expectations and reality. Some of us do not really have clear expectations of how raising chickens would look like, how much time and effort it would require and also what the economics of raising chickens would look like.
Other reasons which may lead to a decision to stop raising chickens may come from unexpected changes in life, such as getting a job in a new place, physical injury, or simply old age (the last of which may not be such an unexpected change but is also one of the important factors).
Since changes in life's circumstances is not something that can be foreseen or changed, for the purpose of this article, we are mainly focused on the first aspect - that of the misalignment between expectations and reality, as a root cause of abandoning the hobby of raising backyard chickens.
The first and the most important thing is to be very clear on the reason that led to your decision of keeping backyard chickens. If your main driver to keep chickens is pure profitability, at a scale of 10-50 chickens, this is very unlikely to happen. The main driver has to be beyond the financials. It should be your eagerness to take up a new hobby, one that will also provide psychological benefits, beyond getting the actual product from your chickens - be it meat or eggs, or both.
Just like any hobby, chicken keeping requires time, but the time invested in a hobby should not feel like a chore, if it is an actual hobby. You will want to subscribe to magazines and engage in forums to learn more about chicken keeping. You will constantly be learning and trying new things and you'll be switching between a wide range of topics from construction and mechanical work that can be done on a coop, to more bio-scientific topics such as tweaking your birds nutrition and optimizing their health. If this sounds about right, then you're ready to get into chicken keeping.
Here're some of the most frequent misalignments between expectations and reality:
1) "I eventually got kind of sick of eggs" - This has nothing to do with your love for chickens. There's such a thing as too much of a good thing. And even having free-range, healthy and tasty eggs in abundant supply is something one can get too much of, especially if you don't have anyone to gift it or sell it to.
2) "I am not able to commit as much time anymore" - Chickens do not require that much time commitment but they do require constant commitment. Beyond a daily minimum of 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening, you'll be researching various topics, fighting occasional diseases, cleaning the coop (The amount of time cleaning the coop requires depends on the coop structure and bedding, so it goes from a weekly task to semi-annual for some) and over a long period of time, this kind of lifestyle becomes unsustainable for some of us. If you are thinking of taking a long holiday, it may not be easy to find someone willing to take up the daily tasks of letting chickens out in the morning, checking in on the water, feed, eggs, throughout the day, locking them up at night, followed by checking in on the coop daily and cleaning it over the weekend. If you add up baby chicks to this, the task becomes even more difficult and the time required to be put in gets even longer, but this is why getting a few pullets instead can get the job done instead of raising small baby chicks.
3) "I have a problem culling my chickens" - Chickens will not be laying eggs for their entire life. They will live for about 10 years, depending on the breed and living conditions, but they will lay eggs only for about 2 or 3 years, after which they may stop laying eggs completely or their egg production will decrease. If you are able to look at it rationally, the best time to cull a chicken would be around the age of 3 or 4 years old but many find it very hard to do so. And not just because the process of doing so is emotionally draining for some but also because at first the task of de-feathering a chicken and preparing it doesn't just come naturally but has to be learned.
4) "When we got our baby, we became more afraid of the diseases chickens might carry" - Although not very likely to happen, Salmonella and Campylobacter bacteria can be transmitted from chickens to babies and kids. Younger kids below 5 are at a higher risk of contracting diseases from chickens. Besides these, chickens, like any other animal carry other diseases which are spread around through their droppings, feathers etc. It does not help that chicken feed is also a magnet for rats, the extent of which also depends on the area where you live.
5) "Whatever I did with my coop, predators would find a way to get in and kill my hens" - This is very unfortunate, and depending on where you live, store-bought coops may not suffice. You might need some improvisation skills and you could use a handy man in your home for this. Racoons seem to be quite skillful in digging tiny holes into your coop so your coop needs to have extra protection.
**Having a good coop is so important because apart from keeping predators away it can help you protect your birds from wind, rain, sun and cold (though some believe heaters are not needed, this depends on the breed). A good coop can also prevent your chickens getting sick because of poor ventilation, the frequency of which is often underestimated.
6) "They poop everywhere!" - Chickens do poop everywhere and this is not something that can be changed. If you have free ranging chickens there is not much you can do about this besides ensuring that at least your house doors are closed.
7) "The chickens destroyed my garden" - Yes, chickens will not be as proud of your garden flowers, herbs or vegetables and fruits you planted. They will peck holes in stems, eat the plants, dig out seedlings. And maybe you are ok with this, but if your chickens go to your neighbors' and destroy their garden, your neighbors may not have as much understanding for your birds. You can however try and treat them with some eggs. Speaking of neighbors, we didn't list down noisy roosters as one of the reasons people stop raising chickens but the relationship between your neighbors and your rooster is definitely something to think about.