So, you’re ready to delve into the world of raising backyard chickens, are you?
Well, …that’s GREAT!
Raising backyard chickens can be fun, educational, and egg-citing! (Sorry… we had to do it.)
However, it also requires a good deal of planning, thought, and preparation. For many of us who love our backyard chickens, it saddens us to hear stories of people who went out and got a bunch of baby chicks only to discover that they weren’t ready, weren’t allowed to keep them where they lived or didn’t have the time to devote to raising chickens.
In this post, we’ll try and give you several things to think about and plan for before you run out and buy your chicks.
City Code for Raising Backyard Chickens
The first, VERY FIRST, thing you should do before anything else is checking your city code. Are you even allowed to raise backyard chickens? How many are you allowed to raise? Where on your property can they be located? Do you have to get approval from your neighbors?
This information should all be pretty easy to find online these days. Where we live we can keep up to twenty “head” of poultry. From our city ordinance:
No more than twenty head of poultry nor more than twenty-five head of rodents nor more than twenty-five head comprising a combination of rodents and poultry shall be kept upon the first one-half acre or less.
As for some of the other questions mentioned above, here’s how my city answers them:
No poultry or rodents shall be kept in an enclosure within eighty feet of any residence within the City. Poultry may be kept within eighty feet of a residence if written permission consenting to the keeping of poultry less than eighty feet from a residence is first obtained from each lawful occupant and each lawful owner of such residence. Poultry shall not be kept in the front yard area of any lot or parcel within the City. Poultry and rodents shall be kept in an enclosure so constructed as to prevent such poultry and rodents from wandering upon property belonging to others.
That’s a lot but it’s also pretty clear – 80 ft from a neighbor’s residence (NOT property line), not in the front yard, and in a coop. Easy enough.
So, check your city code/ordinances and then move on from there.
Breeds and Number of Backyard Chickens
Now you know that you’re allowed to keep chickens but what breeds and how many do you want to raise? (As you noticed above, we can raise up to 20 where we live but we certainly wouldn’t suggest that a newbie start off with 20!)
There are over 60 breeds of chicken in the world and over 30 are commonly bred in the United States. That’s a lot. However, not all of those breeds are suitable for backyard chicken raising. When picking a breed you’ll want to consider such traits as:
- how well they lay
- what type of climate they are adapted to
- how well they do or don’t fly
A great book for helping you distinguish between all the different breeds is Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. Additionally, you may feel most comfortable buying chicks from a local feed store. You’ll find that most often, the employees of your feed store are very knowledgable and know what breed of bird is best suited for your climate.
In our backyard, we have 2 Rhode Island Reds, 2 Americaunas, 3 Barred Rocks, and 2 leghorns.
Where will your chickens live? As you may have noticed in the city ordinance shared above, backyard chickens in our city are not allowed to free-range. (Though they often DO in our backyard but never without our supervision.) They need to be kept in a coop of some sort. If this is also the case in your city, you have a few different options:
- a traditional coop
- a coop with run
- a tractor
Right now, on our property, we have one of each. We have three young chickens living in a movable chicken tractor, two older birds living in a coop (without a large run), and then 4 birds living in a large coop with a large run. Depending on how handy you are or aren’t may determine what you choose to use. You can build a tractor. We purchased both our coops but built the large run that attaches to the one coop.
If you’re looking for a coop locally, craigslist is always a good place to start. We were able to buy a reasonably priced one at our feed store. And believe it or not, you can buy prefab chicken coops on Amazon!
You’ll also need to plan for food and water. What type of feed will you buy or make? Where will you get it? You’ll also need a waterer and feeder. These should be readily available at your local feed store but can also be purchased online.
The last, but still very important, thing to consider and plan for when it comes to raising backyard chickens is what you are going to do with the chicks when you get them home.
They cannot go out into their coop, even part-time until they are fully feathered and the weather is warm.
There are many different ways to go about creating a brooder. The first time we got chicks we started with a large cardboard box. However, that quickly got dirty. We then used a large, clear plastic bin/tub purchased at Target. Then we fashioned it into a brooder using metal mesh. (Check out this post to get the full DIY.) We also purchased a heat lamp, a chick feeder, and waterer.
Alright. How’d you do? Did you make it to the end of this post? Are you ready to embark on the big adventure of raising backyard chickens? What questions are you left with?
This is the beginning of a series of posts that will delve into each of these subtopics more in-depth as we go along.