Whether looking for fresh eggs or just low-maintenance pets, more and more people are discovering the benefits of raising urban chickens in unconventional (i.e. non-farm) environments! Are backyard chickens in your future? Read on to find out...
Chickens have become a popular trend because they're easy, inexpensive, and beneficial. If you're raising them for meat or eggs, you know exactly what went into them (and what steroids, antibiotics, and other drugs didn't). You're also eating the freshest food possible - often with less fat and calories than store-bought chicken.
Aside from the direct food benefits, chickens also provide lots of nutrition-rich compost for growing food. Eggshells and chicken manure produce a fantastic fertilizer that is high in nitrogen content.
Additionally, since chickens are constantly pecking and scratching to find insects and larvae to eat, they're a great all-natural pest control.
Lastly, most breeds of domestic chicken also make good pets, enjoying petting and cuddling.
Since many cities and homeowners' associations have regulations regarding backyard chickens, it is important to make sure they're allowed where you live. You can find out if your city has an urban chickens ordinance by contacting your local zoning or planning department. Animal control may also be a good source of information. You'll also want to check with your homeowners' association office (or your landlord if you're renting) to see if raising poultry is allowed.
Once you've gotten the green light, you'll need to determine if you have enough room. Fortunately, you don't need to have farm acreage to raise chickens. The general rule of thumb is three to four square feet of space per bird, but - since chickens are healthier when they have more space to live - the more space the better. If you can, give them 10 square feet each so they can exercise, run around, and just generally be a chicken. You can define this running-around space using chicken wire or netting as fencing.
A common question is whether you need a rooster to get eggs from your chickens. The answer is: Not unless you plan on hatching the eggs into chicks. Plus, your neighbors probably won't appreciate you moving an uninvited alarm clock into the neighborhood. (There's definitely a reason that most urban chicken ordinances don't allow roosters in the city limits!)
Your city or homeowners' association will probably have rules restricting how big your flock can be. Beyond that, you'll need to answer the question based on how much space you have, and how many eggs your family can eat or give away each week. For planning purposes, a typical chicken will usually lay at least 200 eggs per year.
Your chickens will need a place to have shelter from the weather and safety from predators. If you're handy, you can download plans online to build a chicken coop from scratch. Others repurpose existing sheds or other portable buildings to give their chickens shelter. Often the quickest and simplest solution is to buy a prefabricated coop, like these from SummerHawk Ranch.
While you're debating whether to start raising urban backyard chickens, you should have a realistic idea of how much work is involved. They're easy to raise, but you'll still need to plan on five to ten minutes every day for feeding, watering, and spot cleaning. On a weekly basis, plan on an hour for a more complete cleaning, including replacing straw.
Raising urban backyard chickens can save you money, help your family eat fresh, organic food, and provide you with plenty of feathered friends! If you've checked out the local ordinances and understand the commitment required, there's no better time to start than now! Check out doitbest.com for supplies, or check out your local Do it Best store!
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