Chickens in the City, in Suburbia or in the Country; Raising a small backyard flock!

Keeping a small flock of Chickens!

There is very little as useful, satisfying and fun as raising a small backyard flock of chickens. Not only can a happy, productive flock of laying hens become pets but they can also earn their keep by supplying fantastic tasting fresh eggs.

However, before jumping right into the middle of urban animal husbandry, even though it is really easy, you should do a little reading, research and planning.


photo by stockphoto.com
photo by stockphoto.com

Before spending, even a dime you will need to investigate your local by-laws and regulations. The animal control office or city hall will have the answers for you. Unless you live in the country far from neighbors do not keep a rooster. Roosters are a noisy bunch and will fall under most municipality's noise/nuisance ordinances. Hens are normally very quiet and for some reason their squawks do not carry the same as the crowing of a rooster. (Another often unknown fact --- you do not need a rooster for chickens to lay eggs.)

Visit the library or go on-line and read up on raising poultry. Caring for chickens is not hard, it takes some common sense but there are still things that you will need to know. Questions like: How many chickens will supply me with enough eggs? What type of chickens should I buy? How much feed will I need to give them daily? What do I feed them? How do I prepare adequately for my chickens year-round? (shade in the summer and heat in the winter)

Tips: Great and easy layer pullets for beginners to keep are the friendly and very mild tempered  Rhode Island Reds or Barred Plymouth Rocks.

You will need:

A backyard, preferably a fenced in one: remember you might not have a problem with YOUR chickens walking around in between your rose bushes and flowers, the guy next door might... You might think it's so cute when one of YOUR hens meets you in your driveway at the end of the work day... the high-heeled executive next door might not think it's that great if she slips in some of the "residue" the chickens will leave behind... so if your yard is not fenced in talk your neighbor, it will save a lot of hard feelings after

A chicken coop and/or tractor: very necessary if you do not have a fenced in backyard, Your chickens will be safe and sound inside, check out the link for tractor above it is one of the best explanations of how to safeguard your chickens from the neighborhood dogs and cats and the 'hungry-for-fresh-chicken-legs-guy-next-door' just kidding on that last tip

1-2 nesting boxes: you will need one for every 3-4 chickens, hens happily share one nesting box. Sometimes when production just can't wait for a vacancy two hens will crowd into the box at the same time

Straw or wood-shavings: as padding for the nesting boxes, this needs to be replaced every two to three weeks, especially if an egg were to break inside the box. Have some loose straw in front to the nesting boxes too, so the girls can pick a straw or two or three to add or to reconstruct their 'nest'. You will also need to have bedding for the floor this also needs to be replaced on a regular basis, every week or two, depending on size of your flock

Chicken feeder: everyone has a preference for their chicken feeders. The only thing to remember here is that the feeder should have a covering on the top so that if the chickens land on the feeder they can't mess into the feed

Chicken waterer: same goes for the waterer... as long as the girls have access to fresh clean water 24/7 the style doesn't matter.

Feed: Most chickens absolutely love kitchen scarps, everything you eat they will eat.... with the exception of raw potatoes and avocados (boiled up peels are fine though). However they can not survive on just scraps alone and to keep the little ladies healthy and happy you will need to give them grain and or crumble/pellets. These feeds are a balanced diet and come in medicated and non-medicated form--- it's controversial if they need the additives in their feed or not. Read up on it and remember the feed store staff can also help you make up your mind to which is better for them in your opinion.

Grit: Chickens are birds and birds need grit in their stomach to grind up the grain and feed etc. This look like rough playground sand. For healthy pullets have a container filled with grit so that it is available for them when-ever they want it. It doesn't cost much at all and takes a long time to use up. (have it in a container with an overhang so that the little darlin's don't sit and leave their mess in it)

Oyster shell: The girls will happily supply you with an egg 5-6 days per week as an average, after they're about 8-9 months old. To produce eggs with strong shells they need calcium. If they can't get it from their diet they will supplement it from their own bones which is not good. For healthy chickeys have a container filled with ground up oyster shells available at all times. It is not really that expensive and a bag last a long time. (my 50 hens and 11 lady ducks took 4.5 months to go through a 10kg bag) (have it in a container with an overhang so that the little darlin's don't sit and leave their mess in it)

Flock of 4-8 laying hens or pullets: To know that on average most layer chickens will lay 5-6 eggs a week might help you determine how large of a flock you need to keep. Supplying the neighbor on each side of you with an dozen eggs, now and then will keep them from getting ticked off if one of the hens might seek adventures in their yards. (Remember if you live in a cold climate you will need a cold-hardy breed of chicken)

Heat lamp: If you live in a cold climate you will need a heat source in winter. If the chicken coop is not too big and draft free, a heat lamp that is secured over the waterer (to keep the water from freezing) is usually enough to keep the hens snug as bugs in a rug.

A resource book: for advice on raising chickens (helpful but not absolutely necessary especially if you have access to the internet),

The hens need a solid, safe from predators coop or tractor. A place where they are sheltered from bad weather, protected from heat and sun, where they can roost, sleep and lay their eggs. There are as many different styles of coops as there are types of chickens. There are free plans available on the Internet and most of them can be built with minimal building skills. The difference between coop and tractor is that a tractor is built to be mobile either to be carried or wheeled to another location, which will give the chickens fresh grass to peck at continually. If you move the tractor weekly added benefits are that the grass is that the chickens will have nibbled the grass nice and short and have done some aerating with their scratching and have fertilized the area too... what more can you ask from these little helpers...? Again check the ‘net for plans for chicken tractors.

As for the coop or tractor size, a good rule of thumb is at least 3 square feet inside the coop per chicken.

For safety, most chickens prefer to roost up high rather than spend the night on the floor. So it's important to have roosts available in different places at different heights. Each chicken will eventually find it's favorite spot and return to the same one every night.

Tips: Even though hens are quite resilient, a chicken coop in a cold winter climate will need space where to install a heat lamp. The coop or tractor should have good air flow but be draft free. Bedding on the floor should be either straw or wood chips. (cedar chips have too strong of an odor and is not considered good for their respiratory systems)

Obviously one of the main reasons to keep chickens are the eggs. For this, your feathered girls will need to have nesting boxes. These, padded with a thin layer of straw or wood chips, need to be large enough for the hens to have enough room to curl up into, but still snug enough to be cozy. 15X18X15 inches /37.5x37.5x45cm is a pretty good size. 3-4 chickens will happily share one nesting box.

The easiest feed is either pellet or a crumble feed which are available at a local farm feed store.

Tips: Laying pullets need a high protein food preferably with an 18% protein content. (if the protein in lower they will eat more which will make this venture less profitable) Feed enough in a covered feeder so that the hens can clear it all up within the day. Chickens also love, love, love table scraps and garden weeds, cracked corn and most everything you eat. (with the exceptions of avocados and chocolate, and a lot of onions and garlic can give eggs an odd flavoring) Save all your veggy peels for them, however remember that potato peels need to be boiled. They don't really care for citrus peels so you should throw those into the composter instead.

Fun Facts about eggs

Eggs are not the villain that they were made out to be re: cholesterol and heart disease. There is no proven link between egg consumption and heart disease. The many medical studies done in recent years found that an egg/day should be considered as good nutrition. Eggs have a high ratio of nutrients to calories. They clock in at 75 calories each and have less than 5 grams of total fat. They are filled with 13 essential vitamins, minerals, high-quality protein, healthy unsaturated fats and antioxidants. And best of all eggs are one of the most versatile food available.

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Comments 40 comments

sammie sweetheart/ronnie 4 years ago

great comments you guys keep on posting


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 4 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

iamaudraleigh, you should try, my chicky ladies are a total joy. Thanks for reading and commeting.

regards Zsuzsy


iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

I love this hub! My boyfriend always talks about doing this!!! Voted up and sharing!!!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Hiya Habee, always glad when you pop in for a visit.

hope you're well

regards Zsuzsy


habee profile image

habee 6 years ago from Georgia

I loved keeping hens! We always had a big supply of fresh eggs. I sold some, gave some away, and learned to pickle them. Enjoyed the great read!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Pollyannalana, for a small flock all you need is to build or buy a chicken tractor which will keep your babies safe from predators. The joy these chicken bring is well worth the little investment that such a tractor would cost. My friend just built one using the wood from product palettes that were given away for free at the side of the road and a roll of chicken wire. The whole thing which now houses 6 chickens cost him $38.50 that includes a small box of nails, roll of wire. He attached the wheels from his sons outgrown bike to the end. So it is really easy to move around the yard from spot to spot.

hope you're well

kindest regards Zsuzsy


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 6 years ago from US

Like singlemom I have those memories from childhood gathering warm eggs and have always wanted chickens and at a yard sale one day I bought a french hen, (so beautiful) and about four chicks and buzzards or some mean flying bird got them. If it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all. Great hub, fun and warm, Polly


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Loveslove, thanks for taking a look and for commenting.

yeeeha fresh eggs every week, how great is that?

kindest regards Zsuzsy


Loveslove profile image

Loveslove 6 years ago from England

I enjoyed this hub especially because my friend has 6 laying hens in her garden..she lives on a housing estate and has a high fence around her garden so no probs with the neighbours.....and I get eggs every week !!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Hello Ginn, how are you? Healthy living sums it up. Always glad when you drop by for a visit.

kindest regards Zsuzsy


Ginn Navarre profile image

Ginn Navarre 6 years ago

Excellent and very informative for in todays economy more people are of need of this. I too have been enjoying this live style with my chickens and garden for many years. It's called HEALTHY LIVING.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Adele, thanks for taking a look and for commenting.

regards Zsuzsy


AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

AdeleCosgroveBray 6 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

Hello, and thanks for the informative Hub. I keep chickens too, and their eggs are marvelous - much better than any shop-bought ones. Chickens are so easy to keep, and they get along fine with my dogs and cats.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Jamie, I know what you mean and I don't think I will bother with a rooster either, why ask for trouble...

Here too, the dogs and barn cats mingle without a hitch with the chickens and the ducks.

kindest regards Zsuzsy


Jamiehousehusband profile image

Jamiehousehusband 6 years ago from Derbyshire, UK

Hi again - I'd reconsider that rooster wish - I'm semi rural and there's one nearby who doesn't have a clue about the time of day! Noisy, yes very!! Both my dogs actually eat fresh chicken and neither are bothered about the girls, in fact the 2 dogs mingle with the hens happily, blissfully unaware of the food connection!! But when I take the same dogs to the farm where the cock is, all hell breaks out!!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Pollyannalana, you can buy day old baby chicks that are sexed (99.9% guaranteed to be be only girls). These babies grow into laying hens and eventually at around 8-9 month of age start to lay eggs. They lay these eggs without a rooster for many a mile. Now my ladies will never hatch any babies but that's alright I will just buy more day old when I need them.

hope you're well

regards Zsuzsy


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 6 years ago from US

I have always wanted chickens but never the opportunity but it has always been my understanding that without the rooster and fertilized eggs they are useless, well we know they won't hatch but still that has always been my understanding and it was even discussed a time or two as a child making me not complain about that white dot,although I can assure you they did not tell me exactly what that was! lol and it is my understanding that the rooster does not have to mate for every egg,once mated lasts that chick a week or more, hmmm. I dearly love to hear a rooster crow! I have heard them at 4 am and its like waking on a school morning snowed in and know you can just go back to sleep!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Support Med. raising your own chickens can be a lot of fun.

Always glad when you drop in for a visit.

kindest regards

Zsuzsy


Support Med. profile image

Support Med. 6 years ago from Michigan

Raising chickens! Well if the economy does not improve raising our own may be best, LOL! don't think I could handle it though. However, this is a great hub for someone who is serious about doing this for a living. Voted-up/rated!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Hiya Jamie. Always glad when you stop by for a visit.

I understand what you mean about eating the girls... I purposely got a big bunch of chicks because I didn't want to fall for them (I have 50) (didn't work, though) unfortunately somewhere down the road I will have to do what needs to be done... As far as roosters go... I was debating about having just one, making him into a pet and a friendly little soul but haven't yet, maybe next spring. When we had the big farm we had a couple of roosters and they were vicious little brutes... but we'll see. I'm out in the country so the noise he makes will disturb only me...

hope you're well

regards Zsuzsy


Jamiehousehusband profile image

Jamiehousehusband 6 years ago from Derbyshire, UK

Great hub, rated well up! I'm (as you know) already a convert. Like the chicken paprika recipe - this was also my first family dinner party recipe, although in the late 80's. I could never eat my girls though and would kill any foxy character who even thought about it! Shame the cocks are so noisy otherwise I'd definitely consider having one.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

WildIris, yup your right the roosters can get mean and you have to watch out for the spurs on the back of their feet... rooster stew is yummy too

always glad when you drop in for a visit.

hope your well

regards Zsuzsy


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Goldie thanks for taking a look.

regards Zsuzsy


WildIris 6 years ago

A great, great tips on chicken basics. Skip the rooster. When they get older they get mean and will attack. I'm sporting a nice long scratch from my rooster who will soon become chicken stew. My daughters refuse to collect eggs now because of the rooster.


goldie77 profile image

goldie77 6 years ago from Scotland

hey Lisa -this is great -I have some articles on chickens too -I hope you like them


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Lisa, how exciting to start out with a new flock of chickens. Let me know if you need any more info or help.

kindest regards Zsuzsy


lisadpreston profile image

lisadpreston 6 years ago from Columbus, Ohio

A great article. I'm renting a house next week and if my landlord will allow it, I'm doing this. Maybe this is a start to help end factory farming if we have our own animals and eat more home grown veggies from our gardens and less meat products from grocery stores. Its a start in the right direction anyway.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 6 years ago from Central Oregon

I know a lot of folks who do this and wish I could! It would be nice to have something really, really fresh like my own eggs - I do the next best thing though and buy them from my friend...my mals would probably have a wonderful time chomping on the chickens - or at least chasing them around.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Lorlie how are you? How great, two chickies, hens really make nice pets. I wish I would have had the camera on hand this morning when I opened up the chicken house... I had left over rizzy-bizzy (rice peas and small beef chuncks) from last nights dinner. (The chickens absolutely love left overs) anyway back to the would-have-been-perfect-picture... One chicken, one mascovy duck, one rouen duck, one of the barncats and a sparrow (the little thief) were all eating from the same container. It looked absolutely amazing... according to that picture world peace can be obtained...

Good luck with your grandchicks

regards Zsuzsy


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Alison, great point... however if you feed the chicky-ladies 1/2 their alloted feed first thing in the morning and the other half at dinner time the girls will have every last bit cleared up before they get closed in for the night.

thanks for commenting

hope you're well

regards Zsuzsy


lorlie6 profile image

lorlie6 6 years ago from Bishop, Ca

Zsuzsy Bee, this article is most timely in my world, for my son purchased 2 hens recently, moved out, and now my hubby and I are the adoptive Grandparents. I live in a rural area, so the yard is huge-and fenced.

I believe they are about 1/2 their potential size now and seem to be very happy, indeed.

My only concern out here is the hawk population, so I try to spend as much time as possible outside watching my Grandbabies. They also spend alot of time under a lilac hedge, so they have easy and fairly hawk-protected shelter.

Thanks again for such an 'appropriate' hub-at least for me!


Alison Graham profile image

Alison Graham 6 years ago from UK

Thanks for a very interesting article. Rats can be a problem in the UK if all food is not removed when the birds are shut in for the night. Another objection that might be raised by neighbours.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

singlmomat52, raising chickens for the eggs has become a whole new movement in the last few years world wide. When my granddaughters come for a visit the first thing they want to do is go for the egg hunt. I hope that they will keep these visits as good memories for when they are all grown up and adults too.

hope you're well

regards Zsuzsy


singlmomat52 profile image

singlmomat52 6 years ago

great informatiom. When I was a girl we had a chicken coop. My grandmother would send me out to collect the eggs and to this day I think about that with a sense of wonder. I loved collecting the eggs, I never knew how many or what I was going to find. It was like a Easter egg hunt everyday! We lived way out in the country so there was no problem with the neighbors and the only neighbors were all family. Thanks for a great Hub! It brought back fun memories.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

drbj, haha I agree you might get into trouble with your neighbors... even the promise of super great fresh eggs might not help

glad for the visit

regards Zsuzsy


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

hiya Paradise7, how are you? Always glad when you have a chance to visit.

greetings

Zsuzsy


drbj profile image

drbj 6 years ago from south Florida

OK, ZB, You have convinced me. Your hub is so compelling I'm going to run out tomorrow morning and get me some chickens to raise with coops, and feed and all.

On second thought, don''t think that idea will fly (just as chickens can't). My neighbors in my 32-story building might get VERY upset.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York

Great hub, Ms. Bee!


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 6 years ago from Ontario/Canada Author

Thanks Patty, how's the new 'puter?

hope you're well

regards Zsuzsy


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 6 years ago from North America

Rated and Thumbs-upped! You are a top flock master, so to speak, able to offer sound tips and information. Thanks for the insights.

Patty

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