Raising Urban Backyard Chickens

My girls
My girls | Source

With food costs rising and concern over the quality of the food to be found in stores, many people are trying their hand at raising some of their own food. This might mean planting fruit trees, growing a vegetable garden or even raising some of your own livestock. There is a rising trend in urban chicken keeping and raising backyard chickens-- and for good reason. Chickens are one of the easiest and most productive types of livestock to keep.

What Will You Do With Your Backyard Chickens?

Before you purchase your chickens you will need to decide their purpose. Will you keep them for eggs? For meat? Both? Do you want a heritage breed? Does it matter? Will you show them at the county fair? Deciding the use for your chickens will better help you to determine what breed to get. I was concerned primarily with egg production. I consulted some books and articles on the matter but felt glutted with information. My decision was made after speaking to someone who actually kept chickens. At this moment I have five beautiful Rhode Island Reds sitting in a coop in the backyard.

Getting Your Chickens

The next order of business is acquisition. You can find full grown chickens on Craigslist, in local newspaper want ads, and notices at your local farm supply store. You can purchase chicks in the same way. You may also be able to order chicks directly through mail order or at your local farm supply store. The local Tractor Supply store sells chicks during the early part of the year which is where I got mine. I enjoyed raising them from babies.

If you purchase chicks, you should be aware that they will not be laying eggs until they are about six months old.

Also, after raising two broods, I find that the ones I kept in my kitchen until they were old enough to run around without a heat lamp were a lot more docile. I think it has something to do with being raised around humans.

Care and Maintanence of the Backyard Chicken

If you purchase chicks, it should be noted that they need to be kept at a temperature of about 90 degrees. This can be accomplished with the use of a heat lamp. If your chicks are huddled together in a clump, this may be an indication that the lamp is not close enough. If, on the other hand, they avoid the lamp entirely, it may be too close.

Chicken feed can be purchased at any feed or farm supply store. There is separate feed for chicks and for adult chickens. Similarly, you may find different feed for layers than for meat birds. I pay between $13 and $15 for a 50 pound bag of feed and it last my girls a solid month. Giving them access to a yard can help reduce your feed costs some as they will eat bugs, worms, seeds, plants, etc. They can also be useful for eating garden pests, although I would not recommend unlimited access to your garden as they will also tear up the plants. Allowing them a little time in the garden each day, perhaps while you are doing yard chores and can keep an eye on them should be sufficient. Also, their manure is great in the garden.

Should You Get a Rooster for Your Urban Chickens?

Many people living in urban or suburban areas worry over whether they should make a rooster a part of their flock of urban chickens. They worry about the rooster making noise early in the morning and bothering the neighbors. The chicken whisperer-- yes, there really is one, check the links below-- says that when he kept a rooster, he would put the rooster into a pet carrier every night, set the carrier in the garage and place a blanket over it. Most of his neighbors had no idea that he had a rooster.

So, what is the purpose of a rooster? He keeps the chickens in line, kind of like the leader. He may protect them from predators. Also, if you want to breed your own chicks. . .

I spent 3 days and $60 in materials on this coop.
I spent 3 days and $60 in materials on this coop. | Source

But Where Will They Live?

So what kind of housing is appropriate for a flock of backyard chickens? That depends on how many chickens you have. There are many many options. You should first understand the needs of your chickens before you determine what sort of coop to get. A chicken sleeps perched. The average chicken needs about 10 to 12 inches of perch space. Your chickens will also need a nesting box in which to lay their eggs. Several chickens will generally share the same nesting box. For my five girls, I have found that they will all lay eggs in the same nesting box, so I only use one. Aside from laying eggs, pretty much the only other activities chickens engage in is eating and pooping. For this reason good ventilation is important. They will need some protection from the elements: shade in the summer, shelter from the rain, etc. They will also need protection from predators-- and you wouldn't believe all of the animals that prey on chickens, some that I didn't even know were carnivorous--so you will need a sturdy structure with some sort of latch. In addition to a latch, I built my coop on legs so that my chickens were off the ground and thus not as accessible to predators.

An interesting side note: Chickens like to be close to home, where they feel safe, as it gets dark. Once it is dark they will put themselves into their coop, but they will still need you to latch the door to keep predators out.

For smaller flocks, some people prefer a "chicken tractor" . A chicken tractor is a coop and adjoining pen built to be mobile so that as the chickens wear out one piece of ground they can be moved to a fresh spot.

For larger flocks a shed or even a barn may be a better option.

There are numerous places to purchase housing for your backyard chickens: pet or farm supply, amazon.com, or you could build your own coop. There are all kinds of books and how-to articles on the subject.

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Comments 5 comments

moonlake profile image

moonlake 4 years ago from America

We finally got a new roof on our barn now maybe I can get my chickens.

Enjoyed your hub.


homesteadpatch profile image

homesteadpatch 4 years ago from Michigan

Chickens are a great addition to a homestead large or small. Voted up.


patchofearth profile image

patchofearth 4 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills Author

Moonlake,

Once you get them set up, chickens are pretty easy to care for. Hope you get your chickens.

Homesteadpatch,

I agree. I enjoy my girls and the eggs and manure they produce.


funnyfarm profile image

funnyfarm 4 years ago from Arkansas

Very good information. My sister-in-law started raising her urban flock about a year ago and is really enjoying them. I'm surprised at how adaptable they are to different environment.


patchofearth profile image

patchofearth 4 years ago from somewhere in the appalachian foothills Author

Funnyfarm,

I was surprised at how well they adapt also. I was concerned about them being too cold with the recent winter weather, but again, the research said they would be fine and so they have been. I did however purchase a heated dish to keep their water from freezing. Thanks for stopping.

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