The rooster may crow but the hen delivers the goods.
Walk in to your local feed store this week and you will hear the chirps of baby chicks from every corner of the store. They are so cute and for some of us it’s hard not to walk out without taking a few home. And, why not!?
For those that think chickens are better in the country – think again. There are many great reasons why you should consider a small backyard flock. But what surprises people the most is how much fun these ladies are to have around. The urban farm and backyard movement has really taken off. Take a walk around your neighborhood – I bet you would be surprised by the number of people who have a coop hidden somewhere in their yard.
But, before you take the leap, there are a few things to consider. There is a lot of information out there. It can be a bit overwhelming sorting out the good advice from the bad. When we brought home our first backyard flock I did a ton of research. What I found was a massive amount of bad information, conflicting experts and confusion. Still, doing your due-diligence will prevent disappointment and frustration.
First, check your local city ordinances but chances are this will not be a problem. Most cities will allow a small flock with few restrictions. In fact, not only will most cities allow backyard chickens – they encourage it. The most common restriction within city limits is the no rooster rule. Poor guys get a bad wrap.
It’s not a good idea to walk into your local feed store and make a impulse buy during chick season. I think another big surprise to raising chickens is how expensive it is. Shelter, food and supplies can be a bit of sticker shock. Especially when you can by a dozen eggs in the store for less than $1. Still, it’s worth every penny.
Do you want to raise chicks or are you wanting older pullets (female chicken under 1 year old) that are closer to the age to lay eggs? Raising chicks is rewarding but a big commitment. Sure they’re cute. But if you don’t have the time, space or a proper brooder set up this option may not be for you. If you want a chicken for eggs you may want to check local listings for “started pullets” from a reputable breeder. Pullets will be around 12 -15 weeks or older and ready to go in the outside coop. They will be much less time consuming and require minimal daily care. Typically, a started pullet will cost about $15 each depending on the age and breed.
Proper shelter and space are another factor in your decision. How much room do you have (how many do you have the proper space for)? Is your area predator proof? Is your back yard fenced? Neighborhood dogs are the number one killer of backyard chickens. Planning for good care and protection is vital before you bring home your girls.
Do you know what your getting yourself into? There are tons of great books for new backyard chicken keepers. I am adding a list of my favorites below. Before you commit financially and before you buy chickens make sure you know what to expect. Chickens are not a lot of work. But, they do require life-long specific and consistent care that you should commit to ahead of time or forget it.
What breed is best for you? There are a lot of really pretty chicken breeds out there but they are not all created equal. Do your research. There are some breeds that are better for laying, some that are known to be more docile, some that are better in cold climates – what specific needs do you have? For a good idea of which breed fits you check out The Livestock Conservancy.
There is a lot to think about. But a small flock can give you so much in return – fresh local eggs, hours of entertainment, teach your kids responsibility, aerate your yard, natural fertilizer and pest control, and on and on. It’s also a big step towards sustainability, self-reliance and talk about local eats! Do your homework first and you will reap the rewards.
Looking for answers to some of your questions? For more information on all things backyard chickens check out these great books and blogs:
The Chicken Health Handbook; Gail Damerow
Backyard Homesteaders Guide To Raising Farm Animals; Gail Damerow
A Chicken In Every Yard; Robert Litt