Raising Chickens Introduction
The keeping of backyard chickens in urban areas has begun to gain some popularity around the country, as people become more and more concerned about where their food comes from. Regardless of your specific reasons, you will have to learn a few things before you just toss some birds into your backyard.
This book outlines all the basic areas that you need to consider for your chickens, such as proper enclosures, feed and care. Though it may seem like a lot of information, in reality chickens are considered one of the easiest "farm" animals to keep.
Benefits of Having Backyard Chickens
If you still haven't decided on whether you want to go ahead with this project, here are a few of the best reasons why people are starting their own flocks.
Though the idea of "free eggs" usually tops the list, there is a bit more to the cost of your eggs that you should think about. While you don't literally pay for your eggs, there is a cost to keeping and raising chickens that does contribute to what you are paying out for your eggs. You do have considerable control over this, depending on how you raise your birds. If you only feed your chickens commercial feed, the costs will be higher than if you add in your own vegetable and fruit waste. Larger pen space also means your chickens can eat more insects and worms, also leading to lower costs.
Also, a really fancy chicken coop with cedar shingles or expensive gingerbread trim will cost so much that you will need to collect years worth of eggs to offset the cost. Keep it simple, and your flock will pay for itself sooner.
Cost isn't the only issue either. Many people who choose to keep their own chickens do so for more ethical reasons. By having your own flock, you are not supporting the poor treatment and conditions that are found in commercial egg facilities. With access to a varied and natural diet, along with fresh air and sunshine, the eggs laid by your chickens will healthier, tastier and larger than store-bought eggs as well. And of course, the level of freshness is incomparable.
And eggs are only 1 reason for keeping chickens. The chapter on uses for chickens will elaborate, but you can raise chickens for meat, the manure, insect control and more. They are very handy little animals to have in a backyard.
Some of the Drawbacks
The biggest problems with keeping chickens are the smell and the noise. Neither one is really a big problem but is the kind of thing people think of first when they consider a backyard flock. Noise issues are usually part of rooster ownership, so if you stick to hens, you'll have a quieter chicken pen. Hens do still cluck, squawk and gobble around so noise can't be avoided completely.
And the smell is a reflection on how clean you keep your coop. If you leave the wet soiled bedding material in there for weeks at a time, it will smell up the whole neighborhood. But with regular cleaning, there usually is minimal odor from a small chicken coop. So be prepared for weekly cleaning chores and this won't be a problem.
Egg collecting is something you will have to do every day. It's not a difficult chore but one that you must have time for each day. It won't actually do much harm if you did skip a day or two, but any eggs that have been sitting out for 48 hours or longer should not be consumed especially when its hot outside. Other than the egg collecting, the feeding and watering responsibilities with chickens isn't much different than with any other household pet.
So after taking into account both the positive and negative concerns associated with chickens, your next few steps involve the preliminary planning.
Your very first step will be to see if you are even allowed to have chickens in your residential area to begin with. These types of regulations will vary from city to city, and even different regions within the same city. Never assume that because someone else you know has chickens, that it's permitted for you to have them also.
In some cases, they are allowed without any particular fanfare but some cities require people get an official permit in order to register their chickens. There will almost certainly be a maximum number of chickens allowed, usually under a dozen but that will vary by area. Unfortunately, some cities have explicit bans on having any agricultural animals in the city, regardless of how few you want to keep.
To be realistic, most zoning issues are not enforced unless someone complains. If you are trying to sneak your chickens into the neighborhood, you must do your best to stay on your neighbors' good sides. That usually means forgoing a rooster, and sharing eggs. Even if your flock is permitted according to the bylaws, complaints to the city can still cause you problems.
Buying Your Flock
Once you've decided to go ahead with your chicken project, you'll need to find a source for your birds. Of course, you'll want to have your coop and pen built before any birds cross your doorstep but knowing where you are going to get them is an important first step. It's not like you can buy live chickens at Walmart.
People in the city may not know where to go to buy birds, since purchasing hens that are already at their laying age is the best way to get started. If you do know someone who is selling chickens, you will also need a way to transport them if you can't get them delivered. Cat carriers work well but you'll need about one for every 2 birds, depending on the size of the carriers.
You can actually order day-old chicks through the mail, if you don't mind having to take care of them. You need to be prepared to have them indoors in a warm area for around 2 months, so make sure to factor that into your decision. It does make your purchasing much simpler though, to have a box of cheeping chicks delivered right to your door. There are several poultry sellers and hatcheries that operate online, and you'll have your chicks almost immediately by expedited shipping.
So once you've tackled these two preliminary steps, you are on your way to the joys and challenges of chicken ownership.
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