You can raise chickens in urban and suburban areas to produce eggs, but there are a few important items to consider before you get started to prevent any issues with your neighbors or problems with your town. You will need to purchase the right type of chicken that is suitable for your part of the country and the amount of space you have. You will need to determine if you will let your chickens roam free or build a chicken coop and run to protect your hens and yard. This article will answer many of the questions you may have if you are considering raising your own chickens such as what types of food are safe for chickens to eat and where to go for chicken coops, do it yourself kits or plans. You will need to decide if you can have a rooster, but you don't need one to produce eggs. Also you will learn how to protect your chickens from predators.
Many families who live in suburban areas can raise chickens to produce eggs. There are a few important items to consider before you get started to prevent any issues with your neighbors or problems with your town. Chicks can be purchased from a local farm or online through distributors.
1. Check town ordinances and zoning laws
Many urban and suburban areas allow chickens, but the number may be limited, and in most cases roosters are prohibited since they are considered a nuisance. Before you purchase your chicks, verify that you are not breaking any rules raising chickens in your backyard. Many locales limit the number of chickens you can keep, you may also need to get a license or have someone come out and inspect your property before you can receive the chicks. Many places where you order chicks from may have a minimum order which may be over the limit you are allowed to keep, or there may be too many for the space you have available. Remember to get more than one bird; chickens are social so plan on at least 3 or 4 hens for the best results.
2. Forget the rooster
Roosters aren't allowed in most cities, even when hens are. Hens will lay eggs without a rooster, but when your order chicks, you may get a rooster in the batch. Online hatcheries allow you to specify the sex of the chicks for an additional charge and if you notice one of your hens is actually a rooster, you can find a home for it once it is 3-4 months old. While a rooster can offer protection, they can be aggressive, especially when you go to collect the eggs, and the will fertilize the laid eggs and you may have more chickens than you can handle.
Ordering chicks -
You will probably get chicks that are only a few days old and you will need to be there mother for a week or so until they can feed themselves. It is a big commitment in the beginning.
3. Build a coop
The chickens need shelter from the elements and you need to determine the size of the chicken coop. The more space chickens have, the more eggs they will lay. If chickens can roam freely, allow 4 square feet per bird, but if the chicken coop will be their only home, allow 10 square feet per bird. You can purchase prefabricated coops from online sellers, or you can build one yourself. On website that offers DIY chicken coop kits is Horizon Structures - http://www.horizonstructures.com/coop_landing.asp
Chicken coop plans - http://www.chickencoopplans123.com/
Chicken coop kits - http://www.chickencoopmart.com/
4. Keep the coop clean
It is best to keep the chicken coop clean to keep the birds healthy and reduce the smell. Depending on where you live you will need to keep you neighbors as happy as possible, so frequent cleaning will reduce the smell. Sweep out the coop once a week and add straw or litter. Clean out the coop completely once a month.
5. Compost chicken waste
You cannot add fresh chicken manure to your garden since it can kill plants. You can add the manure to a compost pile or bin and then add it to the garden after the yard and chicken waste has broken down.
6. Protect your chickens
Chickens are a favorite meal to many predators such as stray dogs, foxes, weasels, cats, and hawks. Keep digging pests out by burying hardware cloth up to 12 inches deep around the coop. Keep your chickens in a well fenced yard and make sure that they are back in their run at night.
Make sure you have pellet poultry feed for large chicken breeds on hand before you receive your chicks. Put the feed in a covered feeder and replace it regularly. Chickens will eat table scraps as well as tomatoes, apples and any baked items. Do not give your chickens onions and garlic, as it can alter the flavor the eggs. Chocolate, raw potatoes, and avocados are toxic to birds and do not let your chicken eat wet feed as they can get very sick.
8. Protect your yard
Chickens can quickly destroy your prized flower or vegetable beds and they tend to go to individual plants. They will eat grass, flowers, and anything else green, scratch the ground and make a mess of your yard so if you want to let your chicken roam around, plan on fencing in a chicken run so they can get some additional exercise while keeping the rest of your yard neat.
Once you get going you will notice times when you have more eggs than you can use. Check with your neighbors, family, and friends to see if they’d like any eggs from your hens. Invite people over to pick their own eggs if you’d like.