Urban Chickens

Are you thinking of getting a hen (or a few) for your urban backyard? Here are some things to consider.

Urban chickens are a great, low-cost, outdoor pet that give city dwellers fresh, natural eggs. They eat pests like cockroaches, aphids and mice, and their feces is a great source of natural fertilizer for your garden. Chickens also have individual personalities and are great pets. If you can’t keep indoor animals, chickens are a great altenative- plus, they give you food! But some cities and towns don’t allow chickens. These birds can be loud, smelly and noisy. They can annoy the neighbors (but a couple of fresh, yummy eggs or a bucket of natural fertilizer for their garden can change their mind). A rooster can keep you awake or wake you (and neighbors, both next door and a couple of blocks away).

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The pros much outweigh the cons. A good coop, limited number of hens and frequent cleaning can keep your yard more appealing. Roosters aren’t needed to produce eggs- just chicks. But if you decide to purchase young chicks, it is hard to tell the gender, so you may end up with a rooster or two. If your town does not allow chickens, you can speak out to and alderman or city council about allowing the keeping of chickens. Also, some towns do not allow chicken raisers to slaughter their chickens or use them for meat.

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You must decide upon a breed and a number of chickens to purchase. Smallers breeds could be better suited to city life. Many breeds come in a ‘bantam’ size- which is a smaller size than the regular chickens. Also keep in mind whether your chickens will need to be hardy in extreme heat or extreme cold. Some good breeds include the: Buff Orpington (comes in both large and bantam and is hardy in the cold), Rhode Island Red(also hardy in the cold), Barred Plymouth Rock (both are used for meat and egg laying and have a good temper), or the Cochin Bantam (a great layer as well as a friendly pet). It will be easier to begin with a smaller number of chickens. Your yard may not be able to hold a large amount of hens either. Between 2 and 5 chickens will usually be a good number. You must also find a local vet who will treat livestock or chickens.

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Next you must either buy or build a chicken coop. These do not come cheap and usually cost at least 500 dollars. mypetchicken.com has a page with ready made coops to buy as well as plans to build your own coop. The “Green Roof” coop is relatively small (4×4x4) and could be a good choice. urbanchickens.org also has some plans for coops and some tips about how to find the right coop to build or buy. Remember to line the floor with pine wood chips (not cedar which can be toxic) and clean at least once a week.

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Other great tips can be found in these websites:








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User Comments
  1. Farmfresh

    On February 23, 2011 at 1:53 am

    Other things to consider with urban chickens are predator and pest control.

    Even big cities can be home to chicken predators like raccoons, opossums and worst of all neighbor dogs. Be sure your coop provides good predator protection, especially for the night time when many predators are most active.

    Also living in the city demands extra diligent PEST control. Fly traps are a good idea as is bait traps for rodents. Rodents exist no matter where you live and dogs probably cause more fly problems, but in a city it is the chicken that will be blamed. Let’s beat them at their own game!

    Also housing costs can be significantly reduced by purchasing a professional building plan for your coop and then building it yourself. That is what I did! A good plan will have lots of pictures and step by step instructions.

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