Making the commitment to have chickens in an urban backyard takes some research, some convincing of family and neighbors and alot of anticipation and enjoyable preparation. I will tackle the topic of chickens in several blogs as there is much to know about how to keep a healthy flock successfully in the city. First I want to discuss the “why chickens” question.
Chickens in an urban setting have several purposes other than just the enjoyment of watching their antics in the yard. Chickens eat a lot of bugs (both good and bad bugs). They patrol the yard and clean up all the creepy crawlies. They spend alot of time mowing the grass and if you let them they will eat some of the veggies and dig up the beds a little bit. Keeping them moving around is the key to not having much damage done. The chicken manure and bedding is an essential additive to the compost making process as it adds the nutrients to the compost to elimate the need to use commercial fertilizers. I feed the chickens all my yard weeds, rather than putting them directly in the compost, which eliminates the weed seeds producing more weeds in the compost pile. Chickens love anything green.
There is something about working in the yard surrounded by chickens also working in the yard that makes the chores all the more enjoyable. If you raise your flock from chicks and handle them a lot they are pets who are constantly following you around and want to be picked up and have their backs scratched. Every time I turn the compost pile, I am constantly moving them aside as they are in the middle of the process eating the redworm profits. My son loves to hang out with the chickens and collect the eggs. They have gotten him outside away from the tv set and we share quality time together planting, investigating the bug activity and he likes to feed the chickens by dangling a worm tied to a stick (fishing), without the hook.
Before taking the plunge to buy chicks at IFA there is a lot of prep work and research to be done. First step is to check your local ordinances about the legality of owning chickens in your yard. Make sure you verify the legality, the boundary distances of coop to other houses and the number of chickens you can legally own. Roosters are generally not allowed in the urban setting and you don’t need a rooster for anything other than if you want fertilized eggs to hatch. Hens lay eggs without any need of a rooster. I have a friend who spent a lot of time, effort and ethusiasm building a beautiful little coop but then discovered she cannot legally have chickens. She is hoping a petition effort will change the ordinance so she can continue her chicken adventure.
My neighbors love watching the chickens and I regularly give them eggs to enjoy. They in turn keep and eye on the coop when I am not home (to keep that Husky of mine honest), and they give me their kitchen and yard waste for my compost.
Many people have expressed skepticism to me about there being any difference between store bought eggs and fresh eggs. I have converted many people to my eggs just by giving them a dozen. There is a huge difference in taste, texture and nutrition between backyard eggs and the store bought eggs. No comparison.
If you are still interested in pursuing chickens, I will discuss chicken coop and pen construction to be ready for the new arrivals. Stay tuned.