Raising chickens in your backyard is a fine combination of laws and space. Here are some ideas that you can use to get around the difficulties and get some fresh eggs and the joys of chickens in your backyard.
1. Learn the laws.
Many cities are beginning to loosen up the standards regarding "livestock" in the city- particularly poultry. Call your city offices and ask them what the limitations are. Where I am living now, the law is four backyard fowl; that includes chickens, ducks, geese, or any other livestock bird that isn't considered a pet such as a parrot. So, if we lived in the city limits, we could have one duck, one goose, and two chickens or any combination not greater than four. Generally, the further away from the city center you are, the more relaxed the guidelines are.
2. Talk with other urban owners and ask them which breeds they are housing and how they do it.
There is no better way to figure out what will work best for you than by finding out what has worked well for others. Individuals that have raised tiny backyard flocks inside the city limits often know the best way to protect against predators, the best breeds for your area, and the best way to keep your hens quiet and smooth over any problems with neighbors. Getting out there and meeting up with them is the best way to be successful.
3. Pick your breeds.
Some chickens are far better suited for city living than others. We have always had Rhode Island Reds and Buff Orpingtons. When we lived in California in the city limits we had one of each. Two birds was more than enough for the limited space we had available and they were quite happy. Bear in mind that many of the larger breeds have "bantam" versions that are half the size or smaller. Though you may not want to get too many of them, and you'll want to keep in mind that bantam's are not always up to the laying level of the full-sized bird, they are certainly an excellent option for those who may be living in an even smaller space such as an apartment or townhouse.
4. Build your coop and build it well.
Living in the city does not necessarily protect you, your pets or your chickens from the threats of wild animals. Many cities have problems with raccoons or opossums, and some have trouble with bigger animals such as coyotes or even bears. These threats can get into your yard and wreak havoc in your coop. Even though your coop is contained in your backyard, it is just as important to keep it strong and secure as it would be on a farm. It must also conform to the standards of any coop; plenty of space, well ventilated, nesting boxes, places to roost, etc.
5. Give them a place to roam.
Even in our backyard, our chickens had places they could scratch and peck. Being able to indulge in these instinctual activities is what makes for happy and healthy hens.
6. Get good food.
And keep it from getting damp. Do a little research on your food and have some already there for your hens before they arrive. The sooner you get them into a routine, the sooner they will begin laying and be happy. Feeding them dry and nutritious food is the best way to get them started.
7. Keep everything clean.
This is critical no matter where you are but even more so if you're living in the city limits. Muck out (shovel the poo out) your coop every one to two weeks. Clean off nesting boxes and replace shavings, clean off roosting poles... Keeping things clean will keep your chickens healthy, you healthy and continue a healthy relationship with your neighbors.
One of the most important aspects of raising backyard chickens that many people forget about is neighbors. If they complain to the city, you can kiss your backyard flock goodbye, so stay on their good side. Avoid roosters; your hens will lay without one, and share the eggs. Once your hens really get laying, often times you will find yourself with an egg surplus. Share them with your neighbors. The idea of having truly free-range and organic eggs for FREE will often smooth over a number of insults and injuries and keeps your neighborhood happy.
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