Backyard Chicken Keeping Programs

Backyard chicken keeping is a growing practice among city and suburb dwellers seeking fresh foods and pets.

Benefits & Problems Addressed

Fresh, natural food: Chickens are raised primarily for eggs. Chickens keep down pest and weed populations, and provide fertilizer.

Chickens as pets: Chickens are easy pets with personality.

Programming for success: A local program with clear regulatory framework and supportive programs helps citizens successfully raise chickens with minimal conflicts.

Tips & Techniques

Chicken keeping rules: Check first to see if chicken keeping is allowed in your city, town and homeowner association. If so, determine what rules and restrictions apply.  Common rules include (1) chickens only - no roosters; (2) properties where allowed or prohibited (usually by zoning code designation), (3) maximum number of birds; (4) fencing, run and coop design and location, (5) sanitation rules, (6) fees, permits and enforcement. In some instances there may be neighbor consultations required and/or conditional use permits that must be renewed annually based on a successful inspection.

Getting started: For a local program, check with your local USDA Extension office for materials. Work with them to design programs for your climate and built environment. This extends to coop styles, chicken breeds, feed, manure management, and predators. Make sure local veterinarians offer care for chickens.

Growing a local program:  Create a community of households with backyard chickens. This creates a local support and information group, and a network for hen care while owners are on vacation (chickens still continue to lay eggs). These larger groups have buying power for feed and hatchlings. Also check with local animal shelters to see if they receive chickens that can be adopted. 

Selling eggs: Egg sales prompt additional health and sanitation rules. 

Hot Buttons: Noise, odor and pests are the most common concerns among neighbors. The sex of chicks may not be discernible until after delivery, leaving owners with roosters they cannot keep.

Resources comprehensive website with data base of local ordinances

Image: Unsplash