Backyards Chickens: Easier Than You’d Think

Photo: Shutterstock

Photo: Shutterstock

As people are learning more and more about where food comes from, there has been a greater focus on the wellbeing of the animals that produce our food. It has become increasingly popular for people to raise their own chickens.

There are numerous benefits to these backyard creatures and you have the security of knowing you are benefiting from happy, healthy, antibiotic-free chickens.

Compared to other animals, chickens are relatively easy to take care of. They’re a great form of chemical-free pest control, and chicken waste is one of the world’s best fertilizers.

Eggs are one of the main reasons people raise chickens. It’s great to be able to enjoy and share the eggs with friends and family. The yolks of home-raised chicken eggs are a much richer yellow and have much better flavor than store-bought eggs.

Buy your chickens as young, day-old chicks. You will need to set up a safe space for them. The floor should contain pine shavings or corn cob bedding. This is especially important for chicks.

Baby chicks need to be kept warm with a warming light at 90-100 degrees F for the first week of their life. Every week, this temperature can decrease be about 5 degrees F. They will also need food and water. It is important that they are allowed some time to play and get used to their human owners. In addition, its good to remember that determining the sex of baby chickens is difficult. It is likely you will get a rooster in your bunch. Having a rooster could be illegal in your city.

Once they are adults, your chickens will need a coop. This should provide two to three square feet of space per chicken and be able to protect them from predators. Their space outside should have around four square feet per chicken. The chickens need regular food and water as well as treats in the form of vegetables, bread, or bugs.

While they don’t need a lot of space, your chickens will produce odors. Regular maintenance can mitigate some of this, but anyone who embarks in chicken ownership should know that while they are generally low-maintenance, their coop will need to be cleaned weekly in order to prevent disease. Chickens generate a lot of waste, and they can’t be house-trained or litter trained, so that waste will be everywhere they go.

If you have a dog, keep in mind that some dogs have a high prey drive and can chase and possibly catch your chickens if they’re not protected in their coop.

If you’re ready for the commitment and you have the space, backyard chickens can be a great addition to your urban garden.


About Alex Holt

I am a local artist from Brooklyn, NY. I love art, design, books, photography, gardening and blogging.
This entry was posted in gardening, Urban Farming and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Backyards Chickens: Easier Than You’d Think

  1. James Gielow says:

    I’ve never regretted having a small flock in my urban backyard. SO worth it, and once established, they actually can pay for themselves as well as return a nice profit. I did a years worth of averages and came up with the following numbers (in my SoCal area/market) as to the costs of having a small backyard flock.

    There are also some workarounds for the weekly cleaning schedule you’ve mentioned above. Deep litter method is a good one. It also produces quite a bit of rich compost afterwards if you have the need for that. My own design for the coop is a loft style which makes poop cleanup a ten minute chore. I built in Google SketchUp first to work out all the quirks. Here it is if you’re interested…

    And lastly, I spent some time training my dog to protect the chickens instead of hunting them. It takes a little patience, but is totally doable with ANY breed of dog. Now there is an amazing harmony in my little urban jungle and my husky protects the girls with great fervor and sweetness. I adore my current set up. Here’s the method I used for the training.

    Sorry to blast you with so many links, I thought maybe your readers might get some use out of them. I look forward to following your blog, it looks awesome!


    Post script: You’ll only really get the orange yolks if your flock is getting special nutrition. If they don;t have access to large grassy areas to graze all day long, they’ll have yellow yolks just like store bought eggs. If you have a smaller run, you can feed them dark greens like kale and then you’ll get the deep orange yolks and additional nutrients. Even organic layers pellets don’t have enough to make the yolks very orange.

    • Alex Holt says:

      Wow, thanks for your comment and for all the great information! My sister lived on a (rural) farm for a while, and her chickens always laid eggs with orange yolks, but I guess that was, like you said, because they had a good deal of grass and insects to eat, as well as what they got fed.

      • James Gielow says:

        My pleasure! Yes, the farm grazing is why. In my urban backyard, there’s not much to graze on. During the warmer months, I give them greens from the garden and the yolks begin to deepen in color. Winter is tougher for me to provide the same level of nutrients so they yellow out again. Kitchen scraps help though.

        I’ve been thinking about starting another compost pile in their run so they can forage for more nutrition while turning my compost for me. But that’s another project. And I’m already three projects behind. Never enough time it seems…

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