Raising Chickens in Cities and Suburbs: An Overview
More people are seeking out locally sourced food products, and nothing is as local as your own backyard. That’s part of the trend driving the urban and suburban chicken movement. While there are no exact statistics on the number of backyard flocks, the numbers have grown tremendously since 2013, when the USDA estimated that 0.6% of all households excluding single-family homes of one acre or more kept chickens.
While interest in raising backyard chickens has been growing for years, COVID-19 accelerated the trend. Food shortages became reality. People wanted to live more sustainably. There’s also the fact that raising chickens is fun!
Before You Start
Before purchasing chickens, make sure your city or town permits the keeping of fowl. Many urban municipalities allow a certain number of hens, but roosters are generally forbidden. Roosters make an incredible amount of noise, starting in the wee hours of the morning. Some are known to crow all day long, which virtually guarantees that neighbors will complain.
If you want to raise chicks, a rooster is a necessity. But if your goal is solely to produce eggs, you don't need one. Your hens will lay eggs without a rooster. In fact, you're better off without a rooster, as the eggs your hen lays will be infertile (which is what you want). To avoid the random rooster in your flock, consider acquiring sexed chicks, which are sorted according to whether they are pullets (females) or cockerels (males).
Backyard Poultry Benefits
Besides knowing your food source, keeping backyard poultry can be a lot of fun. Your chickens are entertaining and lively, and can also provide great fertilizer for gardening efforts. Additionally, if you have kids, helping to take care of chickens gives them a sense of responsibility and a first-hand lesson about where eggs come from.
Finally, when you properly care for your chickens, they will return the favor. Some hens can produce up to 300 eggs per year, so share your bounty with friends and neighbors!
Know the Downsides
As is the case with the care and feeding of any animal, there are downsides, one if which is predators. Raccoons, foxes, and other urban wildlife will stop at nothing for a chicken meal. Domestic dogs, such as your beloved Fido, could also be an issue; canines tend to kill for sport rather than food.
Raising chickens is also time-consuming and expensive. Chicken-raising "must haves" include a secure coop and run, nest boxes and appropriate food and nutrition. They also require daily feeding, watering and exercise, not to mention egg collection. Their coops need to be cleaned out weekly, and the birds checked for parasites, wounds or infections. If you have a busy lifestyle, caring for chickens might not be the best path for you or your family.
The Chicken Connection
Like gardening, keeping backyard chickens connects us to the natural world and to the ways of our ancestors. If you have the room, time and money, caring for and raising urban poultry can be fun, educational and provide plenty of fresh, tasty eggs.
To ensure that your feathered friends remain lively and healthy, check out petsonbroadway.com for a wide range of food and nutritional items.
Curious to learn more about keeping domesticated chickens? Check out the Humane Society's blog here or reach out to your local chicken community via a forum here.