Over the past two decades, backyard chickens have become an increasingly common occurrence across America. Before purchasing chickens, here are five things you need to ask yourself.
Is Owning Chickens Legal in My Area?
Before taking into account other costs and fees associated with owning chickens, ensure that chickens are legal in your town or city. Legal municipal offices (or their websites) will provide information regarding the legality of chickens on your property and any restrictions (such as but not limited to Rooster ownership, how many chickens can be kept on the property).
Furthermore, if you live in a neighborhood with a Homeowners Association, make sure that chickens are approved by the sanctioning body. Additionally, while not required, it’s common courtesy to check with your neighbors to make sure they’re okay with chickens as it could affect the resale value of their house.
Do I Have Enough Space for Chickens?
According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, “Chickens are sociable, so plan to keep four to six birds. They’ll need space—at least 2 square feet of coop floor per bird. The more space, the happier and healthier the chickens will be; overcrowding contributes to disease and feather picking.” This should suffice for birds that will be kept in a coop part of the time. Those who will be kept in a coop long-term, need more space to prevent diseases and aggression amongst birds.
Outside the coop, “The birds will need a place to spread their wings, so to speak: a 20 x 5-foot chicken run, for example, or a whole backyard.” Roughly 10 square feet of space should be available for each chicken outside of their coop. If not given adequate space, chickens can become stressed and could potentially die. Making space considerations ahead of time will keep you, your chickens, and your yard happy and healthy.
How Much Money is This Going to Cost?
Chickens are a relatively low-cost animal from a maintenance perspective, but the start-up costs more than you’d think. A decent chicken coop starts around $200. There’s also costs such as feed and scratch, the cost of the chickens themselves, and any registration fees (if required by law to register your chickens).
Will Climate Affect the Breed I Want?
When choosing a breed, make sure the climate in which you’ll be raising them is suitable. For example, the Australorp is better for colder climates due to the thickness of their plume. To get a good idea of chickens that do well in your area, speak to other backyard chicken owners in your community. On top of making sure the breed is climate appropriate, make sure the breed you choose suits your needs. For example, if you want chickens for eggs, research terms such as “Best Backyard Chicken Egg Layers”.
Do I Have the Time & Resources to Commit to This?
Make sure you’re fully committed to putting forth all the effort necessary to take care of your chickens. While they are a relatively low-maintenance animal, they do require daily care and attention. Expect to dedicate roughly 30 minutes to an hour each day with your chickens for optimal results.
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to a healthy and happy flock!
Thinking of using chickens as a teaching/learning tool for kids? Read our blog post “Hatching Chickens: A Project for Kids” here.