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At one point, raising chickens was synonymous with country living. If you lived in a rural area, you had at least a few chickens pecking and scratching in your backyard. Now, chickens are seen as a first step to becoming self-sufficient, offering an introduction to farming no matter where you live. If you live in the suburbs or even in the city, you can raise chickens, too – just keep these tips in mind.
Predators still exist
While there may be fewer natural predators in the city than in rural areas, you will still have to contend with the fact that they still exist. We once gave a starter flock of chickens to some friends of ours who live right in the middle of a busy town. They wanted to teach their young son about the circle of life and, of course, have a fresh supply of eggs every day.
Great idea in theory, but what neither of us factored in was that predators are just as big of a concern in town as they are out in the woods. Because their chicken coop wasn’t guarded against predators, they quickly lost their flock to a mystery predator. When you live in the city, you still have to contend with scavengers like rats and raccoons, as well as other predators like dogs, cats, and hawks.
To get around this, keep your flock contained during the day in a covered run. You can let them out to free range when you’re there to watch them, but keeping your birds fenced in will help keep predators out and also prevent your birds from wandering out of sight.
Remember that some animals, like raccoons, can be difficult to control because they are incredibly intelligent. They can open basic doors and can create large holes in chicken wire. Use spring-loaded locks on all your doors, and make sure your run is heavily protected.
They will be noisy
Even if you don’t have roosters, chickens are still incredibly loud. Sure, roosters get all the credit for their early morning alarm clock services, but hens can be quite chatty, too – particularly when they’re fighting to get in the nest boxes. You likely already have plenty of noise pollution if you’re living in the city, so know that chickens will only add to it.
Free-ranging might be limited
If you live in the city, your chickens will undoubtedly have less space than they would in the countryside – that’s just a fact you’ll need to contend with. They’ll have fewer plants and insects to eat, which might mean they go after your garden or other areas of your lawn time after time. While you want a little bit of manure to fertilize your lawn, you probably don’t want it to become a cesspool of chicken poop, either.
Restricting your birds to a smaller area in your backyard can help prevent some of the more unpleasant side effects of free-ranging. While you can let your chickens out of this area occasionally, keeping them in an established area will help prevent them from running amok in the downtown area, and also keep your lawn in okay shape. This way, they can’t completely destroy your lawn or get lost, but they also get some of the benefits of free-ranging on grass and insects.
Research your zoning laws
Most cities and towns in the United States don’t allow roosters to be part of an urban flock, and many have limits on how many hens you can own, too. This isn’t just to cut down on noise – too many roosters in a city also increases the likelihood of raising the birds for illegal cockfighting.
It’s an unfortunate reality that you likely won’t be able to keep roosters if you live in a city. Roosters offer so many benefits to a flock, from engaging in predator control to fertilizing eggs, but you can definitely raise chickens without a rooster.
There’s a good chance that you will accidentally end up with a rooster when you purchase chicks from a hatchery. It is incredibly difficult to sex baby chicks so you might end up needing to rehome the bird if you find out your Pamela is a Paul. Make sure you research your hatchery’s specific restrictions in regards to returning birds because some offer free exchanges if you end up with a rooster when you paid for only hens.
Know that it might be illegal
In some cities, raising chickens is illegal altogether. While these local ordinances are restrictive and, frankly, frustrating, they usually are put into place to cut down on noise and smell. It might be tempting to ignore the law and raise chickens anyway, but keep in mind that if you are caught, you could be forced to find a new home for all of the birds within a limited period of time. At the very least, you’ll have to pay a hefty fine.
Some cities also require you to obtain permits and pay fees for raising chickens. If you’re raising chickens simply to cut down on grocery costs, these fees may limit your success in doing that.
Limit your numbers
As I already mentioned, many cities place caps on how many chickens you can own. Most set these restrictions at twenty-five, which is more than enough if you are only raising your birds for eggs, but some may limit you to only five or six.
There just isn’t room for huge flocks of poultry in the city. They begin to stink, and there’s also a higher likelihood of your birds picking up diseases. Work with the limits your city has devised, and don’t try to stress the capacity of your backyard by surreptitiously adding more birds.
Make sure you talk to your neighbors about your decision to purchase chickens before you pull the trigger. While most people will be supportive about your efforts to become more environmentally friendly and get back to your roots, not all will appreciate the fact that you have a dozen new feathered friends roaming around your backyard.
Make sure you take the time to answer your neighbor’s questions and address their concerns. Open communication is key, as it will prevent potential conflicts down the road. And if that doesn’t work, remember that a dozen eggs here and there is always a good tool at helping you to smooth things over!
Consider a few space-saving tricks
If you live in the city, you’re probably not surrounded by acres of open space. Therefore, you need to get a bit creative. The chicken farming industry is experiencing an explosion in functional, attractive backyard chicken coops, and it’s easy to purchase or build one of these beauties yourself.
You only need about three square feet per chicken in a coop and ten square feet in a run. This will be plenty of space to ensure that your chickens have room to roam and don’t become stinky. Rembmer that you only need about one nest box for every three hens, and if you build a portable coop and run, you can move it around the yard whenever they wear down the land in one spot.
Some people even place the runs underneath the coop to save extra space. This has added benefits in that it provides good air circulation if you include grates, and it also prevents rotting. You can install a hanging feeder and waterer to help save even more space inside the tiny coop.
Embrace the benefits
Is raising chickens in the city a bit of a pain? Sure. I sit worth it? Absolutely. If you decide to raise your own flock, you will gain access to all the amazing benefits that raising chickens provides – even if you live in the heart of a metropolitan area.
Raising chickens in the city is somewhat easier in that you will have so many connections to neighbors, friends, and family seeking affordable, delicious, and nutritious homegrown eggs. You can sell those eggs for a pretty penny, or keep them all to yourself to help reduce your grocery bills.
Not only that, but you can also feed your chickens any leftovers or kitchen scraps you might have, reducing the amount of waste your household contributes to the landfill and potentially reducing your trash disposal fees. You’ll be rewarded with rich, fertile compost that you can then use on your garden or potted plants.
There’s no better introduction to farming than by raising chickens. Even if you’re confined to the city limits, know that you, too, can start a flock with relative ease.
What other tips do you have for raising chickens in the city? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to follow us on Instagram (@jrpiercefamilyfarm) and Pinterest (J&R Pierce Family Farm). Thanks for stopping by!