owning city chickens: with valuable information like, did you know that hens don’t need roosters to make eggs?

April 23, 2012

Hi friends!


Please note: This post is for Arianne because she’s very bossy when she’s packing to move and she wants to know all about our chicken-owning.

Also please note:  Just Write will be up tomorrow morning and in case you missed it, there’s something new and different and exciting happening this week. In short, you get to link up in two places so your words can be read by more eyes. Coolio.

Now. For the chickens. BAWK!!!

I have fallen in love with three. One black, one brown, one yellow–all hens. We have a semi-large fenced backyard and we’re turning the play house that the boys never use into a coop. At first our baby chicks live in a really big plastic bin (you know, the kind of bin Arianne is packing her family’s belongings in to move across country). We got all three chicks, a feeder and water-er, wood chips for bedding and baby chicken feed at a local farm store. Grand total? $25.

I had no idea what was needed for a coop, but basically all you need is an enclosed space with a separate little nesting area for each bird. (These can be purchased or (in my opinion) easily built. We’re DIY-ers over here because we love the saving of the money, but if you aren’t, pre-made coops are available at many stores.) The May issue of Mother Earth magazine has chicken coop designs and layouts and more information about owning chickens.  There are also a gazillion varieties of coops on a very chicken-informative site called Backyard Chickens.

Did you know that you can buy three female chickens and they will fill your life with free eggs even if they don’t have a rooster living with them?

That’s totally rad.

(Roosters are needed for creating more baby chicks, but not for eggs that don’t turn into baby chicks. Sense?)

I don’t really want a rooster because one chased my sister and pecked her and pecked her when we were kids and we’re both rooster-traumatized. I realize not all roosters are Attack Roosters, but seriously people–PTRD, Post Traumatic Rooster Disorder–we have it.


Another thing that I’m learning about baby chicks is that they really will ask you “Are you my Mommy?” if you’re not careful. I didn’t realize this so now our chickens think I’m their mommy. So basically, I have six kids now. Which is fine because chickens are just about the easiest kids you ever could have. They need food and water and a place to cuddle up and nest (yes, chickens cuddle. duh.) but that’s about it.


Are You My Mommy?

So. Since our chicks are addicted to me, I’m slowly weaning them. By that I mean nothing about breastfeeding THANK GOD…but rather, I’m teaching the chicks that they can be in the far end of the yard and NOT follow me back to the house to stare in the sliding glass door, keeping an eye on me. I mean, it’s cute and everything, but these chickens need to learn about independence. I mean, they will grow up to not even need a rooster for eggs so it’s their calling. You know, to be total feminist poultry. (By “teaching them” I mean that I put them really far away and then wait for them to be distracted and then I run away as softly as I can all sneaky-like.)

There is actually so much more to know about chickens than I ever imagined but that doesn’t make owning them complicated. There are plenty of good websites out there to have your questions answered:

My Year With Chickens: What You Should Know Before Getting Chickens at treehugger.com

Owning Chickens at Little House Farm

Backyard Chickens

Now. For some random things I’ve learned that you cannot NOT learn or your life won’t be very full:

  • It’s not easy to tell the difference between an egg-layer and a bird raised for meat while at the store or farm. Be sure to ask a knowledgeable person that works at the farm store or on the farm where you’re buying your chickens.
  • There are different ordinances in different cities. Some do not allow backyard chickens at all, and some, like ours, allow up to a certain number of chickens. Here? It’s, you guessed it, THREE. (This is true of most cities.)
  • Chickens can carry salmonella and other yucky germs but this isn’t something to live your life around. I wouldn’t recommend allowing a child to eat right after handling the chickens without hand-washing, but for the most part, if using common sense, I believe owning chickens is terribly safe. (Please tell my mother that.)
  • Chickens aerate your yard with their pecking little beaks and they fertilize your yard with their yucky little poops.
  • Chickens eat ticks and other annoying bugs LIKE MOSQUITOS!
  • Watching chickens strut around pecking and flapping will make you feel more peaceful.
  • And last but not at all least…if you have children THEY WILL LOVE THEIR CHICKENS! (read: hours of entertainment that will occupy your otherwise “I’m booooored” children. Enough said. (currently the boys love digging up worms and bringing them to the chicks. See? FUN.)
That’s it. Any questions?


Jacki April 23, 2012 at 11:11 am

We have been contemplating raising chickens and the kids were just asking us yesterday if we were ever going to get chickens. Perhaps their well-timed questioning and your well-timed post is the universe saying to just do it already.
Jacki recently posted..5 “Must See’s” When Traveling With Kids – Twin Cities Edition

pamela April 23, 2012 at 11:24 am

It is superty good to pay attention to the zoning laws in your town or city. Ours are VERY unclear, so I went straight to the Zoning Officer two (maybe 3?) years ago, and lucky us, we are allowed to have chickens!

Except for they changed their minds four weeks ago, and now we are waiting to be a) arrested or b) summonsed to court, because I refused to get rid of my chickens after we had been granted permission to have them. (The zoning officer even told me that we could have a milk cow or goats when I asked permission for chickens.)

Aside: my attorney looks like a classy, lawyerly version of Mr. Clean.
pamela recently posted..so that happened.

Brandee Shafer April 23, 2012 at 11:32 am

My dad would be so thrilled to learn that a woman of my generation is reading Mother Earth..even though it’s not me.
Brandee Shafer recently posted..On Judging Others

Sara April 23, 2012 at 11:55 am

Wonderful post! As a former backyard chicken owner, I found this accurate and useful, especially for the newbie urban farmer. Gathering fresh eggs is such a treat.
Sara recently posted..One is silver and the other’s gold

Elaine April 23, 2012 at 1:56 pm

Oh man, I want the eggs but not really the chickens. We’ve been trying to convince one of our friends in town to do this. I think I’ll send her a link to your post! ;)
Elaine recently posted..I’m Really Doing This & MEM

Sabrina April 23, 2012 at 3:10 pm

I love that you have chickens!! I grew up with chickens and I handled them all the time, and they are very safe from germy stuff. We really really really want to get chickens for our backyard so I am totally jealous right now!! Have fun!!!
Sabrina recently posted..Monday Monday!

kendal April 23, 2012 at 3:51 pm

we’re raising hens for the firs ttime, too! looks like ours are about the same age. they’re at what i call the 6th grade age – they look terrible and run everywhere. we live int he country, so we have an enclosed coop to save them from coyotes, foxes, raccoons, hawks….i love my girls (we have 6). i feel so proud of them that they learned to use their ramp to the house portion of their coop. and they are able to fly up onto their roost….i like them way better than i did the pigs we raised last summer. and, unlike the pigs, these are keepers!
kendal recently posted..a skirted topic (part 1)

tracy@sellabitmum April 23, 2012 at 4:50 pm

My husband wants chickens. I’m afraid the cats will get them. But the eggs sound good! Dang they are cute. xo
tracy@sellabitmum recently posted..Teaching Your Kids The Fine Art of Stalking

Arianne April 23, 2012 at 6:48 pm

I’m currently on an air mattress because my house is empty and we board a plane in the morning to our new life. My 9 year old just said “when I sit here on this mattress, I really feel homeless.” Oh, have I mentioned I passed on the emo gene? And that I just typed “jean” at first?

OK. I am SO HAPPY that you wrote about the baby chicks!!! I’m off to read those links because I need to seriously decompress from the fact that today was making me off the charts anxious. I know you know. So yay chickens! <3
Arianne recently posted..On Expecting Perfection and Finding Freedom Instead

Alison@Mama Wants This April 23, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I live in an apartment so my dream of having backyard chickens will have to wait. But I love the idea of a) they entertain children for hours and b) the chickens will think I’m their Mom!!
Alison@Mama Wants This recently posted..The Second Time

Gianna April 23, 2012 at 9:09 pm

I am so getting the chicken bug and this post is TOTALLY NOT helping me thankyouverymuch!

You make me smile.

I think my husband is burning my pizza now, so I better go check on it because I do NOT want burned pizza! BLECH!
Nightmare! And now I’m wasting time!

So I didn’t write about words, can I still link up to JUST WRITE and 5 for 5?
Gianna recently posted..How to Get Caught In the Rain

Ann April 23, 2012 at 9:28 pm

You could make anyone want chickens. I bet you’ve heard that thousands of times.
Ann recently posted..The Accidental Directress

marlowe April 23, 2012 at 9:33 pm

We’ve loved having chickens for a few years too. It’s good to see more urban chicken owners :)

Kelly April 23, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Raising chickens has been an awesome experience, but be warned — you’ll always be their mama. My grown hen taps on the glass for me all day long. I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Kelly recently posted..The Shift

Stacey April 24, 2012 at 7:04 am

Brilliant! We love our chooks.
And yes, I feel you about the 6 children point!

Jenn April 24, 2012 at 8:02 am

We’re jumping on the hen bandwagon. I’ve got 12 Rhode Island Reds coming May 8th.
Jenn recently posted..Scavenger Hunt~ 04/22/12

Elizabeth April 25, 2012 at 11:43 am

We’ve been having so much fun with our chickens (you can have 4 in Madison), too. We got them as 1yr olds so they’re already laying. None of this delayed gratification business for us. ;)

I am enjoying them so much more than I thought I would.

Meagan @ The Happiest Mom April 25, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Sigh. I want chickens. In our tiny little town, we aren’t allowed to have them! A middle school girl actually fought the city council on it, but lost. :(
Meagan @ The Happiest Mom recently posted..What’s your parenting Achilles’ heel?

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