In 2005, my neighbor ordered twelve small, light brown and blue chicken eggs from an online auction. Each day she and her son diligently turned the eggs, with as much care as a mother hen. After 21 days, the chicks hatched from the bantam-sized eggs. The mother and son were able to keep six of the chicks, but needed to find a home for the others. At the time, I knew little about chickens, but I was up for the new hobby when they asked.
I had to do several things to prepare for my chicks. I checked on the city ordinances to be sure that chickens were allowed and found chickens are allowed in many cities. You can check most city ordinances at www.municode.com. Then, I built a 3’— 4′ coop from reused materials. Inside, I arranged a perch, nesting box, light bulb, water dispenser, and chicken feed dispenser. I also read one book about backyard chickens. That was it! The hard work was over.
Once set up, I gave my chickens roughly five minutes of care each day. I filled the feed, changed the water and brought them my vegetable scraps each day before work. During weekends away, the chickens were fine without care. On sunny, summer days I let the hens wander in my yard. They relished the chance to dust their feathers in the dirt or scratch in the garden for bugs. The added benefit to my labor was, in the summer months, up to twenty small, brown and blue eggs each week. Finding the eggs in the nest box each morning reminded me that I was “providing” for my household in a very tangible way.
After two years of chicken-ownership, I moved from a house into an apartment on a busy street. I gave my chickens to my landlord and her daughter to chase and play with in their own yard. I often miss my chickens and look forward to the time when I can start a new flock. Chickens in the city may not be revolutionary, but they do teach us city-folk a lot about animal behavior, animal care, and food production. And they are fun, funny, and easy to boot. Read a few of these books or websites and you’ll be ready to start.
Hen and the Art of Chicken Maintenance: Reflections on Keeping Chickens, by M. Gordon, The Lyons Press, 2004.
Keep Chickens!: Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces, by B. Kilarski, Storey Publishing, 2003.
Chickens in Your Backyard: A Beginner’s Guide, by R. Luttman & G. Luttman, Rodale Press, 1976.
Living with Chickens: Everything You Need to Know to Raise Your Own Backyard Flock, by J. Rossier, The Lyons Press, 2002.
Organic Chicken Feed:
Stillwater Farm Store
401 South Main St.
Stillwater, MN, 651-439-6143