backyard chickens, anyone?
We've always found keeping chickens to be relatively problem free, if you don't get too upset when a few just die for no apparent reason or one starts pecking the rest to death, again for no apparent reason. And if you want laying hens, do your best to make sure a rooster doesn't come with the flock (this usually only happens by accident, though). Roosters will most likely drive you batty (I hate roosters unless they're little bantys) and they'll dampen your good experience with the hens.

Do you have a dog, though, is the big question. What we've found is that if you have a dog, who is safe with the birds of course, that predators really aren't as much of a problem. My theory is that if your four-legged friend is running all around the yard at least a couple times a day, spreading his/her scent, the raccoons (I could be wrong but I think this guy is chicken enemy #1, at least at our house) and other predators seem to stay away. Also, don't stress about the birds and overdo. While really helpful and necessary, the books and the Internet will make you crazy. Chickens do really well if you just follow a few good rules about food and water, and also temperature when they're chicks, otherwise let them roam and enjoy. And for us anyway, they stay right within sight of their coop, no need to worry about them wandering off if you don't keep them fenced in all the time, or maybe we just got lucky. Oh, man, now I miss our chickens! (We moved and now live in the dreaded sub-division, where they frown upon these things)

Edited to add: we found the best breeds were either Barred Rocks or Rhode Island Reds. Both lay brown eggs. Oh and have fun!
Chickens are very easy to take care of.  They are very hardy animals.  Our "turken" was attacked by 2 pit bulls and made a full a fast recovery despite being 50% skinned and defeathered.

Like others have said, cats aren't a problem - you just need to worry about stranger-dogs and raccoons.  And hawks.

I've had good luck with mail order chicks but if you want to be safe, feed stores will sell them to you.

Oh and the type of breed makes a difference.  Some are prolific layers.  Some only give you little ping pong sized eggs.  Some lay chocolate brown eggs.  Some lay blue-green eggs.  Some are good moms.  Some are bad moms.

My advice, look for a breed that is a good layer and a crappy mom otherwise you are going to feel horrible every time you "steal" her "babies."

Also, check your local laws if you live in the city.  We're allowed to keep 5 (I think) and we are actually allowed to have a rooster so long as it is housed 100 feet away from neighbors (which is doable but I have no interest in eating fertile eggs.)

edited to add:  chicken coop blueprints can be had if you are handy.  Otherwise, check craigslist for chicken housing.  Coops and runs can be really expensive.


Try this link for small poultry flocks.    There are a number of on-line articles here that should answer any question you have.
buff orpingtons are the ones that people like for decent laying around here.

One of the families from school trades their eggs for my milk - and they have a chicken tractor. It's in their veg. garden, and adds a different perspective daily.

(06-02-2009, 08:45 AM)WhollyRoaminCatholic Wrote: has good tips as well. 

Funny that this topic came up today.  Yesterday, one of the biggest cities in my part of the Kansas City suburbs rejected keeping suburban chickens. (  It's a total crock with totally made-up rationale.

...and then they came for the chicken farmers...


How are chickens any more unsanitary than cats or dogs?  I'd rather see a cute chicken scratching in my garden than my neighbors mustachioed cat crapping in it.
(06-02-2009, 02:48 AM)SouthernCross Wrote: I have all of a sudden become very interesting in having a couple of hens in our back yard for environmental reasons.  It would be nice to have them eat our vegetable scraps, and add nutrients to our very sandy soil, and provide us with eggs. 

However, I know nothing about keeping chickens.  We have a smallish back yard with some mulching and plants and a bit of lawn.  I figure we would have a small shelter for them to nest but let them free otherwise.

Does anyone have any experience with household chickens?  How do you get them in the first place?  Does this sound feasable for our situation?

There is a fairly informative book called "How to raise chickens." It is a good start.
I'd like to keep some but dh is less than enthused. My friend has 25. Well, 24 and a rooster. When you order your chicks they always include a rooster chick as it keeps the hen chicks calmer (?) So know that if you order your chicks as opposed to buying them locally you need to be prepared to slaughter the rooster before he starts crowing or find him a home. Keeping a couple chickens in a suburban neighborhood isn't bad (assuming zoning laws allow it) but roosters are another story. No suburbaite appreciates a 4:30AM wake-up call from your rooster. If you have surplus eggs you can sell them. Around here a dozen 'free range' eggs go for $2/dz
Oh yes, and you need to think about predators. IME, the number 1 cause of death for backyard chickens are local critters.
Here we need to worry about dogs, hawks, fox, raccoons and coyote. Chickens need to be put up in a very secure chicken house/coop every night.
We are coming on winter now in the southern hemisphere.  Our fence is solid and quite high so completely private.  I have only heard a cat in our backyard a couple times in the past almost 4 years we have been here.  Otherwise, I would be worried about magpies, horrible predatory birds who are known to peck children in the spring.  I wonder if they would bother chickens.

I only buy local free range eggs as it is, but we pay between $4.50-$7 per dozen.  I miss Texas prices.

So, it sounds as if it is better to get them as chicks?  We definitely do not want to get a rooster.  I saw somewhere something about clipping wings.  Do they need to have wings clipped?  I don't like the sound of that.

Neat to see that lots of people here know about chickens!
Clipping their wings keeps them from flying.  Chickens don't fly very well anyway, especially the heavy egg layers, but clipping them makes sure.  It doesn't hurt; you just trim the big feathers on one wing, not cutting into their body in any way.  It's like cutting half of one wing off an airplane.  The Storey book has pictures.
(06-03-2009, 10:27 AM)Mhoram Wrote: Clipping their wings keeps them from flying.  Chickens don't fly very well anyway, especially the heavy egg layers, but clipping them makes sure.  It doesn't hurt; you just trim the big feathers on one wing, not cutting into their body in any way.  It's like cutting half of one wing off an airplane.  The Storey book has pictures.

Right, it's cutting hair basically - you only cut feathers, not bones.  They don't have nerves in their feathers.  When they molt (shed), you have to clip the new ones again, just like when hair grows.
I think I'm gonna have to clip our Leghorn's wings very soon.  She gets out of the pen routinely now, and when I went to chase her in just now, she jumped/flew right on top of the chicken house, four-and-a-half feet high.

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