Just because you don’t live in the country doesn’t mean you can’t produce some of your own food. Urban agriculture is on the rise because everyone wants fresher, healthier and cheaper groceries. Your mini farm can do more than grow a few tomatoes. You can enjoy fresh eggs by keeping urban chickens. Organic, free-range eggs sell for upwards of $4 a dozen, while farm fresh eggs can cost as much as $8/dozen in parts of the country. Why not produce your own?
Keeping a flock in the city doesn’t have to be a big headache. In fact, it is usually simpler and cheaper to get set up for urban chickens than for a new dog. Here are a few tips to make your metropolitan hen house a success.
City Chicken Keeping 101
Consider these things before getting urban chickens:
- Food – Will you feed kitchen scraps? Will you supplement with a premixed feed?
- Manure – Managing manure is important for successful urban chicken keeping.. Plan to build a compost pile or worm bin.
- Chicks or Chickens? – Will you start with babies or with adult hens that are already laying?
- Breed – If you have a small space you should consider a little bantam breed.
- Shelter- Well designed urban chicken coops make keeping city flocks easy.
Are Chickens Allowed in My City?
Are you allowed to raise urban chickens? Between town zoning laws and homeowner’s association rules many people who own their own property are not allowed to keep poultry of any kind. Others will face certain limitations. For instance, most municipalities that allow you to keep chickens within the city limits prohibit the keeping of roosters. Be sure to check the laws before ordering your chicks. Learn more about urban chicken keeping ordinances here.
Urban Chicken Coops
Raising chickens in town is a little different than keeping a country flock. On a big family farm chickens are often allowed to roam, spending parts of the year “tilling” the garden or cleaning up parasite eggs in the cow field. Obviously urban chickens don’t enjoy that amount of freedom. But don’t despair. With a good chicken coop your hens will stay happy, healthy and productive.
Plans for Urban Chicken Coops
For the DIY builders there are many simple coop designs for urban chickens. You can also create your own coop design. Make sure your coop has the following features and your hens will be content:
- Walls and a Roof: Chickens need protection from wind and wet. They need an entrance. You can achieve this easily with nearly any material you find available.
- A Perch: Chickens like to roost on a pole or branch at night. Keep in mind that they’ll all want to be on the top or highest rung.
- A Nest Box: The hens need a safe place to lay their eggs. A basket, cardboard box or small crate work well.
- Space outside: Even it’s only a few square feet, giving your birds a place to scratch and dust bathe will go a long way to keeping them healthy. If you have a yard where they can forage you can significantly reduce your feed costs.
Green living expert Lucy Siegle learns about urban chicken keeping.