You won’t believe how many chickens are showing up in urban areas. City hens not only supply fresh eggs, but also free fertilizer, pest and weed control, and if you’re up for it, a nice chicken meal, as urban farming is on the rise as a method to live greener and leaner lifestyles.
Many localities are implementing regulations to encourage small-scale coops, while this is not the case everywhere. See what the laws in your area are about keeping chickens, and keep reading for information on how to start your own flock.
Considerations to Make Before Buying Chickens
Make this important choice before you go to the feed shop to buy chicks: do you want to buy adult hens, baby chicks, or fertilized eggs that you hatch yourself? Each option has its own set of advantages and disadvantages; think carefully about your own circumstances and needs before making a final decision. There are a number of things to think about when starting an urban farm, such as:
- Ordinances of your municipality
- How soon do you need fresh eggs
- How much time do you have available? The relationship you want to form with your hens?
- Which chicken breed is best for you?
Ordinances of the City: Is It a Hen or a Rooster?
In the first place, you should look at the ordinances of your city, which may be obtained on the city’s website. You’d be hard-pressed to find neighbors who are in favor of all that crowing in the morning, which is why roosters aren’t allowed as pets in most places.
Also, the only good reasons for having a rooster are for egg fertilization or for keeping predators away from your flock. A rooster is superfluous if you only plan on using the hens for eggs.
It is nearly hard to determine the gender of a bird whether hatching your own eggs or purchasing extremely small chicks. Being stuck with a flock of male chickens that you have to give away because roosters are illegal where you live is a frustrating and unnecessary scenario. If you live in a city with stringent rules, your best chance is to buy adult hens or young chicks that have already been sexed.
When do you need the eggs?
There is a delay of around four to five months before hens begin producing eggs. A fresh batch of eggs from a farm can’t be had right away if you decide to hatch your own eggs or purchase baby chicks. Fresh eggs by the weekend? Invest in laying chickens now.
How much effort are you willing to put in?
Although chickens of any age make great companions, you may expect more labor from your chicks if you get them when they are very young. Incubators are used to get fertilized eggs to hatching temperature, while brooders are used to safely raise and care for the freshly hatched chicks.
Baby chicks don’t require constant supervision, but you should still check on them frequently to make sure they have everything they need, including fresh water, food, and a clean place to sleep.
The feed shop near you should carry the specific “chick crumble” and beginning meal your chicks will require, and if you want friendly chickens, you’ll need to give them plenty of opportunities to exercise their playful sides. The action here is rather unremarkable: just pick them up, pet them, and carry them about. It doesn’t need much work, but you will need to set aside some time.
It’s normal to be anxious the first time you hatch an egg and take care of a baby chick, so you should factor in extra time for this activity. Plan to check on your eggs or chicks first thing in the morning and again before bed, and don’t be afraid to make a few excursions to the feed shop to pick the brains of the employees there.
If you’d rather save yourself the trouble, birds aged two to three months are available for purchase. If you do this, you won’t even need to use an incubator or brooder before releasing the chicks into a coop.
How Important Is Your Relationship?
It takes more effort to hatch eggs and buy young chicks, but the effort is worth it in the end. When raised from a young age, a chicken’s wonderful personality shines through, and it makes a fantastic companion.
Chicks that are in close proximity to their caregivers at the time of hatching form strong bonds with them. If you’re up for the labor and don’t mind the possibility of hatching roosters, this is a fantastic activity for both adults and children.
There are literally hundreds of different chicken breeds out there, so it’s crucial to get the ideal one for your family. Size, appearance, personality, productivity, and even the hue of the eggs laid all play a role in the classification of different breeds (meat-producing, egg-producing, or ornamental).
Do some homework and choose a breed that suits your needs and tastes. You can get a nice breakdown of egg-laying capacity by breed on My Pet Chicken. To name only a few breeds worthy of consideration:
- The Plymouth Rock is a great all-around chicken since it can produce up to 9.5 pounds in weight, can lay around four eggs per week, and can be used for both eggs and meat.
- The Rhode Island Red is a chatty and busy bird that lays around five brown eggs every week.
- Australorp: These gentle and obedient birds produce around 200 eggs a year and don’t appear to like being confined, making them ideal for egg and meat production.
- Orpingtons: Orpingtons are great pets for families with kids since they are so sociable and tolerate being handled roughly by their owners. They are sometimes referred to as “layers” since they produce three to five brown eggs every week.
There are two requirements if you want to hatch your own eggs: Locate an egg incubator and a source of fertilized eggs. Just ask the helpful folks at your neighborhood feed shop whether they carry fertilized eggs or know of any nearby farms that do. Getting your eggs from a nearby farm is ideal since you can stop by and inspect the chickens and eggs before buying, and you can manage the delivery process yourself.
A home incubator is required prior to bringing in fertilized eggs. Incubators, which provide a warm, humid, and stable environment for eggs to hatch, may be purchased for roughly $100. If you can’t afford to spend above $100, consider buying a used incubator on a website like eBay or Craigslist.
The average egg takes 21 days to develop once it has been laid, so you’ll have anywhere from two to three weeks to provide proper care for your eggs before they hatch. Fertilized eggs require regular attention, including checking the incubator’s temperature and humidity twice daily, and turning them an odd number of times each day (often three) to promote healthy development of the developing chick. After day 18 of an egg’s development, the incubator should be left closed and the eggs should not be turned.
It’s important to keep a tight eye on the incubator’s temperature and humidity levels. For a forced-air incubator, aim for a constant temperature of around 99 degrees. In a still air incubator, the temperature should be at 101°F (102°F is ideal).
Over the course of the first 18 days, humidity should be kept between 45% and 50%, and then gradually increase to 65% in the last days. Invest in a hygrometer if your incubator doesn’t have one; you can get a digital one for less than $25.
It’s mostly just checking on the eggs and baby chicks on hatch day, and then moving them into a brooder the next day. The fertility of an egg is not guaranteed to be 100%. Since the fertility of most eggs is between 50% and 95%, it’s smart to get more fertilized eggs than you’ll need for chickens.
The Initial 60 Days
Chickens need special attention during the first 60 days of their lives, whether you hatched your own eggs or bought chicks.
- Install Your Brooder
A brooder is a tiny, heated enclosure used to raise poultry. A brooder may be purchased for under $100, while it is feasible to create your own. Put it somewhere secure where cats and hawks won’t be able to get to the chicks, such a garage or shed.
Start by purchasing a chick waterer and starting feed from your local feed shop, and then line the bottom of the brooder with pine shavings or corn cob bedding. Keep an eye on the food and water supply and replenish as necessary; also, make sure the bedding is cleaned and changed out at least once a week. Chicks are little creatures that don’t require a lot of nourishment. Chicken keepers in the backyard may feed their chicks for the full two months they spend in the brooder on a single bag of chick crumbles.
If you’re planning on using the chicks as laying hens, you should feed them a medicated chick starter with 20% protein for the first 18 weeks of their lives. When the hens reach 22 weeks of age or start laying, you may transfer them to a crumble with a protein concentration of 16% to 18%.
Feed your chickens a high-protein crumble, anywhere between 22% and 24% protein, if you want them to grow into meat-producing machines. At least two weeks before slaughter, you must stop giving them medicinal feed.
Spending roughly $35 to get your brooder set up is reasonable, and that includes the cost of chick crumbles, a waterer, and bedding.
- Adjust the Temperature
The ideal temperature range for a brooder is 90 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit, and this should be implemented as soon as the chicks hatch. To get to 65 degrees or room temperature, whichever is larger, drop the temperature by five degrees every week.
- Make time for play.
You should spend as much time as possible with your chicks in the first two months. Hand-rearing and acclimating wild animals to human contact requires plenty of petting, playing, and handling. Repeat many times daily. Diurnal animals like chickens are active during the day and rest at night.
Schedule some quality time with your baby chickens every day, preferably when you’re tending to their basic needs like water and food. In addition to being useful for their eggs, several chicks have the added benefit of having each other for company when you’re not around.
Transferring Your Chickens to a Coop
Your chicks can go to a chicken coop after two months of age. The standard recommended living space for hens in a hen house is three to four square feet per bird, whereas the standard recommended living space for chickens in an outdoor run is ten square feet per chicken.
A chicken coop may be built just as easily as a brooder. The most essential features are enough ventilation, a low roost where hens may sleep out of the elements, detachable perches, individual laying boxes (about 12 inches square, one for every four hens), and drop boards that can be removed from below the perches to facilitate cleaning.
Make sure the coop is safe from predators and has no risks like loose planks or nails. Wrapping coops in wire cages around all four sides is an effective method to keep predators like raccoons, rats, and cats out. Latch locks should be installed on all doors and openings since some predators, including raccoons, are especially resourceful.
The reality is that it may cost quite a bit of money to acquire a prefabricated coop. The majority of them cost over a thousand dollars, with the average being over two hundred. If you don’t feel confident building a coop from scratch, there are chicken coop designs and coop kits available that can make the process quicker and, ideally, cheaper. Depending on the specifics of the plan you choose, the cost of the materials to build a chicken coop from scratch might be rather high. However, you could save money by doing it yourself rather than hiring a professional.
Do a Google search for “coop kits” or “coop designs” to get started. This is useful in determining which plan or equipment is best for your needs. The next step is to see if anyone in your region offers coop kits or constructs coops by visiting your local feed shop or your local Craigslist site. It’s possible that a carpenter in your area might be more cost-effective than an internet store.
Costs to construct a coop range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, with the actual amount depending on the coop’s dimensions, design, and additional features.
When deciding whether to buy or build a chicken coop, portability is another factor to think about. These kinds of coops may be relocated about your yard with ease thanks to their wheels and bar.
A number of benefits may be gained by using mobile coops: First, it gives you the option to park the coop in the cool of the sun or the shade on warmer days. Second, while scratching around in the grass and spreading manure, chickens are great for enriching the soil. You may take advantage of the free fertilizer and prevent the devastation caused by a flock of pecking, scratching birds simply by shifting your coop around.
Maintenance and Care
It’s quite easy to take care of your adult chickens:
- Offer Fresh Sheets. The coop’s floor and nesting material should be untreated pine shavings, straw, or sawdust.
- Give Them Enough To Eat. Chicken feed is a nutrient-controlled meal that provides at least 16% protein to maintain healthy birds and nutritious eggs, and it should be supplied to laying hens on a daily basis in amounts of about 100 g. It should be placed in a covered feeder and replaced as needed. Feeding laying hens a high-protein diet will result in eggs with a higher protein content. To get advice on what kind of blend will work best, visit your neighborhood feed shop. Despite the allure of saving money on commercial chicken feed, it’s not a good idea to give your hens leftovers instead. You should rely on commercial feed as the main source of food, with table scraps serving as rewards due to the balanced nutritional composition of commercial feed.
- Improve Availability of Potable Water. A one- or three-gallon waterer is a fantastic investment for convenient maintenance. You should examine it every day and replace it if necessary.
- Deliver the Grit. Grain digestion is aided by the grit stored in the gizzard. A dish of sand placed inside the coop will do the work.
- Treat them with something tasty. Table leftovers, bugs, cracked corn, and milo are all favorites of chickens. Surprising as it may sound, they also enjoy eggs and poultry.
- Gather your leftovers and feed them to your hens, but stay away from onions and garlic if you don’t want flavored eggs. Avoid feeding your birds any of the following: uncooked potatoes, avocados, or chocolate.
- See if there’s any moisture. If your chicken feed is moist, you should not feed it to your birds. Toxic mold may quickly grow on wet foods.
- They need calcium, so give it to them. Calcium is an essential nutrient for laying chickens. In addition to crushed egg shells, crushed oyster shells and crushed limestone are all acceptable choices that can be purchased at most feed stores.
- Don’t Mess It Up. At the very least once every week, you should take out the perches and dropping boards and give them a good disinfection. Use only natural cleaners, such as a solution of white vinegar and water. As soon as you’re done cleaning the coop, you should replace the flooring and bedding.
- Publish an Exercise. Chickens will be happier if they have access to a chicken run or are occasionally allowed to free range. Keep in mind that birds of prey and cats will be attracted to free-range hens, so it’s best to confine them to a safe area.
- Make sure to keep a close eye on them. Make sure your chickens are eating, drinking, and interacting normally by keeping track of their routines. It’s possible that birds that huddle close for warmth are actually too hot, and the opposite is also true. If a bird has been hen-pecked and is missing feathers, it may be necessary to exclude it from the flock until it recovers.
Setting up a small flock of 3–10 urban hens isn’t cheap—you should expect to spend approximately $700 if you create your own chicken coop—but in many situations, the advantages exceed the expenditures.
Feeding and caring for a flock of 10 birds will cost you an average of $4 a week once they begin producing eggs. When you include in the fresh eggs (and maybe chicken meat) you’ll have for your family, the possibility of making some extra money by selling eggs, and the company of some feathery friends, it’s easy to see why more and more people are taking up urban farming.