Urban chicken farming (or, raising backyard chickens) has become popular in recent years. Fresh eggs taste better, and you know for sure that they come from free range hens. Free range eggs are thought to contain higher levels of nutrients such as beta carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, and lower levels of cholesterol than other eggs.
Ten chickens produce less solid waste per day than a forty pound dog, and chicken manure is one of the best fertilizers for vegetable and flower gardens. It is higher in nitrogen, and unlike dog and cat feces, it can be combined with yard waste and composted. Chickens are excellent foragers of unwanted insects such as grubs, ticks, fleas, mosquitoes, mice, snails, snakes and slugs.
As far as noise levels, laying hens have about the same decibel as human conversation, about 60 to 70 decibels.
If you are thinking about raising your own chickens, it is best to check with your town or city bylaws, and call your zoning board or Board of Health for local regulations. Some localities limit the number of chickens you can keep and roosters are not usually allowed for obvious reasons (noise). You may be required to apply for a permit which can cost anywhere from fifty to two hundred dollars. Other restrictions may apply such as set back regulations and size of lot. It is also a good idea to talk to abutting neighbors ahead of time and inform them of your decision.
I asked my friend Chris, who started raising chickens over a year ago, for some first hand advice. His town allows 6 chickens, no roosters. He bought day old chicks from Agway, (a feed, farm, and garden supply store) and raised them into adult hens. It takes about six months before they start to lay eggs. You can also order chicks online at suppliers such as mypetchicken.com.
A&S: What types of chickens do you have?
Chris: I have Golden Sex Linked chickens. They are perfusive layers. I also have 2 Easter Eggers. They lay blue, green, and pink eggs. I have a Black Austra Lorp, and a White Columbian Rock Cross.
A&S: Wow, So many different kinds! What do you feed them?
Chris: I leave out laying pellets all the time, and every morning I give them pasta, iceberg lettuce, and day old bread. I also give them thawed frozen corn every morning. The corn is also supposed to help keep them warmer in the winter months. I buy it by the case.
A&S: How many eggs do you get per day?
Chris: Hens need fourteen hours of light per day to lay. I have two forty watt bulbs in the coop for light and heat in the fall and winter when the daylight hours start waning. They lay less eggs in the winter. Usually, I get 5-6 eggs per day.
A&S: How long does a chicken live?
Chris: They have about a five to eight year life span on average, but after about three years they lay less eggs.
A&S: Any downside to raising backyard chicken?
Chris: Well, the coop needs to be cleaned once a week. The initial investment was around $1000 dollars. That was for the coop and run, permit, food, and the chicks. I also had to buy a nesting box so that the when they lay eggs, the eggs will roll into the box at an angle so that the chickens can’t get to them. They will eat their eggs otherwise. Also, predators such as hawks and foxes are always a threat.
So, I asked my friend, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?” In this case the chickens came first, and they still do! Cocka doodle do!!