How to raise chickens

Fresh eggs, and fun, from your own backyard flock? Even in the burbs? Yes!

Ruby the chicken
Photo: E. Spencer Toy

Chickens 101: Is raising chickens for you? Here’s a reality check.

Are they legal?

Many cities, but not all, allow homeowners to keep a few hens (not roosters). Before you buy chicks, make sure your city code allows them.

Just females?

Yes. Hens don’t need roosters to lay an egg nearly every day.

Where do you buy them?

Local feed stores are a reliable source. Buy sexed chicks ― those who have been confirmed either male or female by an experienced chicken handler.

Where will they live?

Each chicken should have at least 10 square feet of yard to run around in, plus 4 square feet of henhouse.

Can you keep them safe?

Chickens sleep so soundly that they appear comatose, so they’re vulnerable to attack by raccoons, hawks, foxes, and dogs. They need a secure hen-house with a roof to sleep in and a fenced yard to roam in, free of plants they shouldn’t eat.

When do they stop laying?

Hens lay consistently for up to five years, but can live (and lay sporadically) for eight or more.

What if one gets injured or sick?

Locate a chicken-friendly vet in your area before you acquire your flock.

Can you afford them?

Chicks a few days old cost only about $4.50 apiece. But a coop can cost a few hundred dollars more; ours is from Wine Country Coops. Chicken food is an ongoing expense. Vet bills also add up quickly if a chicken gets injured or sick.

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