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  • Naomi Stephens | Permaculture Designer

Pros and Cons of Backyard Chickens in the City

Updated: Mar 4


As urban farming gains popularity amidst the hustle and bustle of city living, many city dwellers are venturing into the world of backyard chickens.


The feathered friends offer fresh, organic eggs and contribute to sustainable living. However, raising chickens in the city has its share of debates and dilemmas.


In this blog post, we will look at the pros and cons of backyard chickens within city environments, helping you decide whether it's a pursuit you should embark on.




Very Few Chicken Predators in the City


One of the most significant advantages of keeping chickens in the city is that there are few predators to worry about. In contrast, those who keep chickens in rural areas have many potential predators, ranging from coyotes and foxes to raccoons and hawks. City-dwellers can rest assured that their chickens are safe from predators, making their job as chicken owners much more accessible.


However, this does not mean urban chickens are entirely safe from harm. Pets like dogs and cats can still pose a threat if not properly supervised, and there is always the risk of pests like rats or mice getting into the coop. Proper measures should be taken to ensure the safety of backyard chickens in the city.


How hard is it to raise baby chickens?


Raising chickens requires time, effort, and dedication. They need to be fed and watered, and their coop needs to be cleaned regularly.


I remember driving to pick them up and having tons of anxiety. When I got them in and set them up, I couldn't believe how easy it was; after setting them up with food and water, I could leave them be.


I did run into some problems, though; the first was that they were pecking each other aggressively; thankfully, that stopped naturally after a few days.


Secondly, they kept pooping in their water supply which meant the room was exuding a sewage-like smell. After a few unsuccessful workarounds, I ended up raising the water on an upside-down plant pot, and that was high enough that they couldn't poop in it anymore.


If you get chickens, I would advise ensuring you have some outdoor space for them to explore when you bring them home. I set up a little enclosure with food and water and let them explore.


Also, keep them occupied with sand baths, twigs, and other things they like to investigate; this will help reduce aggressive pecking. Finally, watch their water supply, or you could have a smelly problem!


Overall, my experience was exciting and enjoyable. It took some work, but I am glad I got those chickens! They are now part of the family, and we love watching them.


Do You Have Enough Space For Raising Chickens?





Another factor to consider before keeping chickens in the city is space. While some breeds of chickens can thrive in small spaces, others require more room to roam and forage. It's essential to research the breed you are interested in and determine if your backyard can accommodate their needs.


Moreover, city regulations or homeowner association rules may limit the number of chickens allowed on a property. It's essential to check these regulations before bringing home a flock of chickens and potentially facing fines or having to get rid of them.


Pick your breeds



4 Silkie chickens in different colors orange, grey, white and black
Silkie Chickens


Breed selection is crucial when it comes to keeping chickens in the city. Some breeds are more suited for urban environments, while others may be better off in a rural setting. For example, bantam breeds like Silkies and Polish chickens are smaller and more suitable for small backyard spaces. At the same time, Rhode Island reds tend to be quite large.


Additionally, some breeds are quieter than others and may be more appropriate for cities like Wyandottes or Cochins. However, even quieter breeds will still make noise, especially when laying eggs.


Obtaining Sexed Chicks: Ensuring a Hen-Only Flock


Should you live in an urban area where roosters are not allowed, obtaining sexed chicks becomes an essential step in your urban poultry-keeping adventure. Sexed chicks are baby chickens sorted by gender, allowing you to ensure that every chick you bring home is a hen.


Many incubators and poultry suppliers provide this service. However, it's essential to understand that sexing chicks isn't 100% accurate, and there's always a slim chance you may end up with a rooster.


However, getting sexed chicks significantly decreases the likelihood of this happening. This way, you can avoid noise complaints from crowing roosters, maintain a peaceful urban environment, and stay within the local regulations.


Does Your City Allow You To Start Raising Chickens?


Before diving into backyard chickens, checking if your city allows them is essential. While urban farming is becoming more popular, some towns still have strict regulations on keeping livestock within city limits.


If your city does allow backyard chickens, there may be specific guidelines and restrictions in place that you need to adhere to. These could include the number of chickens allowed, coop requirements, and noise ordinances. It's crucial to familiarize yourself with these regulations before starting your flock.


  • Local Government Websites: The first place to check is your local city or county government's website. They usually have a section dedicated to animal regulations or urban farming. This should provide you with the information you need on whether you are allowed to keep chickens, the number of chickens you can keep, and any specific requirements for their housing.


  • Local Animal Control Office: Contact your local animal control office if the information is unavailable online. They are usually well-versed in the local laws and regulations regarding keeping animals, including chickens.


  • Homeowners' Association (HOA) or Landlord: If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners' association or are a renter, you must also check the rules with them. Some HOAs or landlords may have restrictions that go beyond city regulations.


You might need to take specific steps to comply with the city laws. For instance, your city may require a certain amount of space per chicken.


If that's the case, you may need to ensure that your coop provides enough space.


If your city has a noise ordinance, picking quieter breeds like the Cochins or Wyandottes, as suggested earlier, can help you stay within the laws.


Some cities may require a permit, for example, Seattle, where residents need to obtain a $30 annual permit to keep up to eight chickens.


Some states, like Florida, require you to take a chicken-raising course.






The Cons of Raising Chickens in the City


While there are many benefits to raising chickens in urban environments, there are also some challenges that you need to consider:


  • Limited Space: Urban spaces are generally smaller, which can limit the number of chickens you can effectively raise. Chickens need enough space to roam, and cramped conditions can lead to stress and illness.


  • Noise and Odor: Chickens can create noise and odor, which might not be a big deal in rural settings, but in densely populated areas, it can become problematic. This could potentially lead to complaints from neighbors.


  • Predators: Urban areas are home to predators like raccoons and foxes that can pose a significant threat to your chickens. Ensuring their safety requires secure and robust housing.


  • City Regulations and Restrictions: As mentioned above, some cities have strict regulations on keeping chickens, including the number of chickens allowed, the type of housing required, and noise restrictions. These regulations can pose challenges to urban chicken keeping.


  • Managing Waste: Chicken waste must be properly managed to prevent odor issues and maintain a clean and healthy environment. This can be more challenging in an urban setting as composting options may be limited.


  • Cost: Setting up a secure chicken coop and maintaining your chickens in an urban setting can often be more expensive than in a rural environment, where resources and space are generally more abundant.



Pros of Raising Chickens in the City




Despite the challenges, raising chickens in urban areas has its advantages. The pros of urban chicken raising include the following:


  • Fresh and Healthy Eggs: Urban chickens provide a steady supply of organic eggs. These eggs are typically more nutritious than store-bought ones as they contain higher levels of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.


  • Pest Control: Chickens are natural pest controllers. They eat insects, larvae, and even small rodents, helping to keep your backyard pest-free.


  • Waste Reduction: Chickens can consume kitchen scraps, reducing their waste. Plus, chicken manure can be composted and used as a rich fertilizer for your garden.


  • Educational Opportunities: Raising chickens in the city provides a beautiful opportunity for urban dwellers, especially children, to learn about animal care, life cycles, and where food comes from.


  • Mental Health Benefits: The act of caring for chickens can be therapeutic. It reduces stress, promotes relaxation, and provides a sense of accomplishment.


  • Community Building: Urban farming, including chicken raising, can foster a sense of community. It encourages sharing produce, knowledge, and resources and can lead to community farming initiatives.



Common Mistakes to Avoid When Raising Urban Chickens


Raising urban chickens can be a rewarding experience, but it's not without its pitfalls. Here are some common mistakes to avoid:


  • Overcrowding the Coop: Chickens need space to roam, and overcrowding can lead to disease, feather plucking, and cannibalism. Ensure your coop and provide ample space for each bird.


  • Neglecting Predator Protection: Urban areas are home to many potential predators. Proper coop construction and vigilance are vital to keeping your flock safe.


  • Ignoring Local Regulations: Keeping chickens is not legal in all urban settings. Always check and adhere to local zoning laws and regulations.


  • Inadequate Diet: Chickens need a balanced diet to stay healthy and produce eggs. Over-reliance on kitchen scraps can lead to nutritional deficiencies.


  • Insufficient Coop Cleaning: A clean coop is essential for disease prevention. Regular cleaning and disinfecting help maintain a healthy environment for your flock.


  • Not Planning for Waste Management: Chicken manure can pile up quickly. Have a plan for regular cleaning and manure disposal or composting.


  • Failure to Provide Adequate Health Care: Regular health checks and preventative care are crucial to detecting and managing potential health issues early.


  • Lack of Noise Control: Chickens can be noisy. Consider your neighbors and implement measures to control noise, like proper coop insulation and placement and avoiding keeping roosters.


Remember, raising chickens is a commitment and requires a responsible approach to ensure the well-being of your flock and maintain harmonious neighborhood relationships.


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FAQ's


Can chickens be kept in a backyard?


Yes, chickens can be kept in a backyard, providing sufficient space to roam and live comfortably. It's essential to ensure the backyard has a secure chicken coop or hen house to protect the chickens from predators and inclement weather.


Additionally, local regulations and zoning laws regarding keeping chickens in residential areas must be followed. Remember to provide them with a balanced diet, clean water, and regular care to maintain their health.


Can chickens live in the city?


Yes, chickens can live in the city, but several factors must be considered. Many cities have specific regulations regarding keeping poultry in an urban environment, including restrictions on the number of chickens you can keep and whether roosters are allowed.


Understanding these rules with your local city council or relevant regulatory body is essential before starting your urban chicken flock. Furthermore, you should ensure the appropriate facilities like a secure, predator-proof coop and sufficient space for the chickens to roam.


With proper care, planning, and compliance with local laws, chickens can thrive in an urban environment.


How far away should a chicken coop be from the house?


The distance of a chicken coop from a house can depend on several factors, such as local regulations, the size of the property, and personal preferences.


However, as a general guideline, placing your chicken coop at least 20-50 feet away from the house is advisable.


This distance helps reduce the potential for odor and noise disturbances while also providing the chickens with sufficient space to roam.


What is the best location for a chicken coop?


The best location for a chicken coop is a well-drained, flat area that receives ample sunlight and is protected from harsh winds. It should be easily accessible for feeding, cleaning, and egg collection.


It's also essential to ensure the coop is positioned in a secure area, safe from potential predators. Compliance with local regulations regarding distance from dwellings and boundaries is also crucial.


Can you keep chickens without a coop?


While it is technically possible to keep chickens without a traditional coop, it is not advisable. Chickens require shelter for protection against predators and adverse weather conditions.


A coop also provides a designated area for nesting and egg-laying. If a traditional coop is not feasible, alternative secure housing options should be considered while providing the necessary features for the chickens' safety and comfort.


Always remember that the welfare of the chickens should be the priority in any housing decision.




 

Having chickens can make you incredibly happy. Not only do they provide fresh eggs, but their quirky personalities and gentle clucking can bring joy to your life.


However, when raising chickens in an urban environment, you must be mindful of potential mistakes that could harm your flock or disturb your neighbors.


By educating yourself and being a responsible chicken owner, you can enjoy all the benefits of urban chicken.












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