Along with seed catalogs, now is the time of year many people start receiving catalogs from hatcheries around the country. And, just like some thumb through the catalogs filled with colorful, glossy pictures of flowers and vegetables, its tempting to imagine your backyard filled with feathers that come in all kinds of colors and types.
Chickens have become fairly common in many urban backyards, and most people handle them successfully, though sometimes after much trial and error. Many people who want to get chickens to give their children a “farm experience.” Whether or not this is a good idea depends on your children. I’ve known children as young as 8 or 9 who were quite responsible in taking care of their chickens for a 4-H project, while I’ve also known adults that I wouldn’t leave with my chickens for one day.
The basics: Chicken lairs and laws
As far as animal-keeping goes, chickens really aren’t especially high maintenance. You have an animal that is no noisier or messy than a dog or cat, fresh eggs and–best of all–countless hours of entertainment! I love watching the chickens pecking around the backyard so intently, moving around the plants looking for bugs and other things to eat. Its often a source of entertainment for our family, to see the chickens exploring the woods and yard area around our house, and I’ve been known to bring a lawn chair outside on a nice summer evening before the sun goes down and watch the birds go about their business.
So how can you find out if chickens are legal in your city? It’s a true understatement to say that laws regarding keeping poultry in the city and in the suburbs vary. Do quick Google search for “municipal codes poultry (name of city)” and you’ll find there are different laws for nearly every city in the US! Don’t assume that just because one city in your state allows chickens, that another city will.
Some cities let you have one rooster; most don’t let you have any roosters at all. Some have specific regulations about the chicken coop and its placement; others are more vague in describing the space for birds. There are websites that have many poultry municipal codes listed in one place, which is a good place to start. But you really need to get the information from your own city, preferably from a government source. If you can’t find what you are looking for online, call!
If by some chance you live in a city where chickens are not legal, there are many ahead of you who have led the charge and been successful in getting the city laws changed.
One really good resource is urbanchickens.org, a site that has a lot of useful information for the very new and wanna-be poultry keepers. On their page concerning chicken laws, they give very specific advice for those who want to change the chicken laws.