Getting chickens is exciting. Once you decide to pull the trigger, you might think that nothing can stop you. You feel the rush of buying everything you need, and of course, looking at those little chicks. But do you ever get the feeling there is a hole in your plans somewhere? Before getting too far, look at these 5 questions to ask before starting a backyard chicken flock.
Question #1: What Are The Local Rules For Backyard Poultry
The first question you should ask is if your city has laws and regulations about chickens. This is the biggest obstacle for many chicken owners, and it can be complex. In many cities, keeping chickens within city limits is illegal. If someone reports you for having chickens, you could get fined. Or worse, they could take your chickens away for repeated offenses. And we don’t want that to happen! So here are a few things you should look into specifically.
If chickens are legal in your area, the next thing to look at is the maximum number of chickens allowed. In most cases, this depends on the amount of space and zoning you have. If you live in urban areas, the law might limit you to only five chickens. And this changes things when you are planning what type of chickens you want. So it’s best to be well informed before getting started.
Most cities have made roosters illegal because of noise disturbances. Other cities have laws that your property line can’t be within so many feet of a house or business to keep the noise low. And some cities don’t have regulations against roos at all. So you will want to read up thoroughly or call your local city hall for more resources.
Backyard flocks might be legal for your city, but they come at a price. In many cities, you have to pay for a special permit to allow for chickens. And in some extreme cases, someone might come out to approve your property and coop. Some licenses are permanent or have a yearly renewal, and others start on a “trial” basis. If you don’t get complaints within the trial, then they extend your permit a little longer. Talk about a headache, but we think they are worth it.
For the safety of everyone involved, most cities have regulations on your chicken coop. The most common limitations are:
- Your coop can’t be within so many feet of a fence
- Coops can’t be taller than a standard privacy fence
- And chickens have to be contained at all times.
All of these regulations are to keep the peace within your neighborhood. If you can essentially make your chickens invisible to the average person, there are fewer complaints. And if your neighbors are happy, you can relax and enjoy your flock more.
And finally, we come to homeowner associations. If you live in an HOA, you likely already know the rules and regulations. Some associations are relaxed and don’t mind backyard chickens. But most HOAs make keeping farm-type animals against the rules. Others can have just as many rules about keeping chickens that it makes it near impossible. You could get slapped with a hefty fine from them and have to get rid of your hens if you wish to live there still. So it’s best to look into this before getting a few chickens.
Question #2: Finances
Most of us are drawn to chickens because we love the idea of farm-fresh eggs. However, this shouldn’t fool you into thinking that these eggs are cheaper than buying eggs from your local market. In the end, you will spend much more on eggs from your backyard than grocery stores.
The first thing to consider is start-up fees. To get started, you will need a coop and run, feeders, food, brooder, and bedding, at the very least. And that doesn’t even consider the cost of the chickens themselves. Most people spend at least $1,000 when starting the frugal way. If you want the more expensive coops or rare chicken breeds, you could spend as much as $4,000 to get started.
Another thing to consider is how much you will spend monthly on your chickens. The bulk of this monthly cost comes from food. What do I feed them? Chickens will mostly eat a feed that you buy from the store. You will change the feed depending on the age of your hens. There is starter feed for chicks, grower feed for pullets, and layer feed for hens that began laying eggs. You can expect to spend about $30 a month for a small backyard flock.
But that doesn’t include the cost of crushed oyster shells for extra calcium and grit for digestion. If you can’t let your chickens roam, you will also spend more planting a small garden in your chicken run to supplement them.
Even the healthiest chickens get sick at some point. How do I protect my flock from disease? You will need to do a few things several times a year and keep in the house to keep your hens healthy. The first thing is to keep a chicken first aid kit on hand. That way, if your chickens ever get hurt, you can treat them immediately.
But there are other things to consider. Vaccinations and deworming are also a must for your flock to keep them healthy. And the bigger the flock, the more this is going to cost. But no cost is too high to keep our hens fit as a fiddle.
And, of course, there are miscellaneous things that you will buy for your chickens. These can include new waterers or feeders, treats, food containers, and even plants for a chicken garden. We want our chickens as spoiled as us, so there’s no limit to how much in “extras” you could spend.
Question #3: Why Do I Want To Raise Chickens?
Next on our 5 questions to ask before starting a backyard chicken flock is to ask why you want them. The reason most people keep chickens is for eggs. But you could also want chickens for fresh meat, pets, or breeding. These are all valid reasons to want chickens. However, most chickens don’t fit all of these roles.
Some chicken breeds are best for high egg production, but they aren’t the best pets. And chickens that are considered broilers often don’t live long enough for eggs. Figuring out what your main goal for keeping chickens is will determine what breeds are best for you.
Egg Laying Purpose
Another question you should ask is what you will do with too many eggs? Most people find that getting rid of chicken eggs is easy. You can give them away to family, friends, and neighbors. But if you did a little more research, you could also sell any extras for a small profit.
Taking care of chickens for meat is usually a quick process. Most people who do this also do a little breeding to keep a good rotation of broilers and chicks to raise on hand. But, there can be difficulties when you want to raise broilers in the city. Some cities have laws against butchering in your backyard. So you will need to find a processing facility or somewhere else that you can butcher.
Breeding can only be done in cities where they allow you to have roosters. So assuming that your city is roo-friendly, the next question you should ask is, “Can I add new birds to my flock?” Whether you are expanding your flock, replacing retired hens, or adding chicks, you need space for them all. If you have the necessary space to breed as many hens, you can reproduce away.
The next question you should ask is what you will do with extra chickens. At some point, you will find that you have too many chicks or too many roosters. This is a huge predicament to be in, and it’s not always easy to get rid of them. You can always try selling the extras or rehoming them to families who want them. But even then, sometimes you have too many. In that case, you might have to butcher them.
Question #4: Who Will Take Care Of The Flock?
Here is one of the 5 questions to ask before starting a backyard chicken flock that most don’t consider. Chickens require a lot of work. They need feeding, letting in and out of the coop, cleaning, regular health checks, and so much more. Most people compare it to another full-time job for the first few years of keeping hens.
However, unlike a full-time job, there are no paid vacation days. If you leave for a vacation, you can’t leave them be and hope everything goes well. So you will need to find someone to take care of your flock while you are away.
And if you have physical limitations, like a bad back or joints, you might need help caring for your chickens. You can moderate some coops to fit your needs, but it’s something to consider before buying hens.
Question #5: Are The Neighbors On Board?
The final thing you should ask is what your neighbors might think about your chickens. Getting chickens affects everyone around you. They can smell, get loud, and in some cases lower the property value in the neighborhood. We believe you should be courteous and let your neighbors weigh in on your intentions.
If your neighbors are on good terms, you will have fewer problems. They are less likely to report you for noise disturbances, smells, or anything else. They might even come to love your chickens as well. And don’t forget to give them a few egg baskets as a thank you.
And that’s our 5 questions to ask before starting a backyard chicken flock.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!