Chickens Moving to the Suburbs

Chickens all across the country are escaping the barnyard and finding homes in suburban backyards. What’s even more amazing is that instead of shooing them away, homeowners are building chicken coops and rushing through the afternoon commute to collect eggs for the next morning’s breakfast. If you’re considering allowing some of these farm fugitive fowl take refuge in your backyard, there are a few things you should know first.

How much room do chickens need?

A small flock of chickens will wander about fifty yards away from their coop, more if there is some incentive like the sunflower seeds in a neighbor’s birdfeeder. Chickens, especially hens, consider fences to be more like polite suggestions than actual rules, and will fly over them without difficulty if the mood strikes them. If you want to keep them in your yard, you’ll need a covered run or a very big yard. The run should be as big as you can make it, but I suggest a bare minimum of 20 square feet per bird.

What equipment do I need for chickens?

If you start with baby chicks, you’ll need a heat lamp, a small, covered “cage” lined with wood shavings, a feeding tray, a waterer and chick starter feed. Older chickens will need a coop lined regularly with fresh straw or wood shavings, a larger waterer and a feeder big enough to hold a day’s worth of food for your flock.

How many eggs does a chicken lay?

My hens each lay 200-250 eggs per year. That’s roughly two eggs every three days. As the days get shorter in the winter, however, the rate of laying may slow dramatically or stop altogether for a few months. To keep egg production constant, use artificial lighting in the coop that provides 14 hours of light each day. Hens will not start laying until they are about 5-6 months old. A rooster is not required for hens to lay eggs, but is only needed if you want fertile eggs for hatching.

How can I stop my rooster from crowing?

Your rooster will crow every morning, whenever a stranger comes into the yard, and whenever else he feels like it, and there’s nothing you can do about it for even a single day of the entire 10-15 years of his life.

What else should I know?

Chickens are delicious. Dogs, foxes, raccoons, coyotes, bobcats, bears, opossums, hawks, owls, alligators, rats, unscrupulous neighbors, and just about everything else with teeth are well aware of that fact and will eat them at any opportunity, especially if they are not locked up securely every night.