Backyard Chickens

Fresh eggs as they were meant to be have gained popularity to the point that cities across the United States are rewriting urban residential code regulations – or seriously considering to do so. Seems to be a new epidemic this week that officials are being hen pecked into changing what one is allowed to keep in the backyard to include poultry. Chickens in the city aren’t anything new, but to modern American city dwellers this is a newsworthy, even unprecedented change in what is acceptable.

Urban Farming - Backyard ChickensChickens don’t require the space that most livestock does. They’re pretty light eaters who can add a lot of character to your yard, provide natural fertilizer, help you fight insect pests and even weeds. Keep their roost and laying area clean and you’ll find that its pretty easy to keep healthy chickens for fresh eggs and even homegrown meat.

One thing any newcomer to chicken keeping should be aware of in a small, confined situation like the urban backyard, is that chickens dig. They don’t know the difference between your veggies, your perennials or weeds. All they know is that there’s some really yummy bugs and grubs hiding below the surface of your soil. Develop a strong relationship with a personable hen and she’ll be your digging partner. At your elbow to assist in planting begonias and tomatoes, in the hole while you’re trying to plant a shrub and ‘helping’ you weed.

As with anything else that becomes popular or creates a trend, there’s a business that will help you get into the thick. You can keep chickens in your house now thanks to the enterprising folks at Pampered Chickens. They’ve devised chicken diapers to assist you in keeping your egg layers in close or taking them for a ride in the car. The diapers come in a wide array of colors and nifty fabric designs. Even if you have a chicken coop, you might find these a great resource. An injured chicken needs an infirmary situation to recover. Many times this is a place that is warm and safe from any form of intruder or hunter of easy and tasty prey. Not to mention the rest of the flock. Chicken diapers make this recuperation process a cleaner and sanitary situation.

Is it possible to grow your own broilers and roasters in the city? Yes. Truly enjoyable chicken is raised quickly and doesn’t need a lot of forage space. The best breeds of meat birds are ready for harvest in 6-8 weeks.

Great Layers - Speckled Sussex HenMost backyard chicken keepers will be more interested in eggs though. Some breeds lay eggs more reliably than others. They are just more productive. Something you should keep in mind as you peruse all the cool looking chicken breeds available.

Roosters are handsome birds. Try not to get caught up in their beauty. You don’t need a rooster to have fresh eggs. Their purpose is to fertilize eggs should you feel that these are more nutritious or are interested in getting into chicken breeding and chick production. More than one of them in your backyard could be bloody. Boy chickens don’t play nice with each other. Cock fights ring a bell?

There are some great egg layers that are easy to find locally. Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, and if small eggs aren’t an issue, Bantams. But if you want a truly outstanding egg layer with a great personality, try the English rare breed called Speckled Sussex. Having raised over a dozen breeds of layers, I can say that this breed out-layed the rest. Good sized large eggs that arrived on a daily basis without fail spring through fall. Hens that are friendly, not flighty and scared of their own shadow. Should you decide to try your hand at raising new stock from eggs, Speckled Sussex are also great brooders.

Leaning toward extra large eggs? Look into heritage breeds, Orpington and Australorp.

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Tammy Clayton

Contributing Writer at Garden Culture Magazine

Tammy has been immersed in the world of plants and growing since her first job as an assistant weeder at the tender age of 8. Heavily influenced by a former life as a landscape designer and nursery owner, she swears good looking plants follow her home.