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    Raising Chickens in the City

    If you live in a city and are interested in fresh eggs and chicken meat in which you have confidence regarding the nutritional values, you may want to think about raising chickens in the city for yourself. It's a growing trend according to recent reports from many sources. Still, you need to be sure of all the rules and regulations before you even think about purchasing any chickens or supplies for raising them.

    In some cities, it is illegal to own chickens. Call your local animal control office or municipal government to find out the details. An online search could also be helpful. Noise ordinances affect rooster ownership in places, but hens make much less noise. It may simply be a matter of how many you want to keep, or just making sure you have the proper permits. If you find that it is illegal, but you are committed to raising some for yourself (and there is a group of you with similar interests), you might want to consider a bit of activism and government lobbying. People have managed to get pro-chicken ordinances passed in places like Madison, WI, and Ann Arbor, MI.

    Also, it never hurts to be a conscientious neighbor. Talk with yours and find out how they feel about having chickens next-door. Know the facts about how much noise your chickens are likely to make. Hens squawk the most after they lay (about the noise level of two people talking). Normal hen sounds are not audible at 25 feet. If you are only keeping them for eggs or meat, and not for long-term reproduction, then you won't need a rooster, which makes the most noise. Offering some free eggs every few weeks might placate some of their concerns.

    Shelter

    Four or five hens don't take up a ton of space by themselves, but they will require a coop. They need a run as well to allow some freedom for their general health and because being able to walk around will help their egg production. Each chicken needs 4 square feet of inside space and 10 square feet of outside space, unless you decide to raise bantam sizes, in which case you will need 2 square feet and 8 square feet respectively for each chicken.

    Good ventilation is critical (but no drafts), and a low roost with removable perches for cleaning. Nest boxes with a small lip at the front provide a place for the chickens to lay their eggs safely. Use soft straw, sawdust, or pine needles in the nest boxes. For the coop floor you will need a litter lining to help with cleanliness — sawdust, straw, pine needles or pine wood chips. Do not use cedar chips, since cedar can be toxic to chickens. Clean every one to two weeks, depending on how many chickens you have — wiping down the perches, scrubbing the feeders, and replacing everything with clean supplies. Regular cleaning helps with odor and prevents disease.

    Protection from predators is also extremely important. They are less of a problem in town than in rural areas, but you have to keep out city foxes (in some areas) and neighborhood dogs. Chicks and eggs need protection from possums, raccoons, cats, snakes, and birds of prey and should stay in the coop at all times. Make sure the yard time you give your chickens is supervised at all times, and it is preferable to allow them some freedom to roam if at all possible. The run should be framed and completely covered with protective wiring. Use hardware cloth, rather than chicken wire, since dogs and people can break right through chicken wire. Prevent burrowing from rats and mice (who will be after the eggs) by burying the wire six inches deep and curling it outwards. Also, make sure your chickens won't wound themselves on protruding wires and nails by checking carefully for these before you put your chickens in the coop.

    Feeding

    For more information on chicken nutrition, visit Chicken Feeding and Nutrition. Also see How to Feed Chickens, which has a Frequently Asked Questions section toward the bottom.

    Health

    The primary preventive for raising healthy chickens is to keep them and their living area clean. Still, sometimes problems do occur. Here is a list of common concerns.

    • Salmonella
    • Bird flu
    • Mites and Lice
    • Coccidiosis
    • Roundworms
    • Backyard Biosecurity