Things to Consider Before Getting Chickens
If you’re interested in raising backyard chickens, there are a few things you should consider to make sure having chickens is a good decision for you. First and foremost, you need to find out if you can legally keep chickens in your backyard. Check with local authorities to see if there are any restrictions on keeping animals. In most places, chickens are categorized as pets, not livestock, but there can still be rules dictating the number of animals you can have. Also, often it’s fine to have hens but not roosters. Make sure you check all of the appropriate places: county laws, municipal codes, home association and neighborhood rules. Don’t assume that just because you’ve check one place (like with the county), everything is good to go. You don’t want to invest your time and money in getting all ready to raise chickens only to find out that you can’t have the animals on your property.
Additionally, if you’re thinking about selling any of your chickens’ eggs, make sure you check the regulations governing this. Most people who raise chickens keep most of the eggs themselves or give some of them away, but if you’re intending to sell (even someplace like a farmers market), you need to know the relevant laws. The rules governing selling at a local market are often less strict than if you want to a be wholesaler to a grocery store, but there are still regulations you’ll need to be aware of. The financial benefits of selling eggs are often extremely small for people raising chickens in their backyard. Your primary motivation for raising chickens should be to enjoy a hobby and raise food for yourself. You’ll probably be disappointed if you’re hoping to make money.
You also need to make sure you have space to raise chickens. You can raise chickens in a relatively small backyard, but you will need a coop that provides around two to four square feet of space for each chicken. Additionally, you will need about three to six square feet of outdoor space for each chicken. Make sure you can at least meet these minimum requirements. (You can find more information about chicken coops in the “Coops and Other Equipment” section.)
Raising chickens is going to require some money. You’ll have the initial investment of acquiring equipment like a chicken coop, and there will be some ongoing costs as well. Your biggest continuing expenses will be food and ground cover (like hay or pine shavings). These things should be affordable, but check around at local co-ops and businesses to see how much you’ll need to budget for these items. Raising chickens is a relatively affordable hobby, but be sure you take even modest expenses into consideration. Also, realize that you’ll incur the most expense at the beginning as you build or buy a coop and acquire your chickens. Many of these expenses are a one-time occurrence.
Also, make sure you’re realistic about how messy chickens can be. Many chicken owners comment that allowing chickens to wander around takes its toll on yards. Chickens will scratch and dig. They’ll eat plants you don’t necessarily want them to. They can destroy a well-manicured yard. If it’s your goal to have the prettiest and tidiest flower beds in your neighborhood, chickens might not be a good idea. Also, chickens poop a lot, and they poop everywhere. Make sure you’re willing to clean up after them.
Lastly, raising chickens means that you’re taking on the responsibility of caring for living animals. You’ll need to provide fresh food and water every day. Also, you’ll need to change the ground cover in the chicken coop frequently. If you want to leave town for a few days, you’ll need to find someone to take care of your chickens. Raising chickens will be a rewarding and enjoyable activity, but it also entails a certain amount of responsibility.