Getting Started with Backyard Poultry


A photo of the Chicken WhispererIf you’re thinking about getting started with backyard poultry you’re not alone. Thousands of people across the country are starting their very own backyard flock and you can too!

There are many advantages of having your very own backyard flock, and you no longer have to live on a farm to enjoy these benefits. Chickens provide families with fresh, nutritious eggs. Chicken manure is a valuable addition to your compost bin and adds needed nutrients to your garden’s soil. Chickens also help reduce your household food waste, because they eat a variety of table scraps. They also eat insects helping to reduce your backyard insect population. While it may be surprising to some, chickens make great pets!  In fact, they are amusing to watch and bring enjoyment to the whole family!

The first thing most people think of when starting a backyard flock is the loud crow of a rooster at daybreak every morning. Well, I have good news for you. You don’t need a rooster to have fresh, nutritious eggs. You only need a rooster if you want little baby chicks running around the backyard.  In fact, the hens may actually lay better if there is no rooster around to disrupt their routine.

The second thing people think of when starting a backyard flock is the odor. Yes, chickens can stink if not properly taken care of, just like any other animal including dogs, cats, rabbits, and hamsters. Proper maintenance can significantly reduce, and even eliminate the odor caused by keeping backyard poultry. It all comes down to responsible pet ownership. Now that we disproved the top two myths regarding the keeping of backyard poultry, let’s get started!

So what’s the first step before you start your journey of keeping backyard poultry? First, you need to check your local laws to see if keeping backyard poultry is allowed. You will not only need to check the county and city laws, but also your neighborhood covenants if you have a homeowners association. Many cities across the country are changing their laws to allow their residents to keep a few hens in their backyard. If backyard poultry is allowed, you then need to spend some time reading and researching what cost and care requirements you should expect when keeping backyard poultry. Then, you need to decide if you’re going to hatch your own baby chicks, purchase them from a local farm or breeder, or order them from one of the many national hatcheries. This will determine what equipment you will need to get started.

Hatching baby chicks from an incubator is fun and educational for the whole family. I highly recommend it for anyone with children. Though hatching eggs from an incubator has its occasional challenges, it’s well worth it.

7/28/2015 7:16:50 AM

We are new to having poultry and only have 1 acre of land. But we life on family land so none of our neighbors have fencing. My problem is our chickens and ducks keep going in my neighbor's beautiful yard. He put up a fence 2ft tall. We are putting up a 3ft tall fence also. I don't know how to stop them. We wouldn't have food some days if it wasn't for these birds. I dont want to be forced to get rid of them. Our run isn't big enough for 30 birds. I would love to move one day to a place with more space..... and less neighbors. Any and all advice welcome! ..... we would put up a taller fence but it's not in the budget currently.

1/1/2011 1:25:05 AM

Every year we take part of our flock and they go into the garden area as soon as the plants come out of the ground they will stay there all winter long and will fertilize the garden as well as level out and rid the garden of grass then in the spring they will go back to thier coop and we will till the garden and plant then start all over in the fall and have never had to buy fertilizer yet. this will also work if you want to start a garden just fence in the area and they will get rid of most the grass as well as break up the first few 3-4 inches while they take their dust baths

Bronze Witch
9/7/2009 9:20:34 AM

Love your column - you've been such a help to us, building our first chicken coop. I have a question about winter care: is it harmful for the "girls" to go outside in the winter? At what temps should I keep them in? The coop is fairly dark; when I kept parrots, the decreased sunlight affected their breeding and laying patterns, so wouldn't keeping the hens shut up bring all laying to a halt? I hope to bring my ladies home in about a week; I can't wait to meet them!

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