A government study in 2010 indicated that while 1.2% of Los Angeles households owned chickens, 4.6% of households planned to own them in the next 5 years. Websites called the Urban Chicken or Backyard Chicken provide an online community to share tips on coop design and swap bird care stories. One, MAD city chickens (from Madison, WI) also lists coops and live poultry for sale.
While some folks might consider backyard chickens a trend, it is really nothing new. During World Wars I and II the government encouraged “Victory Gardens” that included some livestock.
Folks who have backyard poultry have fresh eggs, pest control (eating garden bugs), garbage disposal (eating leftover fruits and vegetables) and fertilizer. Some even say keeping chickens is more entertaining than watching television and listening to their soft clucking can be therapeutic. Children can learn discipline with caring for animals and gathering eggs.
But is it for everyone? If you are considering having chickens on your city property it is best to begin by checking the local ordinances. Some city ordinances do not allow livestock and chickens can fall into that category. Most cities have noise ordinances and while hens are not very vocal, roosters are, and when the birds are newly hatched it is sometimes difficult to determine gender.
Chickens tolerate temperatures 75 degrees and below, so you will want to have an enclosure to protect them from extreme heat. They tolerate cold weather well (even to -20 degrees), but in our area you will still want some sort of heating device, even if it is to keep water from freezing (and to safeguard against the occasional Arctic snaps we enjoy). Enclosures will also protect your birds from predators, which is nearly every other animal here: dogs, cats, raccoons, foxes, hawks, coyotes.
Know that in having a city chicken that you will likely not come out ahead financially. After calculating housing, feed, and labor you would probably be better off budget-wise buying your eggs at a store.
Chickens require at least a daily welfare check and feeding. If you go out of town for an extended time a friend or neighbor will need to stop by. And then….One woman who retired from having city chickens knew there would be waste, but she never imagined the amount. She referred to them as “poop tornadoes”. In order to remain on good terms in the neighborhood you will have to keep the coop and yard clean. Do you really want to do that on your weekend?
And…at the risk of sounding weepy, you are dealing with a living being. What will you plan to do with the birds when they are no longer productive? NBC news said, “Hundreds of chickens, sometimes dozens at a time, are being abandoned each year at the nation’s shelters from California to New York as some hipster farmers discover that hens lay eggs for two years, but can live for a good decade longer, and that actually raising the birds can be noisy, messy, labor-intensive and expensive.” https://www.nbcnews.com/health/backyard-chickens-dumped-shelters-when-hipsters-cant-cope-critics-say-6C10533508
Backyard chickens can be rewarding, but it is definitely not for everyone. Only you can determine if the benefits of eggs and companionship outweigh the cost, the mess, and the labor.
If you have a city chicken, please tell us about your experiences. What do you enjoy about having the birds and what has challenged you the most?