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Keeping Backyard Chickens AND Neighbors Happy

Keeping backyard chickens - LivingHomegrown.com

Living in the city does not mean you can’t have farm fresh eggs.

In fact, in many cities you can legally have your own backyard chickens. And that means those delicious eggs are only a few steps from your backdoor.

Now, it may sound fun and exciting to have backyard chickens. But it is not something to take lightly.

Just like getting a new puppy or other animal, you need to think a few things through to be sure you are fully prepared.

One area of concern most people skip is their neighbors.

Living in the city means you probably live in close proximity to those neighbors. They may have some concerns about noise, etc and you should be a considerate neighbor by addressing those concerns.

So before you take the leap…

Keeping Backyard Chickens - LivingHomegrown.com

Here is a list of a few important considerations for keeping both your chickens AND your neighbors happy:

1) Logistics

Think through the logistics of having backyard chickens.

  • How will you handle taking vacations?
  • What if a bird gets sick or injured?
  • Will you go to an avian vet? (bird vet)
  • Will you treat injured/sick birds yourself?
  • Would you cull (or destroy) sick birds?

No one wants to think about these things. But it is important that you at least look into these possibilities before you actually have to deal with any of them.

Your neighbors may have concerns about these things too – especially the sick bird part.

You don’t have to bring up the fact that your birds may get sick. But you should have an answer ready if they ask you. People get nervous about things like bird flu.

As long as you can assure them that you either have expert friend, mentor or bird vet at the ready if you ever get stumped on something, they should be okay with it.

2) Laws and Ordinances

You need to check with your own city to see what the ordinances are in regards to backyard chickens.

Call or visit your city hall and just ask. (It is that simple) Find out if they are allowed and how many you can have.

Be sure to ask if there are any other rules about the distance from houses. That will determine where you can place your coop.

If they are not allowed in your city, your neighbors can “turn you in”. Many people take that risk. Just know that you can be fined or at the very least, you will be asked to remove the birds. You usually get a few warnings first.

If they are allowed, make sure you know the rules you must follow. That way you can assure your neighbors that you are within the city guidelines and prevent a lot of problems.

Have a rooster plan - LivingHomegrown.com

3) Rooster Plan

Most cities do not allow roosters. They are loud and they crow ALL DAY LONG. Some even crow before the sun comes up.

And even if you are allowed to have one rooster, you may accidentally get several. Too many roosters in a small space will lead to fighting and it can get ugly.

So if you get baby chicks, you must have a rooster plan – which is a plan for what to do with unwanted roosters.

Even if you pick up baby chicks that are “sexed” (meaning they are semi-sure of the sex before selling), you still have a 10% chance or higher of getting a rooster in that bunch. Sexing is not accurate and some breeds are extremely difficult to sex.

So you need to have a responsible plan on what to do if you get one or more in your batch of chickens.

Tips:

  • Pre-setup an alternate home for unwanted roosters (This is what I did)
  • Decide if you are okay with giving them away (You have no control over what will happen to them after that)
  • Know ahead of time if you are okay with someone destroying or eating the birds you give away.
  • Do not “release into the wild” of the city. (They will not survive and it is illegal to do so.)

Keeping Backyard Chickens - LivingHomegrown.com

4) Hen Noise

Be aware that hens make noise.

It is only a cackle sound, but when they all cackle at once (usually in the mornings), it is noticeable.

However, they only do it for a few minutes at a time. It is not constant or as loud as a rooster.

Alert the neighbors to this and ask them to let you know if there is a problem.

Occasionally you get one noisy hen and you may have to relocate her to another home if you get complaints.

5) Talk to Neighbors

If you want happy neighbors, it is important to talk to them ahead of time.

Tips:

  • Assure them you will not have roosters
  • Warn them of the possible hen noise
  • Ask them to let you know of any problems
  • Promise to handle any disturbances quickly
  • Possibly give them your cell number
  • Offer to give them eggs (See #7)

Keeping Backyard Chickens - LivingHomegrown.com

6) Share Eggs

If you have a neighbor who you think might be a problem, be brave and talk to them about their concerns.

I realize that some neighbors are just nuts and there is not much you can do. But sometimes they just need reassurance.

Then, use your chickens to your advantage by offering to give them eggs regularly.

Nothing works better at keeping your neighbors happy than offering to share your “farm fresh” eggs with them.

You could offer to leave 6-12 eggs on their porch every few weeks during the peak production months of spring and summer.

7) Number of Chickens

Chickens are social animals and I recommend having at least three.

One chicken alone is not ideal because it will be lonely.

Two is okay, but if you might loose one at some point and then you would have one, lonely chicken.

With three, you have a small but manageable flock and they will keep each other company.

Backyard Chickens - LivingHomegrown.com

Links for more info:

Podcast Episode #08 on this topic

My PBS Episode on Backyard Chickens (Full episode)

Common Concerns About Raising Backyard Chickens

8 Surprising Lessons From Backyard Chickens

Rooster Plans – When Your Hen is a ‘He’

DIY Sprouting Jar for Chicken Snacks

 I’d Like To Know…

If you are thinking about keeping chickens, what are your areas of concern?

If you already have chickens, any other tips you can share?

Please tell me in the comments below.

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.

12 Comments:

  • Cathie says:

    I would love to have 3 hens, but not ready just yet. I would like to know what sickness do they get? What are the best layers? How much space do they need? Does each hen need her own box? What is the best method for keeping prey away? Would you order or purchase from a local farm store? What book would you recommend on raising chickens? Thank you for all the informative information.

  • Becca Woolsey says:

    Hi Theresa!
    I was wondering if you could recommend any books about chickens besides Jessi Bloom’s book. I already went out and bought that one! Do you have any breeds that you like in particular, or can you suggest other ways of selecting breeds and discovering some interesting breeds to raise?

  • Scott says:

    I’m having an issue with my neighbor. I live in an apartment complex and i feel that raising chickens in apartment space is just too much. They are 30 feet from my bedroom window. They frequently wake me up in the mornings with the cackling. I’m also somewhat concerned about the health issues as well. i would assume this is why you hear about frequent outbreaks of bird flu in cChina.
    I know there is no way I’m willing to live next to chickens and I doubt they will see a problem with it as they are new imagrants and come from a different culture to this one. I know there will be an ongoing problem if I even bring it up as this isn’t the best area.
    It will turn to a scene from mad Max I’m afraid.

    Decisions, decisions…

    Any ideas?

    • Scott says:

      Maybe throw a Python over the fence?
      Moltov cocktail?
      Tainted corn feed?
      “If you can’t beat em, join em” and raise a cow in my closet?

      Donate to the Ted Cruz campaign?

      Cough on the birds and try to make THEM sick?

  • RENEE says:

    Hi Theresa!! I just brought home my chicken coop. I will be ordering chicks soon. What do you think of a Maran, Polish, Silkie and Americauna? It’s been years and I have never had chicks before so I’m a bit nervous. Do I need to keep them indoors for a few weeks in a big tub? I know they need a heat source. I thought I was just going to stick them in the coop and go! Any expert advice?

    • theresa says:

      Hi Renee,
      All of those breeds you listed are EXCELLENT. I have 2 Polish, 1 Silkie and 1 Americauna now. I love Marans and would probably get one on my next round if I were to add to my flock. I also love Barred Rocks (nice personality and good layers) and I love Buff Orpingtons (very sweet).

      Yes, you need to keep baby chicks inside with a heat source. They are very delicate the first few weeks but grow quickly. Here is a great source of baby chick info: http://www.mypetchicken.com/backyard-chickens/chicken-care/guide-toc.aspx They have really good advice on this site and it is the company that I ordered my baby chicks from when I ordered the specialty breeds.

      I’m so excited that you are getting chickens again!!

      • Renee Mustard says:

        I have one more question for you. I am purchasing my chicks from my feed store. My Americauna I have to pick up tomorrow. My Marans won’t be ready until Friday after work. Will the 1st one be too lonely for a day? Shall I just nix getting one of the other breeds and take home 2 Americauna’s? I don’t want it to be sad or worse….get sick from being alone for a day

        • theresa says:

          It will be okay for one day. One thing they do as a group is huddle together to keep warm. If the baby is crying, make sure it is warm enough. If is stands directly under the lamp and cries, it’s cold. (and you may need to bring the lamp closer for warmth) If she stands far away from the light and cries, first place it under the light to make sure she knows the light is there. If she runs away from the light, then it is too hot and you must make sure she can cool off on the opposite side. (Make sure you have a cooler side and a warmer side so the chick can choose what it needs.) Worse case, you may need to hold the little baby a bit more the first 24 hours. But it will be okay – even if she is lonely. She will perk right up when the other chicks arrive. Have fun!!!

          • Renee Mustard says:

            Thanks so much! I’m really trying not to overthink this. LOL. I’m a first timer for chicks…..my kids (31 and 28) and grandaughter are so excited. Chickens and ducks were such a huge part of my kids growing up. We are excited to do it again! Your advice is very welcome!

  • Alisha says:

    Sometimes there is no happy medium with neighbors. We never asked our township rules and regulations because we didn’t want anyone in our business. We are zoned Ag and have about an acre of property. Our neighbors have repeatedly turned us in for stuff. For our township you have to have 5 acres to have a rooster, 1 to have hens, coop has to be 75ft from road, 25ft from sides and back of property, no free range, ect. Well I rerouted our coop 26ft from the picky neighbors property. They are not happy. And how we almost have an acre and got the OK to keep chickens from the ordinance officer. They are not happy.

  • Renee Mustard says:

    Hi again! It has been a little over 17 weeks since I brought my chicks home. Unfortunately my Silkie and my Ameracauna turned out to be Roo’s. I’m so sad. Also, I really wanted more than 2 chickens. Have you ever added to your flock? Any good advice on that? I would love to get two more but I don’t want them killed by the other two. Thanks T

    • theresa says:

      Hi Renee,

      Yes – I’ve added to my flock twice. It just takes some attention to do it – but totally doable. There are several tricks to doing it. I will link to some articles that have too tips. But here are a few of mine:
      1) Don’t put the babies in with the older chickens until they are older and can fend for themselves a bit
      2) If possible, have them live next to each other for a week or two (or even longer) before you let them be in contact with each other (This worked great for me)
      3) When I did put the smaller birds in with the larger birds, I created an “escape hatch” are for them. It was an enclosure that only they could fit through. It gave them a place to run to where they could get some relief if they were being picked on. I made mine using chicken wire and crafted a small opening in the corner of the coop so the younger chicken could fit through the doorway. The older chickens didn’t go through. They only used it for the first few days – maybe a week and then I could take it out.

      Here’s a good article with more tips:
      http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/06/integrating-new-flock-members-playpen.html

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