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Raising Backyard Chickens: A Beginner's Guide

May 18, 2020

Interested in raising chickens? This beginner's guide to keeping chickens offers plenty of tips from experienced backyard chicken-keeper Lisa Steele.

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Photo: Quarry Books

Chicken Keeping 101

Chickens are popping up in suburban and urban backyards all around the country. It's easy to be tempted to keep chickens. Those bins of adorable chicks you see at your local feed store make you want to just scoop them up and pop them right in your backyard. However, before you dive into chicken keeping, there are many things you need to consider. Author of DIY Chicken Keeping and 5th generation chicken-keeper Lisa Steele of Fresh Eggs Daily offers her expertise on getting started with backyard chicken keeping.

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Photo: Quarry Books

Why Raise Chickens?

People choose to raise chickens for many reasons. Some want access to fresh eggs right from their own yards, and some enjoy having unique pets. Lisa says that chickens make a great introduction to animal husbandry. "Chickens are small and therefore easier and less expensive to take care of than larger livestock," Lisa explains, "and also allowed in many more urban/suburban areas than, say, a cow or goat!"

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Photo: Lisa Steele

Check Local Ordinances

Just because you want to raise chickens doesn't mean every neighborhood allows it. Before you start looking at chicken breeds or coops, you'll need to check with your municipality or county to determine the regulations for your area. Most urban and suburban areas have restrictions on flock size, whether or not you can own a rooster and the distance a coop must be from your property line. Lisa says once you find out how many chickens you are allowed to have on your property, get it in writing. This will save you headaches down the line.

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Photo: Lisa Steele

How Many Chickens Should You Get?

Chickens are extremely flock-oriented and social so you'll definitely need more than one to start. A good starter flock size is no fewer than three chickens.

"A chicken lays an egg almost every day," Lisa says. "Not every day, but the good layers come close." If egg production is the primary reason you are getting chickens, then you need to determine the number of eggs you use per week, which will determine your ideal flock size. Of course, the exact number of chickens you get will also depend on how many chickens your county or city will allow you to have on your property.

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