Urban Chicken Keeping 101, Part 1

Posted · 45 Comments


It’s that time of year to start ordering baby chicks.  I’m now into my third year of raising backyard chickens for eggs and meat. Last year I raised 15 chickens specifically for meat and I now have 10 hens leaving me eggs every single day.

I’m so used to seeing my girls every morning that I often forget that many people are still learning about the frugality and simpleness of raising backyard livestock within city limits.

Chickens are by far the easiest livestock to raise, however, before diving in you need to realize that these are live animals that need to be tended to on a daily basis.  That means constant work and clean up.  The nourishment these girls leave behind, however, far outweigh the daily chores.

If you’re not afraid of compost, I mean poop, keep on reading.

First Things First… Does Your City Allow Urban Chickens?

Before jumping in and ordering chicks, brooders and lights… does your city allow urban chickens? This one question is going to make or break your urban farming experience.

In order to find this information, you need to search your city ordinances that can usually be found online.

I wouldn’t suggest giving your city a call and asking them if you can keep urban chickens.  Most likely this is a question one won’t quite understand and their first response will be, “no.”

You need to ask someone who is more familiar with those laws and usually your local animal control or shelter can actually answer many of those questions.  Ask family and friends on facebook or try to find your local Weston Price Foundation group.  Usually many people in that loop are more familiar with raising their own livestock.

Talk To Your Neighbors

Once you have found out if you can legally keep chickens, talk to your neighbors.  Regardless if they have any say in it or not, if you want a peaceful urban chicken experience let them know your plans and inform them of the law.

Doing this allows them to see that you are in regulation and have plans to keep the law including maintaining a peaceful, calm and clean environment. Offer them some eggs as well.

If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve overcome the most difficult part of starting on your way as an urban chicken farmer.

Selecting Breeds

photo from mypetchicken.com


Believe it or not, this is the most important part about starting your urban chicken flock.  It’s very easy to look around at all the different kinds of breeds, sizes, color of eggs and order away. However, it’s extremely important to only select chicken breeds that can withstand your regional elements.

In my area, we easily see winters with -30 degree weather.  It was very important to me to find winter hardy birds that can withstand those elements.  It was also important to me to find docile birds since I have children.

www.mypetchicken.com makes finding all of this information very easy.  They have a great breed selector tool that allows you to pick out your chickens according to its hardiness, how docile they are, and even egg colors that you’d like.

Once you find the perfect breeds that are going to suit your family and region, it’s time to order and start raising baby chicks.

Ordering Baby Chicks

Locally, you can usually find chicks being sold in early Spring at farming supply stores or seed and gardening stores.

I order mine from a local seed and gardening store where I am able to order small quantities including the specific breed that I want.  At a farming supply store you may not have that option.  They usually only sell one or two different breeds.

Online, you can order from a hatchery such as Murray McMurray Hatchery.  One thing to keep in mind is that they do ship your baby chicks by mail.  Unfortunately, sometimes this means a baby arrives lifeless.

You can also order from www.mypetchicken.com, however, their prices and shipping are usually more expensive.

An average chick only costs between $2 and $3.

Now that I’ve touched on city ordinances, selecting breeds and ordering your chicks, in Part 2 I’ll cover raising and tending to your backyard chickens.  This will include brooders, coops, free ranging and daily care.

Urban Chicken Keeping 101

Are you thinking about starting a backyard chicken flock? What requirements are you looking for in a chicken?  Hardiness, a docile bird, color of eggs?  Please share in the comments below.

45 Responses to "Urban Chicken Keeping 101, Part 1"
  1. I love raising backyard chickens. I am in my second year. I have 7 adult hens already and we just purchased 4 babies a few weeks ago!

    I am in Iowa as well so we picked Buff Orpingtons, Barred Plymouth Rocks and Brahmas. All of these ladies are big hardy birds and with stood the winter well.

  2. Thanks for such great tips! One day when I have land…like actual space (I don’t even have a fire escape!). The thought of fresh eggs…beautiful photos.

  3. brian_in_gib says:

    Great post Diana…alas, I live in a tiny apartment and can only dream of fresh eggs on a daily basis. oh well…
    grretings from gib,

  4. I am dreaming of the day when I live somewhere conducive to raising chickens. I would love to have fresh eggs, maybe some blue ones.

  5. suzane allen says:

    Hi there, Thanks for your post! I’m in my first year of chicken raising! We’ve had our baby girls for 3 weeks now and it’s amazing to see how they’re growing so fast!!
    We have them on chick starter feed now (they’re 3 weeks old). When can I introduce other foods like veggies or treats for them to eat? They’re still in the brooder, but probably in a week they’ll have to start venturing into their run during the day.

    Also, is there an age to let them reach before I dock their wings?

  6. We already have chickens, but I am planning to have my dad order some eggs from mypetchicken.com to bring here and hatch (pray they come safely through the customs!!). He got a simple incubator at the Farm store and I am SO excited to do it. It will be a great learning experience for all of us :o) We are also planning to hatch guinea eggs. Gotta wipe out the tick population! ;D

  7. Diana:
    I can’t tell how exciting I am about this post!!!
    We discussed raising chicken in our backyard at the dinner table recently. We are all in. My husband is intrigued and the kids are so excited.
    We have the perfect area in our backyard. A fenced in area with a small hanging roof. Used to belong to our dog, but he’s no longer with us.
    I need to figure out city ordinance now…
    You asked what kind of chicken are we looking for: well, we have 2 outdoor cats: does that mean we need “hardy” chicken? maybe you can help me understand!

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Hi Amelia!! How exciting!! If you have two outdoor cats, make sure your coop is very secure. What I meant by hardy is if they can withstand the colder temperatures in the winter.

  8. P.s. forgot to ask you: do we need to have a rooster? I don’t think our neighbors would like that…

    • Diana Bauman says:

      This is too funny, I should have wrote something about this because so many people ask me this same question, (which I will for my next post). You do not need a rooster. In my city limits we are not allowed roosters.

      A chicken is just like a woman in the sense that we also ovulate and produce an egg every month regardless if it’s fertilized or not. A chicken produces an egg every day and unless there is a rooster to fertilize the egg, they will never form to be a baby chick. You’ll get eggs, they just will never become a chick. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your future chickens 😀 Un beso guapa!!

  9. Thanks for all the information. I knew there had to be some regulations but didn’t know where to turn to find out.

    Having chickens are just a dream for me but you never know where this information will be handy.

    No roosters? :)



  10. Lauren says:

    Can somebody explain to me the point of troll posts like this? It’s irrelevant, inappropriate, badly written and doesn’t even have a link to something they’re trying to sell. Some people wate their internet time even more flagrantly that I do, apparently!

  11. Lauren says:

    YOW! Wait!! The troll comment I was referring to is gone now that my comment is up; I’m not grumbling about the chicken-keeping post at all! Like many other commenters, I’d love to have a few hens but just don’t have the space right now. Anyhow, you can delete this once you’ve read it :)

  12. Carolyn says:

    You know Diana that chickens are like potato chips!!! I started out 2 years ago with a dozen pullets. Now I have over 60 assorted ages and breeds. They bring such joy!!! We just hatched out our first Black Javas-that is soooo exciting for us. We are selling eggs this year, no way I could use 3 dozen eggs a day. The egg money is paying for the feed for all the birds, that includes the eggs we consume and the birds we raise for meat and yes these are free ranged and tasty. I never dreamed we could make it happen. Now if only I could get some bees I would be a super happy camper.


    PS: I just wanted to thank you for the idea of Christmas rope lights under seedling trays. What a super inexpensive way to give bottom heat. This years seedlings were the best ever!!

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Carolyn, I know they are like potato chips, lol! Love that analogy ;D

      I’m so glad to hear that the Christmas rope lights worked for you. I bought some as well and the one thing that didn’t work for me is that I bought LED lights with almost no heat coming from them! Now that I know they work though, I’m definitely going to buy some non-led this Christmas season.

  13. Great post Diana! I am going to repost on facebook! And on my last blog post (as it ties in nicely!) We are going to order birds for meat this year, we already have layers. What breed did you raise for meat?

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Hi Jenn! Last year I raised Buff Orpingtons which I will not do again. They took over 16 weeks to raise and quite honestly, I know they could have gone longer. I’m kind of undecided what I want to do this year. Raise a meat bird that takes around 12 weeks or else I’m thinking about raising a meat flock and culling them as I need them to cook with. The more I think about it, this is the way my grandparents ate chicken. When they needed one, they went out and bought one alive. Super fresh and delicious, however, the downfall would be that I’d need to be feeding them much longer… more feed = more $. I don’t know, lol!!!

  14. Jenni says:

    We are in NC and have 8 girls. Roosters are not an option as we are in a subdivision and the extra noise is a no-no.

    Our ladies live in a beautiful A-frame coop in our neighbor’s woods (we all help out and share the eggs. It’s a co-op coop!). Their run is covered with chain link, as is the ground, to prevent hawks from above and digging animals to get to them, although we do let them out to forage in the woods a couple of hours a day.

    We have cats, but they don’t ever go into stalking mode around the chickens–I think the girls are just too big. The cats seem very interested in the chickens and like to hang out at the coop, but when the girls are out, the cats don’t bother them at all. (It kind of feels like the lions lying down with the lambs, or something)!

  15. Cassandra says:

    Diana, My chicks are arriving next week and in looking at feeds there are 2 types, medicated and non-medicated…what do you use? I remember before when I have done chickens that there was a yellow powder that I added to their water for the first few weeks, does the medicated feed take the place of the powder?
    I love your info, it has inspired us to try laying hens as in years past we have just raised meat birds.

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Hi Cassandra. I’ve only used un-medicated feed. It is super important, however, to make sure to keep their brooder clean. Little baby chicks poop TONS so I always made sure to change the bedding every other day.

  16. rebelo says:

    We’ve had hens for three years now–in San Francisco, you can only have four, and no roosters. We love our Ameraucanas (brown and green eggs), Cookoo Maran (dark brown eggs), and Silver-Penciled Wyandotte (light-brown eggs). The girls layed steadily up to their first molt (at about 18 months). Egg production slows down now in winter, but as soon as spring hits, they’re back to laying about every 28 hours. We get about 24 eggs a week for a minimal investment of time (fun) and money.

  17. Jenn says:

    Please tell me that you’ll address their destructiveness in part 2! :) We’ve raised hens for 3 years now – and love them – but they can do a number on a small urban yard. We had no grass after the winter and a yard full of holes. The girls are now confined to their run (which they don’t like) in order to give the yard some time to recover.

    • Diana Bauman says:

      Jenn, I know what you mean! I have 2 giant German Shepherds in my back yard along with 10 free-ranging hens. I’m into my third year and I’m now looking at NO grass in my backyard. I’m actually experimenting this year and going to try and grow a “pasture.” For sake of grass for my children to play on, we’re throwing in sod on half of my yard. The other half I’m going to grow a combo of Switchgrass, Indiangrass, Alfalfa and Clover. I’m interested to see how it does in terms of withstanding livestock and animals. Something I’ll definitely blog about!

  18. Laura says:

    I selected my birds (arriving Monday as 6 week old pullets!) on the following criteria:

    Good egg layers, heritage breed, cold hardy, tolerate confinement well, quiet/docile/friendly, brown or colored eggs, and esthetics.

    I ended up with Dominiques (4), my breed of choice, and two ‘americauna’ as a nice productive bird with pretty eggs. :) Had the timing been right I would have liked wyandottes and welsumner or marans along with the Doms.

  19. I am looking into getting chickens for next year. We technically are not able to keep “farm animals” since we have less than 5 acres, but we are trying to get it approved since we will be keeping them as “pets.” Wish us luck!

  20. I recently attended a class where a couple was promoting a class they were teaching about backyard chicks. They said it was almost impossible to get chicks right now because of the huge wave of people wanting to have backyard chickens. Have you heard of this?
    As an aside, my husband works for FedEx and always talks about the chicks that get shipped!

  21. Irina says:

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  23. dianna says:

    Barred Rocks are my favorite chickens of all time. First of all, they are cold hardy so they lay long into the winter and don’t have their combs die back due to frost bite in northern NY. Second of all, they are smarter than the average chicken, so it is possible to have fulfilling personal relationships with them. Not so for white rocks or leghorns or those stupid Buff Orpingtons or other common back yard varieties who just seem like automatons in comparison. If you want a meat bird, stupid may be good, but for layers, barred rocks are the sweetest. And they are beautiful!

  24. Courtney says:

    Great to hear of local urban homesteaders raising backyard chickens! We are in the process of amending our city ordinance. We’ve been told it has to be presented to the city council and approved and then brought up at three city council meetings! Sounds like a long process. We’re ready to get started, but it may not be until next spring at this point. I’m so glad I found your blog and am enjoying reading!

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