August 19, 2008

So you want to raise chickens

chickens, La Ceiba, HondurasSome of La Gringa's flock

Readers have left so many comments mentioning that they wanted to raise chickens that I thought I would give a little overview.

According to members of my Organic Chicken group, chickens can be raised in most cities in the US. There is usually a limit to the number that can be kept in urban areas, sometimes based on the size of the lot. Often roosters are outlawed because of the noise. In some cities, zoning laws require that the coop must be an appropriate distance from your neighbor's house.

chickens, La Ceiba, HondurasThe hens don't make much noise at all, except when they are "announcing the egg" which is usually during the day. So, if you are really interested, you might check with your municipality about their rules. Many people find that if they give a few fresh eggs to the neighbors now and then, the neighbors are less likely to complain.

Hens seem happiest if there is a rooster around but if you can't keep one or don't want a rooster, try to keep at least three hens. Chickens are social creatures and like company. The third hen is for insurance in case something happens to one of the others.

Hens will lay eggs without a rooster around. The eggs just won't be fertilized so you won't be able to hatch more chicks from them, though that won't keep your hens from trying. On average, a hen lays an egg every 25 hours except when they are broody or moulting and stop laying completely or when the weather is too hot or too cold and they slow down. The amount of sunshine also affects the quantity of eggs laid.

chickens, La Ceiba, HondurasPeople also worry about the mess or odor. Those problems will depend on the number of chickens and the size of your space. With our bantam chickens, we haven't had a problem with either. They have plenty of space to roam during the day and whatever they do (dodo?), it's less of a bother than one chihuahua. Chickens do most of their pooping at night in the coop while they are roosting. At first, ours liked to hang around the terraza during the day. That was a problem but it was easy to break them of it by just chasing them out into the garden.

chickens, La Ceiba, HondurasOthers worry about the damage the chickens might do to the garden. They do eat the tips of the grass and some leaves. They do little dances where they scratch up the mulch looking for bugs and worms. If you have an immaculate garden with every blade of grass in place, that may bother you. If you are an average gardener, you probably won't even notice. Bantams do less damage, just because they are smaller and can't reach as high. Vegetable plots and delicate flower beds might need some protection from the chickens.

chickens, La Ceiba, HondurasWhile Bantam (miniature) chickens have many advantages, one big disadvantage is that they tend to be hatching machines. They want nothing more than to sit on their eggs or anyone else's, and hatch those babies. While they are in this broody period, they'll stop laying eggs. I plan to write more about this and have some great photos. Man, those ladies get grouchy when they are broody.

Many people raise backyard chickens in Honduras, primarily the poor. We always get some VERY surprised looks when people see our chickens. They seem to wonder why someone who can afford to buy eggs would raise chickens. The same goes for raising vegetables or making compost.

I'm a chicken newbie, so I hesitate to give much advice. If raising chickens is something you are thinking about, I'd suggest getting a book, doing some research on the internet, and talking to some people who already do. I'll just say that for us, raising chickens has been a lot of fun and we truly enjoy seeing the little adornos (adornments) waddling around the garden on the hunt for food. We've had some heartbreaks, too, but overall it has been a fun experience.

Here are some links to get you started:

Raising organic chickens

Backyard chickens


Frequently asked poultry questions

List of a zillion poultry links

Chickens in your backyard - a good beginner book

Other chicken books

Wow! I was lost in time (again!) checking out those chicken links.

Newer posts Older posts

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...