In these blogs, we talk a lot about the compromises one makes when choosing urban vs. rural life. But in many cities today, one compromise that doesn’t need to be made is keeping chickens.
It’s true! An increasing number of cities are allowing backyard chicken-keeping, and both Minneapolis and St. Paul are among them.
Cities allowing chickens have strict ordinances and often require licenses. This is because chickens, like many animals, can carry parasites, cause noise and smells, and need to be cared for in a certain way to ensure their health and happiness.
But the rewards of keeping chickens are many. Chickens are naturally adept at eliminating bugs and pests. A hen may begin laying eggs at only 6 months of age and continue doing so for many years. If desired, future broods can be raised, for continued food production. And, of course, chickens have a diverse array of personalities, many of them even being affectionate.
Keller Williams provides a few tips for determining if chickens are right for you:
1. Consult HOA Rules and City Codes
The first thing to consider is whether you’re legally allowed to have chickens at all, and how many you are allowed to have in your flock. The website Backyard Chickens keeps lists of laws around the country, but also advises home owners to confirm with their community’s municipal code. Certain animals, such as venomous snakes and crowing roosters, are often illegal in many areas as they are perceived to be a nuisance or a safety/health concern. Zoning laws will specify which and how many animals are allowed.
If you are part of an HOA, verify that there are no such restrictions. Just because there is a coop on the property when a buyer is touring, doesn’t mean proper permission exists.
2. Choose Your Coop
A clean and attractive coop in good condition can actually add value to a home, especially if your community is already fowl-friendly. The types and varieties of chicken coops are vast and satisfy all tastes. If you are a DIY’er, you can find coop plans on the internet to suit your style, and budget. Think ahead when embarking on your first coop and consider it an amenity, not a permanent structure.
If you have a coop and are selling your home, keep the area clean.
3. Fence Your Flock
Smart pet ownership, not to mention good neighborly etiquette, means ensuring that your flock stays contained. Containing your chickens will keep them from being a nuisance to your neighborhood, as well as secure them from predatory animals.
4. Location, Location, Location
Experts say that proper placement of your coop is a must. Chickens scratch and peck the ground looking for bugs and worms for food. This can ruin your grass, gardens and ground covering. Select a place that is not a heavy traffic area in the yard.
5. Rule Your Roost
Roosters in many areas are illegal, not to mention a nuisance. Hatcheries, feed and pet stores can’t guarantee the sex of your birds, so plan ahead if your chick grows into a rooster.
Did you know that chickens stop laying eggs long before their life expectancy is up? Hens typically stop laying eggs after a few years, but it depends on the individual hen. Sometimes production slows, but doesn’t completely stop for several years. Even after they stop laying, chickens can live as long as 15 years old. Will you still want a chicken as ‘just’ a pet once they stop producing eggs? This should be considered before getting chickens.
6. Be a Good Neighbor
As it is with all pet ownership, you bear a responsibility to your neighbors to be considerate. Keep your coop clean and your flock contained. Chicken poop attracts rats, mice and possums. They are also highly susceptible to prey animals such as hawks, coyotes, owls, and bobcats and even dogs. Don’t attract unwanted guests to your neighborhood by not protecting your coop or keeping it clean.
And if you have some to spare, share your bounty with your neighbors.
As always, consult your local city ordinances on what your city expects of chicken keepers within the city limits.