Are you allowed to have chickens where you live or is it against the law?
Actually, here in the city you are allowed up to 5 chickens. I recommend reading up on your local laws on chicken raising, as unfortunately not all cities are chicken-friendly. Also, many neighborhoods have laws against it, so check with the neighborhood association too! I am all for chicken raising in any area, but realize in most areas you need to keep them confined to just your yard or a coop. In Savannah the laws are different if you own a lot of property, so we actually can legally have up to 30 on our property and have roosters. Roosters are not allowed in the city unless you have a few acres, however.
Don’t chickens smell terrible?
Chicken poo smells terrible, but when you clean the coop regularly, smell is not an issue at all. We use fresh pine shavings in our coop and never smell it. Chickens themselves don’t smell. I hear they can contract fleas and mites but I think this is more likely if you keep them confined all the time.
Do you pet your chickens? Are they friendly?
Chickens, if hand raised by you, will be incredibly friendly. They each have their own different personalities, so you know which chickens like human companionship. They are very inquisitive and will sit with you, watch you , and follow you around like puppies. You might find some are friendly and others are not. Our Honeysuckle loves to be petted and demands it, while Buttercup does not like to be touched. Some are quite vocal and “talk” to you too.
How do you raise chicks to be chickens?
We buy chicks a few days old at a local feed and seed store. Chicks need constant warmth, so we have a heat lamp and a small cage we keep them in for nearly 3 months. We sometimes keep them inside for the first couple of months if it is cold. They need 90 degree heat. I must admit my least favorite part is taking care of chicks in winter , as they do smell and are just messy! But when you get past the 3 month mark they can be put outside and assimilated with older birds if you have them. They are a fed a different feed than laying hens, which is very inexpensive at around $12 for a 50 lb bag. They just eat and poop and need clean water daily. That’s it!
When do you get eggs and how many eggs do you get from 1 chicken?
The hardest part is waiting those first few months! Each chicken breed will start laying at a different time. Our first hens took 6 months to lay, but our second batch started laying in only 4 months. Ameracaunas are good egg layers, which means we get 5-6 per week from each chicken. On average we get 1 egg 4-5 days per week from each chicken. However, if they are stressed or molting, egg production can plummet and stay low for quite some time. We had a fox stalking our chickens for months and they practically stopped laying until the danger had passed. Expect egg production to plummet in winter for certain breeds.
Where is a good place to learn more about different breeds?
I really like My Pet Chicken if you are looking to compare breeds because it shows how many eggs they lay, their temperament, and ideal conditions. It is really important to do your research because you want a breed that can thrive in your area. There are some gorgeous breeds like my favorite, the Black Sumatra, and silly-looking cuddly breeds like the Silkie. I order our chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery in early Spring and also shop at Economy Feed and Seed in Savannah.
Where should I go to get started on chicken raising?
I highly recommend Mother Earth New magazine and website. There are so many excellent poultry-keeping websites out there though. A few of my favorites are Urban Chickens Network Blog and Real Time Farms.