How to Raise Chickens: Urban Coop 101

Earlier this year, while reading the Sunset magazine, I found an article on backyard gardening by Willi Galloway, West coast editor of Organic Gardening magazine. I’ve been hooked on her gardening blog — DigginFood — ever since! So I’m excited for today’s guest post, written by Willi.

Raising Backyard ChickensWe love having chickens, but I definitely recommend carefully considering all the benefits (free eggs! great fertilizer! cute chicken antics!) and the drawbacks (cleaning the coop, feeding and watering them in the pouring, freezing rain) before your get them. So here are a few things for you to consider:

  1. Know the rules. Before we got our girls I checked out the Seattle Municipal Code that covers keeping chickens. I learned that because our 6500 square foot lot was above average size, we could legally keep four chickens (lots 5000 feet and under can only have three) and that roosters aren’t illegal. We luckily don’t live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association, but if you do, check the bylaws before you buy birds.
  2. Be sure you have enough time. All in all taking care of a small flock of chickens is not a ton of work. Jon and I agree that it falls somewhere in between keeping a goldfish and a cat. But consider this: chickens wake up at first light and need to be let out of their coop soon their after. You must also tuck them into bed at dusk to protect them from predators. They need fresh food and water every morning, and clean bedding about once a week, and a couple of times a year you need to clean out their whole coop and run and give everything a good scrub. Before you get your birds, I recommend talking with your family about how you will split up the chicken care so it doesn’t become an issue later.
  3. Make nice with your neighbors, especially if you like to travel. Before we got the chickens, I let our immediate neighbors in on the plan. I told them we were placing their coop far from their bedroom windows and would be giving them lots of free eggs. This worked like a charm, and my neighbor Elaine even told me that she loves hearing my chickens in the morning (and I thought I was the only one!). Since chickens need to be taken care of twice a day, every day it makes planning to go away for the weekend slightly more complicated. We’ve dealt with this by teaching five families on our block how to watch the girls and paying them with fresh eggs.
  4. And finally… I will tell you something that no one told me. Chickens poo a lot. Like twenty times a day. They tend to leave their slippery deposits in inconvenient places around our yard, including on the deck and the arm of our beloved sun chair. This, um, habit of theirs certainly shouldn’t be a deal breaker, but I wanted you all to know.

Thanks Willi!  After a little research, I found that the “urban livestock” ordinance in Portland, Oregon allows a maximum of three chickens and zero roosters.  :)  When I eventually accomplish #73 — buy a house (which quite frankly is NOT happening this time around, thanks to my globetrotting) — I want chickens! and maybe a goat or a bunny… or a pony!  Anyone else still want a pony?

1 Comment

  • Thanks for the guest post! I should add that my chickens give us the very best eggs. Once you taste them it’s hard to go back to store bought!
    .-= Willi´s last blog ..Lucky Me =-.