Many people successfully live in the city or suburbs and have a small flock of laying hens. With these tips, you can keep your neighbors happy and avoid any written warnings or fines.
1. Check your zoning laws first.Many urban and suburban areas allow chickens, but the number may be limited, and you might not be allowed to have a rooster. Know you're in the clear before you get carried away looking at the hatchery catalogs.
2. Obey the rules and regulations.If you need fewer than the minimum order at an online hatchery, check your local feed store, where they often take orders for chicks in the spring. Don't get more birds than you're allowed; you're only asking for trouble.
3. Don't get a rooster.Roosters aren't allowed in most cities, even when chickens in general are. Hens will lay eggs without a rooster. "Sex Links" are born in different colors depending on whether they are male or female, so they're a surefire way to know you're getting all female baby chicks. Online hatcheries allow you to specify the sex of the chicks for a small additional charge, but the process is only 90% accurate. Roosters can often be rehomed at age 3-4 months when their nature becomes clear by their plumage and behavior.
4. Build a generously-sized coop.Figure out how much space you want to allocate to the chicken coop, then choose the number of birds on the low side of what will fit in that square footage. The more space chickens have, the happier they are, and the less they smell. If chickens can roam freely, allow 4 square feet per bird. If the coop will be their only home, allow 10 square feet per bird.
5. Change litter frequently.The cleaner you keep the coop, the less it will smell. Weekly cleaning will definitely keep your neighbors happy, but depending on the size of the coop, you might be able to just add straw or litter weekly and do a thorough cleaning monthly. Let your nose be your guide.
6. Compost chicken litter for your garden.Fresh chicken manure is too "hot" to use directly in the garden. But add it to your compost pile or bin and in a season, it will be perfect to add nitrogen to your garden. This will eliminate the problem of bagging up and disposing of spent litter and give you free garden compost.
7. Keep chickens secure.Stray dogs, raccoons, or any number of predators might show up on the scene looking for a free chicken dinner. Keep digging pests out by burying hardware cloth up to 12 inches deep around the coop. Don't allow chickens to roam outside the coop unless the area is well-fenced.
8. Get more than one bird.Chickens are social animals, and 3 or more is a good number to start with. One chicken is a lonely chicken.
9. Consider bantams.If you're not in it for the eggs and are limited on space, bantams are smaller than standard breed chickens. They do lay eggs, but not as often as specific egg-laying breeds, and their eggs are small. But they come in all kinds of breeds and require less space than standard chickens.
10. Share eggs with your neighbors!They'll be more likely to appreciate the occasional clucking when they get to taste the delicious, fresh eggs those hens are laying.