Keeping a backyard flock of chickens, ducks, and other domesticated fowl has become an increasingly popular trend, and with good reason. People keep chickens and ducks for eggs, meat, or show purposes, and larger birds such as turkeys can even help to protect your property from smaller predators. You may have thought about starting your own backyard flock, but aren’t sure where to begin. Here are seven things to consider before you get started:
It’s true that chickens don’t need a lot of space, but they’ll be happier with at least a little area to roam during the day. Think about how many chickens or other fowl you intend to keep, as well as the size of their coop and enclosure, if you choose to keep them fenced in. Larger flocks and especially flocks with more than one rooster will require more space to prevent any fights.
The largest expenses when putting together your first backyard flock will be upfront: a chicken coop or other housing for your birds to roost at night and lay their eggs, fencing to keep them safe and in place, supplies for keeping them fed and watered, and of course the cost of the birds themselves, which can range from a few dollars to over a hundred per bird, depending on the breed, sex, and age. After the initial setup costs, you’ll probably only need to worry about the price of feeding your flock, maintaining their space, and keeping them healthy.
3. Fenced in or free range?
Do you want your hens to roam freely around your property, or would you rather know their whereabouts at all times and keep certain areas chicken-free? There are benefits and setbacks that come with either option, so take your choices into careful consideration.
Suburban homes can face persistent predators as well.
One of the biggest dangers to a backyard flock is predators. If you live in a more rural area like I do, animals such as coyotes, snakes, and hawks tend to be the ones to watch out for, but suburban homes can face persistent predators as well. Raccoons, foxes, and possums will all potentially go after a chicken dinner. You’ll also need to consider pets, both your own and your neighbors’. Cats and especially dogs who are unused to seeing or interacting with chickens and other domesticated fowl may see your flock as an easy target.
5. Your flock itself
No two breeds are alike, and your chickens and other backyard fowl are likely to have a plethora of personalities, habits, and quirks! We keep a variety of chicken breeds at our small farm, from frilly bantam breeds that will sit on your lap all day, to larger hens who are less friendly but known to lay a lot of eggs throughout the year. Some chicken breeds are meant for show, while others are bred for their meat or eggs. A little research will help you decide what types of birds are best for you. Don’t forget ducks, turkeys, and other fowl that you might want to mix into your flock.
6. Local laws
Many areas across the United States are advocating for backyard chickens as the idea becomes more popular, but be sure to check your local legislation on the matter to avoid having your flock banned from the neighborhood. Suburban hens are often allowed, but roosters are not, and many areas will have a limit on the number of chickens you can keep. Check your city or town’s website, or find a local hen-keeping group that will be able to tell you what you need to know.
Some breeds make more noise than others, and roosters definitely don’t stop crowing once the sun is up. Make sure you research the types of fowl you want to keep before making any decisions, and take their noise levels into consideration. Don’t forget to think about how close your neighbors are!
If you think you would like to give keeping backyard chickens a try, these seven factors are a great starting point to help you make those important first decisions. Keeping a backyard flock can be hard work at times, but the rewards are numerous and the birds themselves can be a source of fun and enjoyment for you and your family.