If you’re thinking about keeping chickens on a small urban homestead, otherwise known as a backyard, there are several points to consider. Chickens are sweet pets, will give you delicious eggs, and provide you with entertainment but before heading out to pick out your chicks, you’ll want to have a few things lined up first. It’s a good idea to have your coop and run completed before chicks, too. Considerations should include local chicken keeping ordinances, yard space to devote to a coop and run, time for ongoing labor and have supplies and materials ready for backyard chickens.
Are backyard chickens right for you?
Honestly, I was a little reluctant about keeping chickens but after a home exchange to Gouda in the Netherlands (where we had the pleasure of caring for 7 hens!), I realized how easy and wonderful backyard chickens really are. If you have a chance for a backyard chicken test drive – take it!
City and county ordinances
Check with your city, county or local government about whether you can keep chickens in your backyard or not. Most cities don’t allow roosters – with good reason! Our chickens have a small coop that gives them about 2 square feet per chicken, as well as a modest run area . We also let our chickens out every single day to run around and stretch their wings.
If you’re raising chicks you’ll need a brooder. For keeping chickens, you’ll need a coop and run located in an area that will keep your chickens warm/cool, safe, and dry.
Labor and time
This will vary depending on how big your coop area is, but this is our routine:
- Daily :: minimum 10 minutes, let chickens out, collect eggs, and check food and water levels, and add as needed
- Weekly :: minimum 20 minutes to clean out coop
- Seasonally :: minimum 30 minutes, to muck out run area
None of these jobs take much time and if you have kids, I suggest assigning the weekly cleaning out of the coop to them perhaps as part of their allowance. It’s not a difficult job but it needs doing because leaving it for too long smells and it can make your chickens sick.
Supplies and materials
The initial set-up costs for a coop and run area can vary greatly. If you build your own coop, you can spend anywhere from $0 – $200. If purchasing a pre-made coop or buying one second-hand, plan to spend anywhere from $200 – $1,000. We built our chicken coop and run with leftover building supplies from rebuilding our garage. Our greatest expense was the hardware cloth, which can get expensive.
The ongoing costs for chickens include feed, oyster shell, and pine shavings. Chicken feed runs us about $15-$20 every couple of months. Our chickens also get food and produce scraps from our kitchen that we would otherwise be composting. Crushed oyster shells are inexpensive to buy and they’re needed for forming the egg shells. The pine shavings are inexpensive also and are used for bedding. These get added to our compost along with their waste. It makes for the best compost!
Are you considering backyard chickens? Would you like to test them out?
Go Gingham related links:
We love having backyard chickens and it works for our family.
Our backyard chickens were inspired by a home exchange visit to Gouda, The Netherlands
Chickens do give you the freshest eggs!
Yes, one of our chickens is a diva – Caddie Woodlawn is her name
The good and the bad of backyard chickens
We have baby chicks
How to hold baby chicks with a video, too!
Recipes that use lots of fresh eggs: Betsy’s best brownies and egg salad sandwiches