home + garden

Are Backyard Chickens Right For You?

Backyard chickensIf 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.

Space requirements

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.

Backyard chickens

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.

Backyard Chickens Chicks Gone Wild

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

8 thoughts on “Are Backyard Chickens Right For You?

  1. I just found out last night that my husband is planning on buying chickens again this year – meat birds for us, not laying hens. The kids had a blast watching them grow up last time we raised them, and it was a great learning experience for them. I would like some laying hens too sometime in the future.


    1. Hi Heidi,
      We checked into raising meat birds for us but simply don’t have the room – that’s our tiny backyard up top!! Keeping chickens in the city is all we have room for. You’ll love the fresh eggs….:)


  2. Great run-down on everything involved in keeping backyard chickens! I love that you included even more related links at the end of the post. Your chickens seem to have a really good life!!!


    1. Thanks Annie! Well, it’s not chicken spa here but we do love those backyard girls!


    1. Oh, yes, those little hands will be helping! Pretend you and your kids are living on the prairie with Laura Ingalls Wilder – many an outdoor chore was completed by this little make believe game when my kids were younger. They’re too smart to be tricked now! 🙂


  3. Good morning Sara,
    I recently found your blog and I am ready to get disciplined about being frugal and on a financial cleanse! Thank you for your commitment to people who need to hear your ideas and thoughts about how to live without constantly being in need of “things”. We started chicks this year and we are having fun. I had two questions for you. 1. Do you add the pine shavings into your compost too? I wasn’t sure if that was ok or if just the poo was supposed to be added. Second, where to you get your oyster shells and when should I start giving it to them, they are about 14weeks old! Ok, I lied, one more, you you just have a composting pile or do you actually have a composter? Thank you. Thank you again!
    Blessings, Bobbi~


    1. Bobbi, these are excellent questions and I’m going to answer them in an upcoming post. Thanks so much for asking these and congratulations on your new mind-set – frugal living with style!


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