Inexpensive, high-quality eggs became widely available in supermarkets across America in the 1950’s, about the same time that a sleek, modern suburban lifestyle was embraced. In spite of this, many people in cities continued to raise chickens because of their relative ease, affordability, and the great return on initial investment. Now, with the sustainable, locavore, and organic movements, citizens in all New York City boroughs can raise as many backyard chickens as they like.
Hens, No Roosters
Raising chickens can be very satisfying, but it’s critical to avoid creating situations where they become a nuisance to others. Because of their propensity to crow throughout the day, roosters are classified as illegal. While there’s no limit on the amount of hens one can keep, any smells, noise, flies, etc. must not have a negative effect on neighbors, as the city takes complaints seriously.
Socially, chickens adhere to a pecking order that keeps things under control. They’re curious, energetic, and most enjoy human companionship. Of course, these are all good things, but the decision to keep backyard chickens deserves close consideration.
Caring for Backyard Chickens
Backyard chickens are wonderful pets. They’re tolerant of weather extremes, enjoy eating table scraps, bugs, and other pests, and require simple housing. They also fertilize the garden if you’re lucky enough to have one. However, keeping your hens healthy and happy depends on providing additional care:
- Protection – Securing your backyard chickens at night is paramount to survival. Racoons and opossums are well-known predators of these birds (even in well-trodden urban areas), and cats or stray dogs can also take down smaller fowl. Your coop should be sturdy with fully enclosed walls and a roof (preferably raised off the ground). Fencing should be employed around walkways and overhead to protect your chickens from birds of prey.
- Comfort – Aside from the security aspect, chickens must be kept at a healthy temperature. Insulating straw bedding must be changed out regularly during the winter, and efficient ventilation is needed in hotter months.
- Nesting – Inside their coop, hens need a nest box to lay eggs. Most coops are designed to allow for human capture of the eggs, but beware of protective brooding chickens.
- Instincts – Backyard chickens should have a fenced-in run for scratching, sunbathing, dirt bathing, and foraging.
- Nutrition – Backyard chickens need a balanced, age-appropriate diet. Laying hens benefit from extra calcium sources, such as limestone or granite grit, a few times per month. They also enjoy fruits, grains, and veggies, but certain foods, like avocados or raw potato skins, are toxic. Clean water and fresh feed is required every day.
- Disease prevention – Backyard chickens are susceptible to various contagious diseases. Keeping their environment clean reduces problems, but periodic veterinary care is vital to their health.
Backyard chickens are top-notch pets if you’re willing to learn about their needs and accomodate their quirks and proclivities. They’re highly unique pets that deserve extra care and attention. Of course, like all animals, each has their own special personality, as well.
If you have any questions or concerns about raising your own backyard chickens, our staff is happy to help. Enjoy your brood!