Sustainable Living, Education and Aquaponics
Chickens in the urban backyard garden. Sounds great! The chickens produce fantastic fertilizer. Eats lots of insects. Scratch and improve the soil. Another great benefit is the entertainment factor to watch and produce the best eggs delivered right to the kitchen table daily.
What kind of chickens are you thinking to raise? Eggs or dinner entree? What kind of time do I have to take care of them? What kind of space do you have to create your little garden? Any city regulations? These are just a few question one might have before considering chickens. Sure it's nice to get a cute little chick around Easter. But then what? Don't start an idea unless you create a plan to do right by that little girl.
We started out with a couple of Foghorn Leghorns and a couple of Rhode Island Reds for eggs.
Ok, you have decided you want chickens. There are hundreds of chicken breeds and with that so many to research and see what is best suited to what you would like to do with them. It can get kind of confusing. There are so many types of chickens out them I would suggest picking up a few books, some google research and visit some farms and talk to farmers raising chickens. Once you have put in a bit of time and are still thinking of raising chickens, then I would suggest getting to know your neighbors and little better. Hoping you are on good relations, it is polite to speak with them to let them know your intentions for raising chickens. City ordinances come into play and your neighbors might even have to sign off on your permit to raise chickens. Even female chickens can be loud in the morning (hey, I would be too if I had to lay an egg almost every day!). Maybe you make a little bride and say you offer up some of the eggs to them every once in a while?
Research your city's rules and ordinances on keeping chickens. Almost every urban setting will have some ordinace and in Santa Clara County in 2014 they lets you have up to four hens (no roosters) with a permit and an inspection of your coop to assure your animal's safety.
Research the types of birds that are out there. There are many different types. Some do well in cold weather and others do better in warmer climates. Do you want egg layers or do you want broilers for eating? How about a dual purpose bird? One that you can can eat and lays eggs prolifically. They even have chickens that lay easter colored eggs and mini chickens called bantams!
When looking into the types of chickens you want, keep in mind they are very small when they are first hatched but they do grow big and very fast! My girls have almost outgrown our small backyard. So, we decided to get a mobile chicken tractor and let the girls in the front yard to eat the weeds in the lawn. They are very good at eating the clovers in the lawn and they did a great job in their little tracker.
Remember when picking up chicks, try to get them in early spring. Most chickens begin laying at about five to six months old (give or take a few weeks). This way your girls will begin laying in June until the end of Summer and into Fall.
We've decided to let the girls rest this winter and let mother nature run it's course. There are many who will extend the laying by adding lights to the coop and run. It's a good idea if you need the eggs and rely on them. We get plenty and then some. My family cannot keep up with the four and sometimes five eggs a day. I've been baking a lot. Know what your options for storage and sharing are things you will have to think about when the girls start going into production.
Normally we'd say come spring when they are ready to lay again, they will be plumped up to begin egg laying again for all those summer cake recipes! We found though over our California winter and feeding and allow the chickens to free range they have been very happy to continue laying all winter.
Another consideration is if not looking for eggs or to raise a dual purpose chicken is to raise a broiler. We have a couple of Rhode Island Reds that would fit the bill as great egg layer and also a great roasted chicken.
Chickens for meat:
The same above for chickens for broilers except broilers grow very very fast. There are multiple varieties and they usually go from hatchling to butcher with 10-12 weeks. We intend to begin processing free range organic (no hormones, no unnatural additives, antibiotics, etc.) chickens by late 2015. This project though is when we are able to go from urban to rural farming.
We will be offering backyard urban chicken farming course and please drop us an email if you are interested in getting started.