Keeping chickens in the city

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(kinda long and wordy)

Hi everyone,

I live in the city (Orange County, CA) and I have just quit my job and am staying at home with my 3yo girl full time. I would of prefered that my wife stay home but she makes twice the money I do, I would not be able to support us on just my salary and we both just couldn't stand the day care thing no more, it was really ripping us apart. It isn't the best situation but well...... it is what it is for now. We are planning on moving out to a rural area sometime soon (within a year hopefully), so that my wife can stay home etc.....

Any way, we are having some great weather here (a few days in a row so far of 70-80 deg.) and I have just started to plant my veg. in a raised garden. I am having a great time with my girl and I was thinking about keeping a couple chickens as something to do with my kid (education) as well as getting some eggs in the process. I live in a typical housing tract but I live on a corner lot and there is a large grass field (a couple acres, part of a school) behind me, so I only have one neighbor next to me. I also have a pretty big lot for around here, 9000 sqft, try not to laugh to hard :-) I was thinking about building a small 4'x8' chicken house and putting it in the corner of my backyard that is the furthest away from my neighbor. This is the SE corner of the lot so I can build it so that the chickens can get some sun and shade. We also get a nice breeze (we are 5min away from the beach) that comes from the south just about everyday. So any smells would be blown towards the street in front of my house and not towards my neighbor. I was planning on keeping two hens. I went to the local feed store today and they said that they will start to have chicks coming in next month sometime. My main concern is noise as well as smell. My neighbor is a really nice older lady that is the original owner (35years) of the house. She lives with her son and is a widow. They are really nice people, I don't think she would have a problem with it. So what do you guys think? Is it feasible? How loud are chickens? How strong is the smell if I cleaned up once a week? any advice would be great. This would be my first time having chickens.

My wife thinks I am nuts!! She is from the city but she is finally coming around to living a simple, frugal homestead lifestyle. Having a kid with one on the way has really changed her thinking. She was even looking at places to live as well as land for sale on the internet today. I was pretty shocked to say the least. My parents also think I have gone totally crazy!! They are still in shock that I quit my job. Everyone around me (except my wife) thinks that I am making a big time mistake but I have never felt so good. I really think that my wife and myself are finally going to get out of this city rat race.

Thanks!

-- Sean (sparker@sprintmail.com), February 07, 2001

Answers

First thing you need to do is to check with your local zoning board as to whether or not livestock is permitted in your area. Would hate to see you construct a coop, only to have to tear it down.

Really the only thing noisy about chickens is the rooster - and you don't need one to get eggs, only if you want to raise you own replacements. If you get straight run chicks, about half will be roosters so you need to figure out in advance what you will do with them (e.g., chicken soup or chicken and dumplings).

Rather than a permanant coop, consider a chicken tractor. It is basically a cage which is moved onto fresh ground each day. If you do buy out in the country, you could take it with you.

I doubt two hens would keep you in eggs, so you might consider 6- 8. That way you might have extra to give to neighbors.

Countryside has a couple of books on raising poultry which can give you the basics of what to feed, what to expect, etc.

My situation is slightly different than yours, but I gave up a most excellent paying job for early retirement at about one-third the income. It sounds to me like you made an excellent choice. Your being there during the day may also allow you to homeschool your children.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (scharabo@aol.com), February 07, 2001.


Sean , good for you .You could be great at everything in life except being a parent and it would not count .The children are the biggest and best job we will ever have .Get used to your family thinking you are nuts , mine have for years.The two of you are making the right decission.

-- Patty {NY State} (fodfarms@slic.com), February 07, 2001.

Since when is taking care of a child and house not work? Crazy? Maybe, but it's a nice crazy. There's lots of homestead things you can do whether you do the chickens or not, and starting your little ones out right is what's important. If you're zoning laws allow, go for it.

-- Cindy (SE In) (atilrthehony_1@yahoo.com), February 07, 2001.

does it have to be chickens? How about rabbits? or you can get quail,, those things are neat,, I had some when I liveds in Detroit,, neihbors didnt mind those,, but I know they would have had a fit over chickens. Quail are small enough, that a large cage is plenty of room.

-- Stan (sopal@net-port.com), February 07, 2001.

Perhaps if you call the chickens "pets" you might be able to sneak by any problems with the local ordinances. With two chickens that just might work. Sometimes small infractions will be overlooked IF there are no complaints from neighbors. If you're on friendly terms with your neighbors, casually mention you're thinking it might be fun to get a few chickens as "pets" for your daughter and see what sort of reactions you get. Of course there may be nothing that says you can't keep any in the first place, but do check into it. I'm not about to laugh at your 9,000 sq. feet! I've only got 10,000 square feet and I'm not in the city, but suburbia just sort of sneaked in and turned country into what it is now! I'm looking to get into some real country again in the next year or two, hopefully. Good luck with chickens and a rural move. I'll let others on here give you chicken advice as I don't have any myself yet, but am considering it here even before I move. As for people/relatives thinking you're "crazy" just don't worry about it! You've only got one shot at this life, it ain't a dress rehearsal, so do what you think is best for your family despite what others think! Lots of folks out here think like you do, and they know you ain't crazy! Good Luck! AND keep us posted.

-- Bob Johnson (Backwoods_Bob@excite.com), February 07, 2001.


Some Seabrights or similar birds might be your answer... Even my Seabright rooster isn't that noisy, they're small birds, don't eat a lot, don't poop a lot, and don't need a lot of room. 'Course, you're not going to get a very big egg from 'em either, but they sure are pretty! Pretty enough you could probably convince people they're pets and not livestock until you get out to the country.

Good luck!

-- Eric in TN (eric_m_stone@yahoo.com), February 07, 2001.


I second all the advice given. The only thing I would add is you don't need to get straight run. Buy a few pullet chicks. They may cost a little(not much) more, but you don't have to worry about what to do with the roosters.

-- mary, texas (marylgarcia@aol.com), February 07, 2001.

We are offically in the "city limits" but our land agreement allows everything except sheep, goats and swine. We did however talk to all our neighbors to make sure it was okay with them, none of which had a problem with it, one wanted us to share the manure for their garden. LOL!! If you're not interested in raising chicks or butchering roosters I too would get only pullets( females only). How many eggs do you want a day? We have 12 hens and get 11-12 eggs a day. We sell all the extras for $1.25 a dozen, its not a problem we have people waiting in line to get fresh organic eggs. As far as the smell, we don't have any, I just turn the wood shavings once a week and do a complete clean out once a month( not in the winter it's cold here so I just turn and add fresh wood shavings from time to time) We built a coop but our chickens free range in the yard during the day, this makes for messy shoes so we just have our "Back Yard" shoes and take them off at the door.LOL!!! The only time I have a problem is when they get on the outdoor patio table and chairs and poop. I wash it off and tell myself that it's worth some inconvience to have fresh eggs and meat, plus they eat all the bugs, weeds, leftovers( severals days old) and fertilize our yard and garden. If it works out you're taking your first step in homesteading, good luck. Kelle

-- Kelle in MT. (kvent1729@aol.com), February 07, 2001.

First of all, I admire you for bucking society's "rules" and having the courage to stay home with your child! My Sis and brother-in-law do this and my parents think they're crazy. I think it's the best as one parent is always home with the kids. One simple question to ask the naysayers that will stop them in their tracks is, "Why is it okay for a woman to do it, but not a man?" In reply to everything else they say, ask them why they think their statements are true. One of two things will happen: They'll see that it's pretty stupid to believe that what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander OR they'll fly off in a huff (they'll realize they're wrong, that's why they'll just give up and leave ~ then you're done with them! LOL!)

Yes, check your zoning laws. If they say no chickens, then Pharoah quail might be your answer. They are very good to eat and easy to keep ~ don't make much noise at all! The eggs are really too small to eat on a regular basis unless you pickle them, but what a great lesson it would be if you got an incubator and hatched some! Then you and your daughter would already know a bit about how to do that before you move ~ then you could just buy some "farm fresh" eggs from one of your new neighbors and hatch them! (Make sure they are fertile ~ ask the person you get them from.)

If you find that you can legally keep chickens, I would still ask your neighbors if it would be okay with them. Offer to share the eggs with them and since they are as nice as you say, they'll probably agree and enjoy it! I would put some sort of hay or other "bedding" in the coop bottom and nest boxes, some kind that doesn't have weed seeds so you can add it along with the poop to the compost pile. It's great stuff! And another lesson for your daughter, too!

One hen lays about 2 eggs every three days if they are with a rooster. I think the amount goes down a bit if they aren't with a rooster, so I'd get a few more than two if you're going to share the eggs with your neighbors. A chicken tractor is a great idea! Especially since you have a garden! You can make one out of just about anything. A friend even made one out of an old kitchen table they were throwing away ~ added some horizontal boards along the bottom from leg to leg and covered it with chicken wire. Looked kind of funny, but it worked great! Especially when it rained.

Here are a couple great sites to read about chickens and other birds:

The Feathersite ~ has extensive links to hatcheries and supply houses also

OSU Poultry Breeds page

Good luck!

-- Wingnut (wingnut@moment.net), February 07, 2001.


I would keep them confined to be certain they don't enjoy your neighbors' lawn chairs. Our neighbors ducks became neighborhood tyrants. They were relocated. We have 8 hens now, and are back to getting 6-8 eggs a day now that the winter days are lengthening. Our lowest count days were 2 a day during molting. No roosters now and I never noticed a change in the laying. Keeping a clean pen is easy to do. Caring for the birds takes under 15 minutes a day. That is, if you don't stand there and fuss over them, etc.

Remember there are chicken shows (like dog shows) all over the country. They can be fascinating as pets. Good luck.

-- Anne (HealthyTouch101@wildmail.com), February 07, 2001.



Sean, I would get some banties, they are small and friendly, and do not take up much space. they could be considered pets rather than poultry or livestock. the eggs are smaller but taste just as good as the big eggs. You can find them for sale in the want ads and get pullets that do not need to be kept in a brooder i.e. feathered out and for sure female. there are a lot of different breeds like the afore mentioned Seabrights but my favorite is the Cochin which comes in many colors, and are so friendly. and the country is the only place to live and raise children so go for it and good luck.

-- Karen (kansasgoats@iwon.com), February 08, 2001.

I know a gal who's kept 2 hens in an apartment for quite some time.

If you sprinkle their area with food/agriculture grade Diatomaceous Earth, there won't be any smell. Leave piles of the DE around ~ they love to dust bathe in it. If you also mix some DE into the feed, your birds won't get mites nor scaly leg and it will also deworm them.

Here's a great site to learn about chickens:

http://www.feathersite.com/Poultry/BRKPoultryPage.html

Scroll down to the search and type in a breed you want to know about. OR keep scrolling down to the index.

Good luck on your new adventure.

-- ~Rogo (rogo2020@yahoo.com), February 08, 2001.


Silkies and Frizzles can't fly, so you wouldn't have to worry about them flying over the fence. And I don't think I've ever heard the hens at all! There's no better setter than the Silkie; they'll sit on ANY eggs. I've seen them set on duck eggs. Really cute to see all the ducklings following a hen around. They're small, so you just cook more eggs for a meal! -G- And they're also great lap chooks!

-- ~Rogo (rogo2020@yahoo.com), February 08, 2001.

thanks for all the great info!

I have been checking out the links and I have no doubt that I would be able to do this in my backyard as long as I don't have a rooster (noise). One problem though, my wife doesn't like the idea. She thinks that they will smell a lot and people will complain. I tried to explain to here that with just 2-4 hens it wouldn't be a problem but she doesn't believe me. I have an ace up my sleeve though, my mom (who lives a couple miles away) use to keep chickens at her house as a kid and I asked her what she thought and she said that it would be just fine. There also is this little farm at the Orange County Fair grounds that is used for school tours and is free to the public to go check out. They have your basic farm animals, chickens, pigs, cows, horses, sheep, goats and rabbits. They also have a nice veg. garden (about 10,000 sq ft). I went there today with my kid and my mom and they had a nice size coop with about 25-30 chickens in it. After looking at this I don't think having 2-3 chickens is a big deal. So I am going to take my wife there and also have my mom talk to her (they get along great and are true friends). Hope it works out. If not then I will just wait till we move.

Thanks again for all the great information.

-- sean (sparker@sprintmail.com), February 08, 2001.


I have kept chicken in town several times. I did find the the banties (Silkies, etc) were just like pets (and you can tell the neighbors they are "range Cockatoos"), and they did not smell at all. If there is hay in their coop, the droppings dry quickly and have no smell. Bigger chickens did seem to have more smell, but I don't think 2-3 chickens of any kind are going to cause a problem. As for noise, just keep them locked up in their coop until you are sure all the neighbors are awake. The noise they make is actually kind of soothing (most of the time).

lynne

-- lynne (lynnie70@juno.com), February 10, 2001.



chickens aren't that noisey if you don't keep a rooster, and I have never noticed that mine have any smell. Our coop is very close to the house because of our land being unlevel. I would talk to your neighbor and ask her if she thinks chickens would bother her. At her age she probably knows all about chickens and will have lots of advice for you too. The city that is close to us has a population of around 75,000 and there are people there that keep chickens in their backyards. I see them pecking around when I go down to shop. I would have a secure type of coop or cage for them because sometimes house cats will get after chickens. You will probably want 6-8 hens. May I suggest a batam breed. The eggs are smaller but they eat less and lay just as many eggs depending on breed. Also, being smaller they are "cute". I have both batams and large breed and the batams are much sweeter by nature. Usually the purchase price is the same. For 6-8 chicks I have used a large plastic storage bin with a clip light and chicken wire for a top for brooding. It is very reasonable to buy and easy to clean. Plus it can be re-used for something else when the chicks are raised. I brood mine in the house but they do kick up a lot of dust. Since you have such nice weather you could brood yours in the garage. I like to use the pine shavings for their bedding both in brooding and in the coop. Good luck. Please post whether or not you go ahead with the chickens. I know that you will enjoy them. They are so entertaining and so easy to care for. Your little girl will love them ! You are really doing the right thing in staying home with your daughter. I worked during most of my children's growing up years and have always regretted it. Best to ya !

-- cindy palmer (jandcpalmer@sierratel.com), February 10, 2001.

Only scanned the above (so many posts, so little time!). First, no roosters. They are all loud, and unnecessary for eggs. 2nd, a quiet breed. Now here, we will have great differences of opinion, but it is my humble experience that the larger, heavier breeds are more calm than their smaller cousins. A white leghorn is an egg factory, but as flighty as a democrat in southern Florida! The heavies, such as Orpingtons, Rocks, or Giants are very calm and pretty good layers. We had 4 of those types in a very yuppie neighborhood about a thousand years ago (and 4 bunnies!) without any complaint from the neighbors. Giving them (the neighbors) a dozen eggs every now and then didn't hurt. But, go for it, and GL! e-mail if I can help further!

-- Brad (homefixer@SacoRiver.net), February 12, 2001.

Hi Sean!

I have been lurking at this board for a couple of weeks now enjoying all the info! So glad I have found some like minded people!

I just had to take this opportunity to send big (HUGS) to you and your wife! Wow, it is really hard to go against what seems to be normal... leave the kid in stranger care so we can do our thing. Some folks just have to work and leave the munchkins and goodness, that is so hard too. But a lot of folks do it just because everyone else thinks they should be "working". I am a mom of four sons (20,16,9&7), and believe me, staying home is "working"! Some mornings I look at my hubby and say, "How about I go to work for you today?". He always says, "That would be GREAT!". He would LOVE to be home with the boys more (car business/leaves at 7am and gets home at 9pm/6 days a week), but will be the first to tell anyone that his wife's job is harder than his... plus, I home school the two youngest.

I am proud that you are raising your daughter and proud that your wife is supporting you in this. To be honest I have encountered many women over the years that would not allow this to happen. They wanted/needed to work but couldn't stand the thought of their husbands staying home.

We are on the two year plan to simplify our lives and in fact are going to southern Ohio to look at land to buy this Saturday. Daddy want to be home more before it is too late, mommy wants her boys living outside of our growning city, and her husband home to spend more time with the family. We are real naturalists here, and truly happiest when we are out of doors, gardening, fishing, hiking, ect... So, I wish you and your wife luck with your land buying and you all keep your fingers crossed for us if you don't mind!

Kelly longing for a simplier life.

-- KellyinOhio (kmyers01@commkey.net), February 13, 2001.


(Also kinda long and wordy)

I live in the city on less than 1/4 acre and have 16 chickens and three goats. Before I got anything, I checked with animal control. They were very helpful. It turns out that there is a kind of rural part of our city, within city limits, where people typically have cows, etc., so the city code could not prohibit keeping animals. The animal control people just made certain I had adequate facilities, and all was well. They also cautioned me about noise and odor complaints from neighbors. They say they get a few calls a year from people wondering whether itís legal for me to have these animals in the city, and they tell them, ďas long as they are all licensed.Ē They are, itís pretty inexpensive. I donít know about zoning. Never spoke with them. Iíve had my animals going on three years now.

I also cleared it with my immediate neighbors, even before going to Animal Control. I also give the neighbors some extra eggs from time to time to keep them happy.

I have no roosters. Hens will cluck loudly when they lay an egg, but thatís pretty much all you ever hear if youíre more than ten feet away from the pen, and it only lasts a few minutes.

I would get more than two chickens. Many things can happen with chickens, and a single bird is a lonely bird. Also, as Ken said, extra eggs can be given to neighbors and friends. Eggs from backyard chickens are very special! You canít buy them in any store, no matter where you shop. Even the ones in the health-food stores donít compare. IMHO, itís the green stuff they get to eat, and the exercise scratching, and other things that keep chickens healthy and happy. Once people get a taste of your eggs, theyíll be wanting more, and youíll need more chickens, so better to build a pen or tractor big enough to handle some extra hens.

Regarding the smell: In my experience, if you use deep, dry bedding, you rarely have to clean out the pen. I clean mine about twice a year. By that time, the bedding is one to two feet deep. If there is ever any unpleasant smell, I just throw in some more straw and throw cracked corn on top. The chickens enjoy spreading the new bedding around while looking for the cracked corn. I like straw best Ė itís fun for chickens, it wonít hurt them to eat a little, they can find the odd wheat seed in there, the smaller bits fall down below the larger piece, which keeps the birds cleaner, and once itís used up, the pieces are the right size to compost well for some VERY nice garden amendment. Besides, itís pretty and less dusty than sawdust, and doesnít clump up as much. Also, I use cracked corn instead of scratch with wheat. At first I used the kind with wheat, but when I used the old bedding in my garden, I had a marvelous stand of wheat in no time! I now stick to non-viable feeds.

Well, I could go on and on, but Iíve already written a book here. Iíll post a couple of useful URLs for plans for chicken houses and tractors, and then sign off. Good luck with your project! If you have any more questions, please feel free to email me.

This site has a very cool plan for a 4 x 8 foot chicken house. I really like the features of this house!

http://www.casema.net/~gjosinga/page1.htm

This is a site with lots of good links for poultry housing, including various styles of chicken tractors (moveable housing).

http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Plains/4175/housing.html

Have fun!

-- Laura Jensen (lrjensen@seedlaw.com), February 13, 2001.


Hi Sean,

I just saw your post about having a couple of chickens in Orange County. I'm in the eastern part of L.A. County and in a residential area. That's a city of course. With city regulations and zoning. The rules are there and if you go and ask they will tell you no chickens. However, if you already have the chickens, assuming you only have a few, the chances are no one will notice or complain. I've had eight to ten hens, sometimes a few more, (up to fifteen), on the place for three decades. I also have three geese. The local enforcement people know all about the geese because one of the neighbors became angry with a relative of mine and decided to report the geese. I guess he didn't know about the chickens since they make no noise to speak of. (No rooster) I received a phone call asking about the geese. I was told that I did not have to get rid of the geese. The person who called me told me that they were obligated to tell me that zoning did not permit poultry but unless I received another phone call from their office, and that would only happen if they got a second complaint, I need do nothing. I never got another phone call. That was sewveral years ago. While I was speaking with this person, I explained how I got the geese. One snared on fishing line, with the line nearly cutting through one leg, was brought to me from a lake here in So. Cal. I cut off the fishing line and the goose healed up. I felt sorry for the poor bird, alone with only some old hens living in the next pen, so I bought two goslings which the goose ended up raising. The younger birds are now well over twelve years old. No idea how old the original was when it arrived.

Orange County is likely to be super picky, depending upon where you live but...do you have fencing or could you put up something to block the view into your yard? If so, I'd give the chickens a try. The worst that can happen is somebody reports you have them and you have to get rid of them.

Around here, it is very easy to raise to to six chicks. You can do it with a cardboard box. A couple of layers of newpaper in the bottom of the box, which you change regularly to keep the chickens clean, a small water base that will screw on to a glass jar, a chick feeder, some starter mash, two to six pullet chicks; some grit,(just a little), scattered around on the bottom of the box for the chicks to pick up. Tha

-- Jo (joeydee37@yahoo.com), February 13, 2001.


Once again I would like to thank everyone for all the help (posts and emails). the response has really been great, much more than I would of thought, it is truely appreciated. I will keep everyone updated if I end up getting some chicks.

Sean

-- Sean (sparker@sprintmail.com), February 13, 2001.


Sean

How are things going? I need to know !!!!!!!!

I live in the UK in the country. Problem: I have a V.v.small space for a chicken run, probably only enough for two chickens (I know absolutely nothing about them either!!)

How have you got on? has it worked out? Please let me know. Thanks

Butty

-- Butty (markbutty@aol.com), April 23, 2001.


Sorry for taking so long to answer the post.

My wife was not to keen on keeping the chickens so I decided not to push it. When I got married my mom told me to not sweat the small stuff and to be picky in the battles that I fight, so I just let it go, my time will come. I did plant a small garden with my daughter and we grew tomatoes, carrots, bush beans, pole beans, lettuce and some brocoli. It turned out OK, it was only my second time planting so I hope I get better at it. I started to have some bug problems and didn't know what to do so I just stopped the garden early.

I am still not working and staying at home full time. We had a baby boy 3 months ago so I am taking care of him as well as my 4yo girl. I really wish that I could make enough money to let my wife stay home but for right now it just isn't possible and we both don't want to send the kids to day care. I know that some day the roles will be reversed. My parents are still not happy with the situation, but being home has done a lot of good with my kids and family.

I am still searching for the best place to move to, but I just haven't found it yet. I am probably the only person that has all the resources to make the move to my dream homestead but I just can't find the right location. It is very frustrating to say the least.

Any way, the chickens didn't happen, but things are good and I am having quite the experience being Mr. Mom.

Sean

-- Sean (sparker@sprintmail.com), September 17, 2001.


Re-think the Pharoah quail suggestion - there's generally no problem with them, or with classifying them as pets - many people keep them in the bottom of cages for other birds to clean up spilled grain and hence discourage mice. They can each lay about as many eggs as a hen in a year - just smaller. The excess birds are tasty, and anyone who's shelled a fair number of boiled quail eggs will begin to appreciate the idea of bigger eggs with less shelling.

-- Don Armstrong (darmst@yahoo.com.au), September 18, 2001.

Sean- Best of luck with the children! I think it's great that one of you is staying home with them. More people should do the same. I myself stay home with our two girls while my wife is working. I work part time as a self employed landscaper when she gets home from work. I love being with my children but I also wish that my wife was able to be at home. We plan on getting 4 or 5 chickens for eggs this spring. Just starting to look into it now. Lots of info here! Hopefully you'll find that place in the country and get some chickens. Keep us informed. Good luck and always remember you're doing the right thing. Kids are only kids once. You'll never regret being there for them, but you will regret it if you're not there for them. ~John

-- John (john.farkash@snet.net), February 11, 2002.

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