In my last post, I talked about the controversy that is brewing over backyard chickens. As with any animal that becomes popular, chickens are starting to fall into the hands of some irresponsible owners, but it is not difficult or complicated to be a responsible chicken keeper. Here are five action steps you can take before starting your own backyard flock.
- Contact your local zoning office or check online to make sure chickens are legal in your area. Ironically, most large cities do allow chickens, while a lot of small towns do not. If you contact the zoning office and are told that chickens are illegal, ask to see the actual ordinance regarding poultry. Unfortunately, some cities employees have been known to say chickens are illegal when they are actually legal.
- Read at least one book on chicken care. My personal favorite is Harvey Ussery’s The Small-Scale Poultry Flock because he employs a natural approach to raising heritage breeds.
- Join a local group of chicken keepers on Facebook, Yahoo! Groups, or Google Groups. They will be able to provide you with invaluable knowledge on everything chicken related in your area, from where to buy feed to where you can have roosters or old hens processed. They can also tell you about the political atmosphere surrounding chickens in your community.
- Decide what you will do if you cannot keep a rooster and one of your chicks starts crowing. Will you turn him into dinner? If not, do you know someone who will take him in? Would you be okay with someone else having him for dinner? If you want to be 100% sure that you are getting all pullets (young hens), you should buy chickens that are already a couple months old so that their sex will be obvious.
- Decide what you will do when a hen’s laying slows down. Will you be happy with an egg or two a week during her later years? Or will you turn her into chicken soup when she gets to be a few years old? If you will butcher your chickens, can you learn to do it yourself? Or do you have a processor in your area?
By planning ahead and making some hard decisions before bringing home your first chickens, you will be better equipped to deal with the inevitable situations that every chicken keeper eventually faces.
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