Home + Garden

An Urban Farming Guide for Beginners: Keeping Chickens in the City

Tips for keeping chickens in the city for familiesWhy Keep Chickens? It’s Easy, Cheap, and Fun!

While there’s the obvious appeal of eating farm-fresh eggs laid by happy hens eating healthy food, the satisfaction of collecting eggs from the nest pales in comparison to the enjoyment of raising these rewarding creatures.

While raising chickens in the city isn't quite as easy as caring for houseplants, there are some parallels:  Once their basic needs are met, you just give them food and water every couple days and they’ll be fine.

Joys of the backyard flock. Not that you would want to ignore them — chickens loads of fun and they make great pets. Hens gossip amongst themselves, have charming little personalities, come when you call them and follow you around. Some love to be patted and all look forward to a tasty treat from you (such as a banana or cracked corn). You’ll find their antics endlessly entertaining. Kids adore them, and toddlers can chase them forever (and never catch one).

Other benefits include control of weeds and insects, as they patrol your yard devouring bugs, slugs, snails and weed seeds. Many homeowners report seeing fewer pests once they introduce chickens to the backyard.

Chicken manure is famously beneficial for gardens (let it mellow first, though, as its nitrogen content is so high that plants can get fertilizer burn if it’s not composted for a few months before it goes on the garden.)

Theoretically you could keep chickens for meat, too, but most people take the eggs-and-pets approach.

Zen chickens, Zen mind. It’s remarkably soothing to watch chickens walking around your backyard. The tranquility and calming effect are akin to the benefits of gazing at tropical fish in an aquarium.

But is it legal? Yes, most likely your municipality does permit chickens, just as it allows dogs and cats. The number will be limited, and roosters are never welcome in the city because of their noise. You will want to check your city’s website for the current land-use regulations. In Seattle for example, as of August, 2010, Municipal Code Section 23.42.052 reads:

Up to eight (8) domestic fowl may be kept on any lot in addition to the small animals allowed. On lots greater than 10,000 sf. ft. that include either a community garden or an urban farm, one (1) additional fowl is permitted for every 1,000 sf. ft. of lot area over 10,000 sf. ft. in community garden or urban farm use.”

So let's get started! Read on for more information about:

1. Getting Started
2. Gimme Shelter: Coop Basics
3. Picking Up Chicks
4. Care and Feeding
5. Adolescence to Adulthood
6. Eggs 101
7. Potential Problems
8. Resources for Raising Chickens in the City

Check out the rest of our Family Guide to Urban Farming

Read Next