*Poultry in The City*
By: AFarmer
14 November 2004

Disclaimer: Chickens are habit-forming. They are intelligent in a strange sort of way, can be taught tricks and will eagerly greet you every morning. I'm not sure if they can be taught to fetch a pair of slippers and your pipe, but only because I alway have my slippers on - and don't have a pipe.

I would suggest you discourage the young'ns from letting them roost on their headboards as they sleep. The hen might face the wrong way - and that could get messy.

This article was born in answer to a question posed on the boards. If one person asked, others may be wondering. The following are the questions posed by a rubie - and my answers.

I live in a city and I'm not sure if there are bylaws that prohibit raising chicken so I have chosen not to ask, as of yet.
Go ahead and ask. I lived in downtown Orlando for 15 years and had chickens. I asked. The rule in Orlando is that chickens are domestic animals and therefore can be kept as pets. The same rules apply toother "pets" such as the noise level, sanitation and the means by which you confine them. Keep them in your yard either by means of a coop or cages and you have no worries. Let them roam and have them scratchingup a neighbor's flower bed and you have problems. If you had a rooster that annoys neighbors - the rooster will have to go.

The stipulation was that you couldn't go commercial - have a sign in your front yard advertising fresh eggs for sale.

How many chickens do I need to produce at least a dozen eggs a week?
Trick question. Good layers usually lay an egg every other day - on average. Three hens should produce "at least a dozen eggs each week,"but probably more. That's assuming entirely ideal conditions all year,but you can't have entirely ideal conditions every day, every month,all year long. Excellent layers will lay one a day. Some will lay two one day, none the next and one the day after. Typical women! There are variables such as the molting period when they won't lay eggs - at all.And heat or cold stress depending on your climate. Any dogs in the areathat might harass them in their cages? If frightened, they won't lay.Invest your money in proven layers - Rhode Island Reds, Production Reds, White or Red Leghorns. An egg a day is not uncommon. But no hen can keep up that pace all year long. My preference are the RI or Production Reds. They produce best, IMO. Eggs are light brown.

Can I raise them in cages like rabbits, all wire, roughly 18"H X 24"W X 24"D with a weather proof top 3' off of the ground.
Yes. It's actually preferable. It's safer for them, easier for you. Make sure there is a stout and wide perch in the cage - they like to roost off the ground at night.

Can I have 2 per cage?
Yes. Chickens are social birds. But they will quibble over a nest or the best perch location.

Do they make a lot of noise?
Compared to rabbits, yes. Compared to a barking dog, no. I'd rather have a flock of chickens than a single parakeet. If you've ever had a parakeet, you know what I mean. If you have a rooster, the noise level goes up considerably. You don't need a rooster to have eggs - just hens.

Do they make much mess? (I would use catch pans for droppings and despose of them on a regular basis)
Another trick question. Their droppings are the least of the problem. They will scatter and waste their feed mercilessly unless youhave it outside the cage in a covered trough. A couple openings in the cage should give them room to put their heads through to the trough.

By the way, add the droppings to your compost pile - great for tomato plants!

Their droppings are large and relatively solid. That poses two problems. Wire with enough spacing to let the droppings fall through will be hard on their feet. Wire that will be easier on their feet won't let the droppings fall through. The best solution is to make the bottom a tray of sand or gravel - even cedar shaving or sawdust. Thiswill give them the benefit of scratching (it's what chickens do) and they will feel better about their environment. Pick the waste or soiled bedding out as needed and add more bedding as needed.

Of course, the comfort of the hen gets no consideration in a commercial operation as hens are kept in suffocatingly small cages -one bird to a compartment, wire bottoms and the cage s have slanted bottoms so the eggs roll out and away from the hens the instant they are laid. Easier to collect that way. But I am assuming you are thinking of the comfort of the birds, keeping with the standards of"pet accommodations" and the like, yes?

I know I would have to have a heat source in the winter andplenty of air flow in the summer. I'm thinking I could handle 6 of themif I can put 2 to a cage. Six will give you WAY more than a dozen a week. But you can always take up baking! Start with fuzzy little chicks from a reputable hatchery. These will prove to be the healthiest. If they can't tell the males from females, go elsewhere. You might buy chicks that will all grow into roosters. Waste of time and money. Hens should start laying at 4-6 months.

Make sure their primary diet is laying mash from the feed store.You can add other things to it like cracked corn, oats, bran, sweet feed (most feed stores have this) and even wild bird seed. They will make short work of your table scraps, too. Hens can eat anything people eat - cooked or raw. Not a single finicky eater in the entire species.

Additionally, your hens will need grit and calcium. You can give them grit which is available in feed stores and pet shops alike. This helps them digest their food. Instead of throwing out the egg shells, crumble them beyond recognition and add to their feed. This provides them with calcium. You can also crush sea shells for them. But if you are scavenging seas shells along the beach, let them soak in very hot water for 30 minutes to reduce the possibility of harmful bacteria or debris in or on the shells.

Healthy chickens are good layers and good layers are what it's all about.
AFarmer



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