Are you or your friends raising backyard chickens?

Raising chickens in your backyard was trendy a few years back, and it seems to have become more and more mainstream. I am surprised by the number of my friends in Georgia who are regularly discussing their chickens online.

There are whole discussions on Facebook about chicken health, chicken vets, chicken coops, chicken feed and chicken illnesses. Moms are asking advice about their chicken’s health just like they do about their own kid’s health. They are looking for recommendations for doctors, the best feed and the best preschools. (OK I made that last part up about the preschools but they are asking lots of advice.)

(Here is a whole website about backyard chickens.)

And there are lots and lots of chicken photos. I actually enjoy seeing the chickens and reading about the ups and downs of raising chickens. If I had the space in my backyard, I would be interested in raising chickens. I would love the fresh eggs. I would love for my kids to have that experience of feeding and caring for the chickens. (My dad’s family use to raise chickens in Savannah and sell the eggs to neighbors.)

My kids loved to visit our first friend that got chickens several years ago. They loved holding the chicks and loved it when the bigger chickens would chase their buddy around the yard. The big sister would pick the chickens up and could identify them all. I swear she’s going to be a vet.

Are my friends just particularly farm-oriented or are you guys seeing and hearing about as many backyard chickens as I am?

Are you raising chickens? Do you talk about them on Facebook or show photos of them on Facebook?

37 comments Add your comment

non committal mind reader

February 21st, 2013
9:10 am

I’m not hearing about anyone raise chickens. If I lived in a neighborhood, or more rural area, where they are allowed, I would strongly consider it, though.

FCM

February 21st, 2013
9:13 am

At the Cobb Festival in October there was a Chicken Co-op booth. Apparently some areas in GA are opposed to allowing you to raise chickens.

If you have enough land to maintain the chickens so that animals (racoons, cayotes, or even neighbors dogs) are not near MY property to get to them AND you keep the coop clean (chickens are stinky!!!) then go ahead and raise them. However, the average residential house does not meet those requirements.

Although with all the economic havoc I am back to thinking farming, canning, and even raising might be a good idea.

MJG I took my daughters to the GA coast this weekend. They loved it! They fussed at first about how it was not an amusement park and would be boring. Then they fell for the area enough that they want to go back. Thought of you and the trips you take with your daughter.

Mayhem

February 21st, 2013
9:21 am

Several neighbors have chickens. A friend’s parents have chickens.

Nothing better then fresh eggs. We reap the benefits of the neighbors and their chickens.

Mayhem

February 21st, 2013
9:21 am

FCM – where on the coast did you go?

Patrick

February 21st, 2013
9:27 am

Chickens are nasty creatures, second only to pigs.

If I were to raise chickens, it’d be more for the meat than the eggs. We don’t eat eggs all that much; we mainly use them as ingredients in things like waffles, cookies, cakes, brownies, cornbread, French toast, or when breading chicken for frying.

FCM – my mom’s been doing a garden every year for the last five years. She grows corn, green beans, bell peppers, field peas, tomatoes, and strawberries. She cans the corn, green beans, and field peas. She makes up tomato sauce with the tomatoes and cans it. The bell peppers she’ll chop up and freeze, and it doesn’t harm the flavor. She does the same thing with the strawberries.

If we had the acreage, my mom wants to raise a calf for meat.

Dennis

February 21st, 2013
9:31 am

We stayed in a guest house in through AirBNB in Seattle last summer. In town neighborhood, similar feel to Virginia Highlands and close to UW. The owner of the home had a small chicken coop with 3 egg laying hens.

We would love to have laying hens, but it’s specifically prohibited under the neighborhood covenants for our neighborhood.

jct

February 21st, 2013
9:41 am

We are thinking about it. We have enough land to do this. We also live way out in Dekalb County so their would be no prohibition to us having a small amount of chickens. We have looked at a few coop trying to figure out which would work best for us.

FCM – you can garden in a relative small space. I have two raised beds and will add two more this spring. Growing tomatoes, squash, beans and cucumbers in the summer. Right now I am growing kale, collards, cauliflower and 3 kinds of lettuce. It has really helped with the grocery bill.

jct

February 21st, 2013
9:42 am

Hey TWG – did you get any snow?

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

February 21st, 2013
9:54 am

nope not in Phoenix — we got rain. Below us (Tucson) got snow because is actually a higher elevation and north of us got snow but none here- it rained the entire day and was cold — it had been in te 70s and 80s all weekend and barely hit 50 yesterday.

Mayhem

February 21st, 2013
10:07 am

FCM – I do garden containers, plus in my yard too. I have several raised beds. I’ve grown tomatos, jalapenos & all my herbs in containers on the deck (I love walking out the sliding glass door and getting fresh herbs as I’m cooking). I’m starting my “pods” this weekend in a small plastic greenhouse from Home depot.

Me

February 21st, 2013
10:39 am

@Mayhem – I’m with you – There is nothing better than having the fresh herbs and peppers available when needed. More on topic, I don’t have any neighbors that raise chickens but I sometimes wish I did as we love the fresh eggs. My wife’s sister in Michigan has an true free-range chicken operation completely powered by solar and wind energies. That, combined with the diet, is about as “organic” as is possible. But the eggs and chickens make for some tasty dishes!

jc

February 21st, 2013
10:56 am

My neighbor (a 98 yr old woman) had 9 in a pin close to her house and a rottweiler manged to get thru the wire and kill of them. So sad. I offered to get here more but her son said no, he didn’t care for them but I was so sad for her. That was 2 years ago and she will be 100 this year!

homeschooler

February 21st, 2013
10:56 am

We have 15 acres of land, a chicken coop with 13 chickens and a very large garden. The extent of my involvement is the cooking. My kids are deeply involved in these great experiences due to my wonderful husband. If left up to me we would get all our produce and eggs from Kroger or Publix. It’s a lot of work and it’s not cheap. Bottom line, unless it’s a hobby, it’s just not worth it.
I think having a few laying hens in a back yard coop would not be a big deal but I would not recommend anyone in a neighborhood getting a rooster. That might tick off the neighbors.
We’ve only had the chickens for about a year or two. Supposedly they will stop laying at some point and then it will be time to kill and eat them. My husband says he will do this. I’m doubting that. We will see.

A

February 21st, 2013
11:09 am

I think most subdivisions in ATL wouldn’t allow this, but if you’re on your own without an HOA breathing down your neck, I say go for it!

who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men

February 21st, 2013
11:14 am

‘Do you raise backyard chickens?’
What’s that saying?….you can take the girl out of georgia…..

MamaS

February 21st, 2013
11:14 am

I live in a gated subdivision with six-foot privacy fences.and one of my neighbors has chickens. They do not have a rooster, so their is no disturbance. When they go out of town my grandson is hired to go into their back yard and gather the eggs! They have a garden too and do lots of canning.
I grow tomatoes — lots of tomatoes — in containers in my back yard. I also have fig trees and blueberry bushes – easy care. In the summer I trade figs and blueberries for eggs.
We both have cats, which discourages snakes and rodents who might be attracted to the food and the fowls.

Savannah mom

February 21st, 2013
11:14 am

We had chickens when we lived in Athens, and we are preparing our yard for a new batch in Savannah. A well-maintained coop is less annoying than the barking dog in your neighbor’s yard! As long as it is cleaned regularly, your neighbors will not mind, especially when you start bringing them fresh eggs.

BessBear

February 21st, 2013
11:53 am

We have 5 chickens on 1/2 acre. Around the metro ATL, they are legal in some areas – city of ATL, Decatur, being quite popular. Other areas have been very difficult about allowing it.

There really is no smell, unless you are standing right next to the coop and if the coop is not maintained. Several chickens produce far less waste than 1 dog, yet there are no laws against owning several dogs. Wild animals already live among us, whether you see them or not. We saw 3 grown deer in my neighbors yard just yesterday, and we’re not up against a wooded area, just 1/2 acre lots.

We love the fresh eggs. They are better tasting, and nutritionally better than any you can get at the store. Having chickens does not cost us less than buying eggs, but we enjoy them as pets as well. We often go outside in the evening (having chickens will encourage you to get out more), and we play games while watching the chickens and their silliness.

What we clean out from the coop is used in our compost and works so well to improve our garden.

Our neighbors love that we have chickens (we asked about it before getting them). They love the extra eggs we end up with, and the one behind a privacy fence tells us they don’t even realize they are there since they can’t see them.

Existing laws/ordinances for noise and smell can already take care of any problems that could result, say from someone owning 100 chickens on a smaller property, or owning roosters. Most backyard chicken enthusiasts are not interested in doing that, but if they did, something can be done to stop that, just like you can call police to complain about noisy dogs, or dogs running loose.

Georgia needs to get some consistency in allowing all homeowners to have chickens, and then those who are not wanting them can live in subdivisions with their restrictive HOA rules that won’t allow it.

Wayne

February 21st, 2013
12:13 pm

My wife was after me for a very long time about getting chickens. “They’ll eat all the bugs in the yard, might even take care of some of the snakes…” I was against the idea as I know that I’d end up taking care of them. Along with the cats, dogs, and horse. No thanks. She kept hounding me until a friend of hers got chickens and we went to visit/see them. As her friend told her the amount of work to keep them up (properly) I could see my wife’s interest waning. Yes! She decided maybe she doesn’t want chickens after all. The deal breaker? You have to get up early to feed them.

Since then, we found out that a weasel has been lunching on her friend’s chickens. She’s getting a dog to help with that. Went from having a few chickens to a few chickens AND a dog.

No thanks.

iRun

February 21st, 2013
12:28 pm

I imagine newer planned developments with HOAs might not allow it but I live in Candler Park and several of my neighbors have them. Some even have roosters. It’s not a big deal, just another city noise. They get great fresh eggs and when I walk my dog by their houses I can’t tell that it smells.

I would do it if I had more land than I do but my house was built in 1925 and it takes up 85% of my property. I essentially only have room for parking in the back and a courtyard. I have a small sideyard I could put a coop in, I guess, but I like to use that area for storing my bike and the trash cans (it’s a secure spot). And, of course, the small front yard would just be unsightly.

But I would do it if I had about 50% more room.

MANGLER

February 21st, 2013
1:48 pm

Having spent time in Portland, OR, a city where back yard chickens are quite popular, they become a nuisance when in close proximity to neighbors. They cluck and chatter on 24/7. Not just the Roosters, but the hens as well. A dog barking is louder, yes, but that’s typically less frequent than the hens clucking about. When it’s 2AM and all you hear is hens outside, you kind of wish they were further away than your neighbors yard.

If you have the space to keep them, and that space is not right next door, then sure, why not. But when discussing urban neighborhoods, the fresh eggs may not be worth the noise – unless all of your immediate neighbors are aware and accepting.

The odor isn’t that bad when dealing with the dozen or so that people may have in a back yard. It’s when you have industrial hen houses with tens of thousands in one area that the odor becomes an issue.

jmb

February 21st, 2013
1:53 pm

My comment was lost. As a former farm owner, we had over 100 chickens and various birds. Like homeschooler said, its a lot of work for anything more than 5-6 laying hens.

xxx

February 21st, 2013
1:58 pm

I have chickens, live on 40 acres, and don’t care what my neighbors think.

FCM

February 21st, 2013
2:52 pm

@Mayhem….Savannah down to St Simons areas.

@ Patrick…we use eggs for the same things, baked goods! Although somtimes egg whites are requested as a meal.

@xxx…with 40 acres, I doubt if I were your neighbor I would smell the livestock or their leavings…I was talking about people who live on postage stamp property and want to raise them.

My parents live on just under an acre. They have their yard guy till up the back end of the lot, actually they till less now then when I was a kid. My children go over and help them get the seeds/plants in. I send them over to help weed and so on too. They love getting out there with my parents and growing stuff. Sometimes (often) my parents send some of the food back home with the children. They have not had enough to do canning (very hot work) in recent years.

When I was growing up our garden had all kinds of beans, tomatoes, potatoes, melon, onion, peppers, cucumbers, radishes, carrots, lettuce, cabbage, corn etc. These days other it is mostly peppers and tomatoes.

I do recall my grandmother and mother putting up many quarts of tomatoes, greenbeans, peaches and saurkraut. They did pints of okra and pickles. Uusually what they were putting up was produce from the state farmer’s markert though. Up until the summer before she died when we would call Grandma she would start telling us how many quarts/pints or bags (mostly fruit) she had put up that week.

Potatoes and Onions were put into panty hose and hung in the basement. And this was in East Cobb County Suburbia! My friends would come over in the fall/winter and be like what in the world is hanging from up there. ROFL

I did attempt to plant some things one year in my yard. I am good at killing them (I forget to water). We also have a LARGE number of rabbits who seem to think my gardens are their buffet.

I did get excited that some of my flowers seem to be making a return in their beds though.

Mayhem

February 21st, 2013
3:04 pm

FCM – LOVE that part of the coast. We plan on retiring in St. Simons, hopefully within the next 10 years.

jarvis

February 21st, 2013
3:17 pm

My wife, a kindergarten teacher, was once teaching a lesson of likes and dislikes. The children were encouraged to speak up about things they liked and didn’t like.

“I like Scooby”. “I dislike beets.” That sort of thing.

One little girl rose her hand and said, “I dislike it when the chicken poops on my bed.”

Lesson: keep them in the yard because your kids will tell on you.

BessBear

February 21st, 2013
3:36 pm

There really not much work involved in taking care of chickens, if you have things set up properly. You let them out in the morning, make sure they have food/water, just like any other pet. I try to be out there by 8am. You can pretty much not have anything to do with them all day, if you like, other than at some time collecting eggs once/day. Then at night time, chickens go to sleep on their own as it gets dark. I close up the coop to keep predators from visiting at night. And predators are in your yard whether you have chickens or not. And chickens sleep at night, they are not awake or clucking.

Then about once/week, I clean out the coop, which takes about 15 minutes. All the yucky stuff goes right into the compost. Every once in a while, you might need to make some adjustment in your coop arrangment. And you need to keep chicken food and other supplies. Those are things you would do with other pets though, so I don’t see them as significant.

Chickens aren’t for everyone. Clearly there is some work involved, but not much more than other pets, and you have to not mind going outside in all types of weather. Probably the hardest thing is finding someone to take care of them when on vacation. For me, my neighbors were thinking of getting chickens themselves, so they don’t mind helping out while I’m on vacation, and they get eggs. There are times things happen – we lost a few to predators, but hey, that’s all part of life. I’m not bothered by that. I haven’t yet experienced needing to cull a sick bird, and I’m not sure how I will handle that, but I know it could happen. I have freinds who have more chicken experience, and I think they would help me out. Atlanta has lots of backyard chicken people to learn from.

I think chickens are especially great for people who already garden and enjoy having quality food available to them in their backyard. If you’re already outside gardening, then having chickens around is even better.

homeschooler

February 21st, 2013
3:46 pm

ditto everything that BessBear said. That’s exactly how we care for ours.

FCM

February 21st, 2013
4:08 pm

@BessBear….yes wildlife (like the rabbits that like when I garden or the cayotes that ate the neighbors cat) are in the yards. However having chickens and so on just encourages the rascals. I believe lawyers call it an attractive nusiance.

My law professor: “Attractive nusiance is not the blonde next door no matter what the gender. Attractive nusiance is anything that attracts something into the yard (like a pool or trampoline) that opens you up to a liablity.”

catlady

February 21st, 2013
5:18 pm

Well, I live in the country, but even here many “regular” folks have small flocks, including me. I also have ducks. I love the eggs and I love watching them! My daughter in Dekalb would like to have a few but she lives in a rough neighborhood and is pretty sure, no matter how protected, harm would come to them by the large numbers of truant kids wandering about. I recommend raising chickens to anyone who lives in a safe place.

AJW

February 21st, 2013
5:47 pm

@FCM and @Patrick, chickens are definitely doable for the average person in the suburbs. I’m in my mid-20s and grew up without even a veggie garden in the back yard, but now I have 3 laying hens and a sizable garden. We have a small ranch house on 0.46 acres in an older wooded neighborhood. Our neighbors are definitely not close enough to hear/smell them. They keep the mosquitoes down, and I actually have friends give me buckets to fill with “fertilizer”. Our 40-lb shepherd protects them, and they have a sturdy coop that gets closed up at night to keep the predators out.

The rub is that they’re actually illegal in my county on less than 2 acres; I wish I could show my backyard to the county commissioners to make them realize that my chickens should be legal, and if anything my neighbors should be cited for their barking dogs. But then I would get fined and have to give my pets away.

My house and backyard are well-maintained, and the chickens don’t bother anyone. I know that my eggs come from chickens that are treated humanely and roam within the confines of my backyard. Local food doesn’t get any more local than that!

AJW

February 21st, 2013
5:54 pm

For more information on the plight of chicken raising in the suburbs (in this case Cobb County), or to support legalizing them, you can go to backyard chix dot org for a summary of local rules and ordinances.

motherjanegoose

February 21st, 2013
9:04 pm

Chickens are not allowed in our neighborhood with a HOA. I had my fill of the farm when I lived in Arkansas. We had Barred Rock chickens. Even had to put ceramic eggs in the hen house, as the snakes would get in there and snatch the eggs. If they ate a ceramic egg, they would die. I am happy to buy my eggs and chicken at Costco.

@ FCM…I love taking trips with my daughter. Glad you had fun! DB and I went to Chicago a few weeks ago and that was fun too.

My daughter and I have the best time. I am going to Savannah in a few weeks, as my son is there now. I have some schools I can visit. I am going with the girls to Disneyworld over their spring break. I got the hotel on my points and I am visiting schools there too. My daughter and her two friends are going to Disney. Not me. They are very excited and have purchased their own tickets. They could not get a decent hotel room, as they are under 21 and most nice places do not like college kids on spring break. I got a nice suite but they will be gone all day, as they are taking their own car. I am not a Disney person, so I will be by the pool in the afternoon and reading a good book. I want to go to Key Largo with my husband this spring. Anyone know anything about it?

BessBear

February 21st, 2013
9:14 pm

FCM – if a tree falls in the forest, but nobody is there to see it, does it make a sound? Wild animals, including coyotes, possums, racoons, skunks live around the ATL area in populated areas. If your neighbors cat got eaten by a coyote, you heard about it. You don’t hear about it where there are no prey for them to eat. If it was in your neighbor’s yard, it probably passed through yours.
Now if a pet owner is dumb enough to keep leaving their pets out where the coyote will keep eating them, then yes, that creates an attractive nuisance. The first predator attack we had on our chickens, we leaned we needed to reinforce how we secure our coop. On another occasion, a couple years after the first, we learned that we really can’t leave the coop completely open after dark (possum attack). It would not surprise me to find out that the possum returned the next night, but it found no way into the chickens.

Tom

February 24th, 2013
7:14 am

I have hens as do several of my friends who live in Buckhead, VA Highlands, Decatur etc. most of my neighbors don’t even know I have them as they don’t smell nor make hardly any noise. Maintenance is easier than most pets…their feeder and waterer last for 4+ days. I add a bunch of wheat straw to their coop – only have to change it 1x month. Only other thing to do is gather eggs.

DB

February 25th, 2013
2:12 am

I HATED my neighbor’s chickens. They kept them in an unsightly, rickety wire-fence area at the end of their driveway, which adjoined ours — even though there was a half acre of empty backyard. So it was the first thing I or my guests would get a whiff of getting in and out of the car. (The chickens were supposed to belong to their son, and the mom was the one who would eventually get out there and clean out the coop after he had ignored it too long.) Then they got a damn rooster, and that was the last straw — the stupid thing would start crowing at daybreak, waking up our daughter, whose room overlooked the driveway. A week later, at Thanksgiving, we put my in-laws in my daughter’s room, and the rooster was so obnoxious that they cut their visit a day short! At that point, I talked to my neighbor and they eventually moved the coop into their backyard behind their fence, and at that point, we were able to ignore them. Eventually the coyotes took care of them.

The Dixie Diarist

February 25th, 2013
5:47 pm