Joan: I’m thinking about getting some chickens so I
can have fresh eggs every day. My problem is I don’t
really know anything about chickens.
husband thinks I’m crazy and says I’ll get in over
my head, but I just think they are so sweet and I worry
about all the stuff I hear about chickens being abused.
I’m afraid to buy eggs at the store any more because I
can’t be sure they didn’t come from abused chickens.
tell me what I should do to get my chickens settled in
B., Bay Area
Gloria: I have a whole list of things you need to do
first, and topping the roster is to check with your city
to see if you are allowed to keep chickens, and if so,
how many are permitted.
you’re at it, you might want to consult your
neighbors. Chickens can be loud, especially early in the
morning. A promise to share some eggs might win them
cities also prohibit owning roosters, which have a
tendency to crow at day break, and often because they
just feel like it.
I’d recommend doing research. Having chickens is not
the same as having a dog, cat or even a parakeet. They
have special needs, not the least of which is a sturdy
coop that will keep them safe from predators, warm in
the winter and cool in the summer.
sorts of coops, from simple to deluxe. You’ll also
need a protected area where the hens can scratch the
earth and stretch their wings.
find a number of books about chickens. To get you
started, I recommend “The Chicken Chicks Guide to
Backyard Chickens: Simple Steps for Healthy, Happy
Hens” (Voyageur Press, $19.99) by Kathy Shea Mormino,
and “Raising Chickens for Dummies (For Dummies,
$19.99) by Kimberly Willis and Robert Ludlow. Both of
these books lay out the basics of what you need to get
started and how to be successful.
more about the chickens themselves, I suggest adding
“The Chicken Encyclopedia: An Illustrated Reference”
(Storey Publishing, $19.95) by Gail Damerow, and “How
to Speak Chicken: Why Your Chickens Do What They Do
& Say What They Say” (Storey Publishing, $16.95)
by Melissa Caughey.
have all your ducks in a row, you can start lining up
your chicks. You’ll find a great variety of breeds, so
it’s important to know about their traits.
depending on the breed, start laying at around 6 months
of age and barring any unexpected problems, will be
productive for five to seven years. As chickens live on
average 10 years, but some much longer, you may find
yourself with just a few working hens and several
time you’ve got yourself educated and your backyard
prepared, it should be warmer, which would make it a
perfect time to get your chickens. Feed stores sell
chicks, but beware that it’s difficult to determine
sex until they’re older, so you could end up with a
rooster or two.
could check with rescue shelters and farm animal rescue
groups that pull chickens from egg factories. The
chicken ranchers usually only keep their chickens for
two years, and if they’re lucky, the chickens are
rescued from slaughter. These hens will be older, but