9 basic considerations for backyard poultry

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chickens

Think you might be interested in raising a small flock of chickens? Here are some basic considerations from Penn State Extension and Utah State Extension for backyard and small-scale producers.

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1Zoning
Check all local ordinances, zoning laws, and property association rules to see if you can raise chickens in your area. Follow laws and apply for permits if required.

2Roosters
Roosters are not necessary in a flock for hens to lay eggs. Hens are quieter than roosters. It takes experience to identify the gender of young chicks and the local farm supply store may not be a reliable source. Be prepared to cull roosters as the chicks mature.

3Mixing species
It is risky to raise multiple species of poultry and waterfowl on the same premise — particularly if there is a chance of exposure to wild birds. This is how deadly poultry diseases get started.

4Eggs
Due to economies of scale, producing eggs in small flocks will usually be more expensive than buying the eggs.

5Care
Chickens require daily care and monitoring. They need to be fed and watered, and eggs collected daily. Develop a plan for who will care for the birds when you are away.

6Security
Chickens do not respect property lines. They must be fenced in for their own security from predators and to keep them out of neighbors’ yards and gardens.

7Manure
Manure/litter is a great soil amendment if composted properly. Applied directly to the soil, the high nitrogen levels can kill plants. Improperly composted manure can also create excessive odor or fly problems.

8Disposal of dead birds
Chickens have a relatively short lifespan. The productive life of a hen is about three to five years. Determine if your local ordinance allows birds to be buried on the premises or composted on-site or taken to a landfill.

9Human health
In most circumstances, chickens pose a relatively low risk of passing diseases to humans, but there are a few that can be transmitted back and forth. Proper care and handling of eggs and processing of poultry carcasses are critical to avoid problems. Appropriate disposal of dead birds and used litter are also important.

Source: Planning to start raising poultry, Phillip J. Clauer, Penn State Extension; Considerations in raising small flocks of poultry in population-dense communities, David D. Frame, Utah State Extension.

(Farm and Dairy is featuring a series of “101” columns throughout the year to help young and beginning farmers master farm living. From finances to management to machinery repair and animal care, farmers do it all.)

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