The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : Keeping Chickens As Pets: A Growing Trend For City Dwellers

Monday, May 4, 2015

Keeping Chickens As Pets: A Growing Trend For City Dwellers

Maybe it’s a growing trend of getting back to basics, maybe it’s the economy. Whatever the reason, keeping chickens as pets is a growing trend even for city dwellers. There are even clubs for those who fancy poultry as pets, and competitive shows where owners can show off their beautiful Bantams. The clubs and shows are generally overseen by the American Poultry Association.

While regulations vary on chicken ownership from town to town, even many urban communities allow for a small number of hens. Many towns see roosters as too noisy (hello, annoying alarm clock) and/or aggressive to be kept in a residential setting.

Marci Riseman, mom of two, has kept chickens in her San Francisco backyard for three years.

“I consider our chickens to be somewhere between pets and farm animals,” she said. “It’s a strange relationship that I’ve never had before, and I find it leaves me with different expectations. We feed our cat and all we expect is love and a full litterbox; we feed our chickens and we expect them to produce eggs.”

Don’t expect to start a roadside egg-selling stand (which is probably also regulated in your town, by the way) with just a few hens.

“Right now we have three chickens, and are getting two eggs a day,” said Marci. “This means that someone is not laying. We can’t tell who the freeloader is, since they all spend time in the laying box; without a strategically-placed ChickenCam we’ll never know who isn’t pulling her weight egg-wise.”

“I love having these creatures in our yard,” said Marci. “They are beautiful those weird spindly feet are actually very graceful in motion … and the feathers, oh the feathers! and funny, and friendly, and they are a great live-action science experiment every day in our own back yard.”

Marci describes herself as “an urban homesteader at heart” who makes her own jam and sauerkraut and cooks or bakes most of what her family eats. She and her family also grow fruits and vegetables in a small garden.

“I would totally have a goat and an orchard and acres of blueberry bushes if we had the land and my husband wouldn’t divorce me over it,” jokes Marci. “Especially the goat. Just being with the chickens while I pull weeds or hang out with the kids or friends in the yard makes me happy. Chickens are a small way to bring nature closer in to our noisy, urban lives.”

I asked Marci if she and her family eat the chickens or just the eggs.

“We don’t eat the chickens. Partly because of the part-pet thing; the kids would be beyond horrified. And partly because it would be disgusting to slaughter our own animals, though I’m sure I could get over that part with practice. At first it did freak me out to eat something that came out of the rear end of something that lives in our backyard. It made me realize how disassociated we are from our food; I don’t mind eating something that comes out of the rear end of a chicken I can’t see? I got over it, though, and now I adore eating their eggs.”

If you’re considering keeping chickens, the first and most important step is to find out what your community’s regulations are. Your town’s public health department can help you with that. If chickens are allowed, you can use a tool like the “Which Chicken?” Breed Selector Tool at mypetchicken.com to help find breeds that are suitable for your climate and your interests.

For example, in my fantasy world in which I have chickens, I want a cold-hardy chicken that is docile and produces lots of fun-colored eggs. The chicken chooser tool recommends a chicken called an Easter Egger that lays four large bluish-green eggs a week.

A particularly helpful resource is backyardchickens.com, which includes lots of ideas about coops, owner reviews of a vast number of breeds, and a thriving online community in which to discuss and ask questions about laws, breeds, problem solving, and other issues. Their Learning Center section has great information for those just getting started, as well as long-time chicken owners.

The most amazing thing about chickens is that there’s a huge variety that are suited to backyard raising.






The following are just a few of the nifty birds out there:











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