Monday, January 19, 2009

Urban chickens on

Thinking of getting your own urban chickens? Now's the best time to start your planning, and we've got two great articles on urban chickens this weekend by Gardening Examiner Robin Wedewer over on

Robin's first is a rundown of the eight benefits of raising backyard chickens and her second is a rundown of the best portable chicken coops.

I can't argue with any of her listed benefits, especially her leading point about eggs from backyard chickens being healthier (especially if they're eating organic feed), but there's a bit of realistic caution to be added to one of her points on chickens scratching:
Their scratching for bugs is good for the soil. Chickens are enthusiastic foragers and will scratch around in the leaves and soil searching for the tastiest morsels. As they do, they aerate the soil and break down larger pieces of vegetation with their sharp talons, accelerating the decomposition process.
Yes, but you should also know that chickens are rather indiscriminate in where they scratch, so, if you're like us and have mulch in your garden beds around the yard, be prepared to do a lot of raking to get the mulch back in the beds. And make sure to have some kind of barrier to keep the chickens out of your tender shoots in the garden this spring. They don't quite know the difference between weeds and plants, and if you free range your girls (which you should), be sure to monitor their whereabouts to keep them scratching where you want. Get a nice big bright-colored broom to "shoo" them away, and after the first couple lessons, they'll quickly learn to move along when they see you reach for it.

Robin's list of coops can't be argued with, either. We've got an Eglu of our own in the backyard, and they make a great first-time coop for a flock of three or fewer birds. Easy to take care of, and aesthetically pleasing in your backyard.

If you're looking to scale up your operation (within legal limits, of course), you'd do well to check out coops at a place like Henspa. Their large wooden coops can accommodate up to eight hens and can keep your chooks safe from terrestrial predators at night.

Oh, and I just found out that we've got another couple urban chicken farmers here in Redwood City (they're picking up chicks this week). Can't wait to see how big a combined flock we'll have come the Spring.


Robin Ripley said...

How nice of you to visit me at Examiner and to give our chicken efforts a shout out!

You're quite right about those chickens being a mess in the mulch. I will try to begin training mine once it's warm enough for me to spend more time outdoors. In the meantime, our front walkway is a total mess. (Oh, and you do have to watch where you step!)

Fortunately, my potager is fenced. That won't stop them if they're determined, of course, but it makes it a bit harder.

Robin Wedewer
National Gardening Examiner

Dani said...

They do love to scratch and roll in the places that we would rather they didn't.

James said...

and don't forget about the holes that they love to make. I'm letting the 3 B's free reign of the backyard until I landscape and plant a vegetable garden. After that, their 'range' will be controlled.

The mulch speading is fun too watch. Since it's winter, I am getting a large pile of mulch well worked daily - thanks to the 3 B's!

badgerpendous said...

We're "lucky" in that we had already fenced in our vegetable garden due to squirrels and whatnot always digging/eating/etc. So the new chickens (got them yesterday!) won't have access either...


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