This week I got a nice email from Kate (she writes the great blog Gardening without Skills), and she's excitedly getting ready to bring a flock of urban chickens into her backyard this Spring. A friend of hers is building her a coop and she's raised ducks before, so she's got some familiarity with backyard fowl.
Her first question (among many) was whether or not she could mix chicks of several breeds in the same coop. Would they get along? Would she be better off getting three from the same breed?
I assured Kate it's very difficult to go wrong mixing and matching such a small quantity of chickens in your backyard. Chickens are very social animals and they'll get along fine. If you're getting your first flock, you'll want to get them all about the same age (ages should be within a week or so of each other). They'll figure things out themselves and establish a "pecking order" on their own.
While each individual chicken will have its own personality, there are breed characteristics that are for the most part dependable as you're picking out your birds. Keep in mind: humans have been breeding chickens for thousands of years to make them more domesticated and tranquil around each other. Consult the wonderful Henderson's Chicken Breed Chart for a comprehensive run-down of the various traits of any given breed.
And as far as getting smart about raising urban chickens in your backyard, it really is as easy as getting one of the many good beginner books and having at it. Chickens really are resilient animals and as long as you keep them in fresh food and water and clean the coop regularly, you're doing great!
Any other advice you'd offer Kate as she begins her adventure into urban chickens this spring?