How to Keep Backyard Chickens in the Suburbs

I am proud to say that we are the first family in our subdivision (or those adjacent to ours) with backyard chickens. (You can read more about our hens in this post.) Our neighbors love seeing our chickens free range in our yard in the evenings, and they frequently come out on their decks to watch my hens forage in our yard. If you would like to start a flock of your very own, this is the post for you. Today I am sharing tips for absolute beginners on how to keep backyard chickens in the suburbs.

Collect The Necessities

After deciding to keep backyard chickens, I did extensive research and came up with a plan. I collected all materials. Here is a general list to get you started:

  1. A chicken coop– Primarily you will want one that is safe from predators and has good ventilation. We purchased one from Tractor Supply. You can find it here. It comes unstained, so we applied varnish to protect it. Alternately, you could paint it.
  2. A poultry feeder and waterer. I got these from Amazon for baby chicks, this heated waterer for adult chickens, and this adult feeder. There are a ton of options, and you don’t need anything fancy.
  3. Food for your chickens. I started out with crumble appropriate for baby chicks from Tractor Supply. After my hens graduated to layer pellets, I found a Kentucky-made, non-GMO option that I love. Check out your local feed store for options. You could also make your own layer feed if you choose.
  4. Coop bedding. I use pine chips, but there are a ton of other options. There are also many sustainable options such as processed coffee grounds and hemp. If you start with chicks instead of larger chickens, you’ll also need some bedding for the brooder.
  5. A brooder box, warmer, light and thermometer for chicks. Again, this doesn’t have to be fancy. I used an old plastic tote with no lid. You’ll need some mesh for the top because an ambitious chick can fly out of the coop by 3 weeks old! I had a great experience with this brooding plate to keep my babies warm.
Getting the chicken coop ready for adolescent chicks

Ready Your Coop

Baby chicks are adorable, however, they grow unbelievably fast. They will be ready to move from the brooder to the coop within a month or less. One of the worst mistakes a chicken owner can make is getting the chicks without having supplies ready. Timing is everything! First, make sure that you have everything ready before you bring the babies home. I recommend getting chicks during a time of year when it’s 60 degrees or higher at night. That was April for us in the bluegrass.

Next, choose a location for your coop. Be aware of surroundings, weather and sun. Chickens need access to some sun in order to lay eggs, but you don’t want them to bake in full sun all day. I chose a dry location that receives morning sun and afternoon/evening shade.

Choose Your Breed

As with dogs, there are many breeds of chickens, and each has its own remarkable trait. Kentucky has hot summers and cold winters, so above all, I needed chicken breeds that would be tolerant to both. Additionally, I desired a rainbow of eggs to collect each day. I ended up with 4 Buff Orpingtons, 3 Easter Eggers, and an Americana. All of these hens have proven to be both cold and heat hardy.

Tips for How to Keep Chickens in the Suburbs

After you’ve collected all of your supplies, here are a few tips for keeping chickens in the suburbs:

  • Research and plan: Be sure to appropriately research whether you are permitted to keep chickens in your neighborhood. We do not live in an HOA, but I went to the county courthouse for guidance on whether chickens were a possibility. Some communities that allow chickens have limits on the number of chickens or restrictions on roosters.
  • Have a contingency plan: Roosters are loud and can lead to neighborly complaints. There is no reasoning with a rooster that is screaming at 3:00 a.m., and your neighbors could be upset by such a scenario. Have a plan for what will be done with a rooster who can’t stay quiet in the neighborhood. It is difficult to determine gender on a day old chick, and the most experienced breeders get it wrong from time to time. If you purchase a dozen “pullets,” (aka baby hens) it’s possible to end up with a surprise rooster. Research rescue organizations or rally with a local farmer in the event this happens and you need to re-home your roo.
  • Overcome your HOA: If your HOA is standing in the way of keeping chickens in your backyard, ask what can be done to change their minds. Keeping backyard chickens is back in style due to emphasis on animal rights and sustainability. I hear daily stories of families proposing reasonable limits and rules to encourage HOA allowances for backyard birds.
  • Keep your flock safe from predators: Even in the suburbs, raccoons, foxes, possums, stray dogs, and predatory birds can pose a threat to a flock. Fences can keep your birds in but are unlikely to keep predators out. Be sure to lock your chickens up in a secure coop at night, and provide trees or shaded areas for them to run if they feel threatened. Our hens run under our deck if they sense a hawk in the area!
  • Find support in a community: No matter how experienced the chicken owner, questions will always come up. Find a community of locals to support you and answer your questions, or join an online group. There are dozens of great Backyard Chicken groups on Facebook right now!
  • Get the entire family involved: Chickens are normally very gentle and are a great teaching tool for kids. Even young children can feed chickens and collect eggs each day. They teach responsibility and are extremely rewarding. As with any animal, always provide supervision to avoid accidental injury to your kids or flock.

I hope this post has been helpful to you. We have had such a rewarding experience with our hens and I love collecting a rainbow of eggs each day. If you are thinking of starting a backyard flock for your family, please reach out to me with any questions!

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