For the Love of Pets
The 4-1-1 on Raising Chickens
Last year at this time we started our chicken adventure. Did you catch my post about it, Country Legends? What started out as a bumpy ride has turned into smooth sailing over the winter with our chickens. At first we struggled through coop design, deaths, cold and a ‘she’ that was actually a ‘he.’
This year it’s official—the City of Hailey allows chickens in your backyard. You can have three hens but no roosters. Your coop has to be in the backyard and will be subject to setback requirements for your home’s zoning district.
There is no permit required but these are the guidelines:
1. A roof or cover that fully encloses the coop.
We had to do this to our coop anyway. It was a little complicated for our space but we had a fly-away last fall that nearly broke my heart. Enclosing our pen really gave us a peace of mind that our girls are safe.
2. Constructed with sturdy and durable materials that prohibit predator access.
Remember, a predator can be a neighborhood dog or cat. There is a reason they say ‘it tastes like chicken’ and almost everyone loves it!
3. A door or opening to the cop that can be secured shut.
4. The chicken coop or the property must be fenced in some manner that the hens are confined to the boundaries of the property.
Whenever someone hears we have chickens they have questions they would like answered. The common questions are the following:
How can you get eggs with no rooster? Are these eggs fertilized? How many eggs do you get a day?
You don’t need a rooster; the hens will produce unfertilized eggs on their own. Each female chicken starts life with thousands of undeveloped yolks inside her body. About every 25 hours, one yolk is mature enough for ovulation. As soon as our rooster left in November, our hens have each laid one egg every single day!
I know this might sound silly but where does the egg come out of?
The following diagram from Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow should answer that question.
What do the chickens eat? Do they eat household scraps?
There is a variety of options for feed. Our chickens eat grain pellets. We also spread scratch (cracked corn, wheat and oats) around the pen for the chickens to locate all day. Household scraps are great for chickens. Some items on the don’t list are caffeine, spoiled food, alcohol, raw potato peels, onion, avocados. Our chickens love watermelon, tomatoes, kale and crushed corn chips.
I bet every chicken owner has a different coop design, pen layout, light, heat, and food system. From our experience, there is no exact science. The hens bring much joy and many eggs to our lives! The downside is the work. You have to open and close the coop every day. For us this is just part of our routine, like brushing our teeth. We also purchase food, scratch and straw. Over the winter we ran a light on a timer, a heated water dish and a heat lamp. This added to our electric bill! Cleaning the coop is important as well, if you are squeamish about chicken poop, hens may not be for you.
Our neighbors are embarking on hens this summer. Do you have chickens and do you want me to interview your flock? Please send me a note at, firstname.lastname@example.org.