A century ago most Americans lived on farms or in small towns. That’s changed.
Today’s people either live in suburban neighborhoods or big cities and are far removed from cattle, hogs, and chickens that produce their animal based food.
That can be a problem for a family wishing to raise chickens in a small backyard. As suburbs grew following the Second World War, many city councils believed that chickens were noisy, smelly, dirty animals that only belong on the farm and not in town. They passed ordinances banning them. Fortunately, the trend is reversing. Ordinances are being revised to allow small flocks, and increasing numbers of suburbanites are enjoying the fun and healthy food given by hens living in a back-yard coop.
Three words describe whether a suburban family can successfully keep chickens: Neighbors. Neighbors. Neighbors. Few neighbors have ever been near a chicken and may believe the old stereotypes. Successfully helping them understand that a carefully tended small flock is a positive addition to the neighborhood will transform them from critics to helpers.
In modern America, families tend not to know their neighbors well. Before building a coop and ordering chicks first make sure keeping chickens is legal. Then cultivate the neighbors. Invite them over for ice cream or cup of tea. Once positive rapport is established, let them know that an attractive coop housing a few beautiful chickens is coming. An occasional neighbor might object but more often curiosity piques. Often neighbors are so intrigued that they establish their own flock and volunteer to care for chickens when the family is on vacation. Chickens bring us back to our rural roots.
Some tips for successfully keeping chickens in town include:
• Obey town ordinances.
• Keep the entire yard attractive and well cared for.
• Build or buy an attractive coop and locate it and the outdoor run in the backyard out of sight from the road. Ordinances often specify where a coop must be located in a yard.
• Select breeds that are generally quiet, gentle, colorful, and incapable of flying well, reducing odds of escape. These are usually brown egg layers. Stick to hens. They don’t crow.
• Keep the coop and birds clean, dry, and healthy.
• Store feed in tightly lidded metal cans to discourage mice.
• Invite neighbors to visit the coop and get to know the birds. Occasionally give them eggs.
• Offer to watch the neighbor’s pets when they need to be away. They’ll likely repay the kindness by tending the flock during vacations.
Hostile neighbors make keeping chickens nearly impossible. Friendly ones are delightful assets. Keep them happy and they will enjoy sharing the neighborhood with a flock of colorful hens