One of the questions I get asked the most is: “Can I keep urban chickens even though I live in the city?” And my answer is always a huge YES!
Raising chickens is a rewarding and meaningful experience and I highly recommend it to everyone! There are, however, some things that you need to keep in mind when you are raising urban chickens in the big city.
It’s totally possible, but you will need to make some adjustments for an urban coop in order to keep you chickens happy and healthy.
Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for raising urban chickens in small spaces.
My top tips for raising urban chickens are:
- Make sure you can have chickens in your area
- Feed organic herbs for healthier hens
- Feed your chickens a balanced diet with calcium and protein
- Use calendula
- Practice good coop hygiene
- Provide environmental enrichment
- Predator-proof your coop
Make Sure You Can Keep Chickens In Your Area
Before we get started with the rest of the tips in this article, first and foremost you need to make sure you can keep chickens in your area. Not every town allows them – PLEASE do your homework first!
Your town might allow chickens, but have limits on the amount of chickens, how many feet they need to be kept away from other homes, or whether you can keep roosters or not.
It’s no good trying to keep chickens if your area doesn’t allow them – you’re doing your chickens a disservice because you might have to re-home them. Not fun for anyone!
Now, if you CAN keep chickens and you know all the regulations, then read the rest of the tips in this article to help your flock be healthier and happier!
Use Organic Herbs in Feed & Nesting Boxes
For people keeping chickens in smaller spaces, such as urban backyards, my favorite piece of advice is keeping them happy and healthy with organic herbs.
Because urban coops tend to be smaller and owners need to protect their flock from predators, such as dogs and cats, urban chickens run the risk of developing negative behaviors such as feather picking because they don’t have as much space to roam.
Urban chickens also tend to have more stressful lives than pasture raised chickens, so herbs such as peppermint, oregano, garlic, wormwood, and calendula.
(And blends such as the herbs we carry in the Living The Good Life With Backyard Chickens store) provide both a natural health boost and environmental interest because hens can pick at the herbs and explore their treat.
Feed your urban chickens a high-quality, nutritious diet
Especially for urban chickens, it’s important that you make that they have a well balanced diet. They can’t forage for nutrients, and they lead slightly more stressful lives because urban chickens are typically cooped all the time, or face environmental stress such as polluted air, lots of noise, etc.
One important nutrient to ensure the health of your chickens is calcium. Making sure your hens have ready access to high quality calcium supplements is important to ensure they lay eggs with strong egg shells.
You can offer a calcium supplement in the form of oyster shells or dried, crushed eggshells. To dry your egg shells, simply wash them so the albumen is cleaned off, then allow them to air dry a bit.
Next, toast them by placing them in your oven at 200 degrees for about 10 minutes. Then crush, and offer separately or mix with your flock’s feed.
It’s also important to make sure that your urban chickens are getting enough protein. If you want an out-of-the-box treat, black soldier fly larvae are full of protein, fat, AND 50 times more calcium than treats such as mealworms.
And hens LOVE them! I have an in depth article about the benefits of black soldier fly larvae here if you want more information! If you want black soldier fly larvae for your hens, we carry them in the store right here.
Mix Calendula With Your Urban Chicken’s Feed
For golden yolks (which is why most people keep chickens – for healthier eggs), adding the herb calendula to your chickens’ diet is a must. (We carry calendula in the store right here.)
Calendula contains beta carotenes, which lend their orange color to your hen’s yolks.
Practice Good Coop Hygiene
All natural hygiene is a must for urban chickens. They are more susceptible to internal parasites such as worms and external parasites such as mites because they’re not able to move around as much as their country cousins.
Using essential oils such as melaleuca and lemon when cleaning their coop will help keep their home clean and hygienic.
It’s important to not use household cleaners such as bleach – the fumes can harm your chickens, and when bleach mixes with the ammonia from your flock’s droppings, it can produce mustard gas! Yikes!
So, all natural cleaners are a must to keep your flock healthy.
Provide Environmental Enrichment
Like we talked about earlier, urban chickens have more stressful lives due to different environmental circumstances than their pasture raised counterparts.
So in order to avoid negative habits such as feather picking, you need to provide your chickens with some environmental enrichment activities.
This could be things like providing herbs for them to pick at or ensuring that there are places for your chickens to perch in your coop.
Providing environmental activities for your chickens helps to keep them happy and helps keep them from developing bad habits.
Predator Proof Your Coop
I’ve seen way too many urban chicken owners get burned because they didn’t predator proof their coop. They thought there weren’t chicken predators in the city.
While you might not have to worry about chicken predators like raccoons or possums in the city, you do need to worry about cats, dogs and any other animals that might be “interested” in your chickens. Always make sure that your coop is predator proof so you can keep your chickens safe.
Dogs can be another problem for those raising chickens in the city. If you have a pet dog they can be just a little bit too interested in your chickens and that can cause huge problems.
My number one tip is to keep your chickens and dogs separate. Even the best behaved dogs might get curious and ANY dog has the potential to seriously injure your chickens (even little dogs), so I recommend that you just keep them apart if you think there’s a chance your dog might play too rough with your chickens.
Make Sure Neighbors Are On Board
Many of the readers I get messages from are concerned about their neighbors getting upset because they have chickens. Honestly, as long as you don’t have a rooster, it very unlikely that anyone will know you have chickens at all!
In fact, I know someone who was raising chickens in the middle of a neighborhood for years and his neighbors didn’t even realize they were there! Hens can be very quiet!
I keep my coop super clean so it doesn’t smell as bad, and hens aren’t typically noisy. In fact, I think dogs are 10 times more annoying for neighbors than chickens could ever be!
Most chickens are docile, quiet, and pretty well-behaved from my experience. And trust me the second your neighbors try some of your chickens’ delicious eggs they won’t complain. In fact, they’ll probably want to get chickens of their own!
I always recommend that you check your cities’ ordinances and policies about chickens to be sure you know the rules about raising chickens in your area. Some cities might limit the number of chickens you can own based on how big your backyard is. Check it out to be sure!
Do you have experience with raising urban chickens? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!
Maat van Uitert is a backyard chicken and sustainable living expert. She is also the author of Chickens: Naturally Raising A Sustainable Flock, which was a best seller in it’s Amazon category. Maat has been featured on NBC, CBS, AOL Finance, Community Chickens, the Huffington Post, Chickens magazine, Backyard Poultry, and Countryside Magazine. She lives on her farm in Southeast Missouri with her husband, two children, and about a million chickens and ducks. You can follow Maat on Facebook here and Instagram here.
I live in Fort Worth, TX, and I have 4 Red Sex Links since January, 2017. They have been laying for about 9 months. They are free range during the day and cooped at night. The last several nights when I go out to shut the coop, I find them roosting in a tree. I haven’t see or heard anything that might scare them, although a neighbor said she saw a big possum recently. What else might cause them to roost instead of going in the coop? I keep it cleaned and fresh, and the feeder is inside, too.
I can’t tell you how helpful your daily blog had been in learning how to raise my girls to be healthy & happy. Thxnk you for your sensible advice for this newbie in raising a backyard flock successfully!
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