As people hear more reports of contaminated food and worry about the ethics of factory farming, they want to take control of their food in whatever way they can. For many this means starting a garden, and for more and more, this means having a small flock of hens in the backyard. However, myths abound! Sadly, this misinformation slows people down or stops them entirely from having their own fresh eggs.

Myth #1: I can’t have chickens because I live in town.

Not so fast! Have you actually checked your city’s municipal codes? Many are available online. Cities such as Chicago, New York, Austin, Minneapolis, and Portland, Oregon, allow chickens. And in cities where chickens were not allowed, such as Madison, Wisconsin, citizens have been getting the laws changed.

Myth #2: You need a rooster to have eggs, and roosters are noisy.

Although roosters can be noisy, you do not need one to get fresh eggs. Hens lay eggs, even if a rooster is not present. However, if there is not a rooster present, the eggs will be sterile and won’t hatch.

Myth #3: Chickens have diseases.

Chickens are not inherently sick, and if they are kept in clean conditions, they rarely, if ever, become sick. They are the healthiest animals on our homestead. If you’re still concerned, buy day-old chicks from a hatchery whose stock is certified free from diseases.

Myth #4: Chickens stink!

This usually comes from someone who lived or worked on a factory farm. You would stink too, if you had half a square foot of living space. Chickens do not stink. Mountains of chicken poo do stink. Three or four chickens do not create mountains of poo like thousands of chickens. In fact, your chickens will provide you with some great fertilizer for your yard or garden, in addition to the great eggs.

Myth #5: Chickens have lice, and they’ll give them to my children.

Okay, I admit this one slowed me down for a few years when I heard it. However, there are a few hundred different species of lice in the world, and most are host specific, meaning that chicken lice don’t like the taste of humans. And again, chickens don’t hatch with lice. So, unless your chickens are mingling with other chickens (at a poultry show, for example), the odds of them getting lice are pretty slim.

Quiche made with farm fresh eggs, goat milk, chevre, and garden fresh spinach.

We started our flock of chickens after moving to the country, and they are so easy to care for, that I’ll never be without my own fresh eggs again. I’m also incredibly spoiled by the delicious taste. In my next post, I’ll tell you how to get started with your own backyard flock.

Deborah Niemann dragged her professor husband and three children to 32 acres on a creek in the middle of nowhere in 2002 to start raising their own food organically. She blogs regularly at Antiquity Oaks, and her book, Homegrown and Handmade, comes out this fall.

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  • By: Susan Elwood

    There was a chicken at the vet the other week, so I got up close and personable with one for the first time. That skin thing on her neck was so soft! I was surprised at how friendly she was. I love animals and have many, but never a chicken…maybe that will change!

  • By: Kern

    Hey Deborah,

    This is some good information that I’m going to share on my chicken blog at http://kernschickenfarm.com. I have been raising chickens for 11 years now and teach others how to get started. I always get excited when I hear when someone wants backyard chickens.

  • By: Kenny

    Hey Deborah,

    First I must say the Quiche pictures looks delicious, you should send me the recipe:)

    Also thanks for all the information, I was reading through the comments and found the answer I was looking for and that was if you should vaccinate chickens if you want organic ones. I'm only getting for chics as of now and they are going to have a lot of space when their older so I won't vaccinate them.

  • By: Deb

    I was out with the horse until dark one night, my car was covered in turkeys who settled on the the car, all of the car, even the sides, for the night. It took a long time to move hem off the car – and they kept coming back.

    It was a car covered in turkeys. What a sight.

    The foals did not want me to leave and several grabbed my clothes with their mouths and dragged me to the place they sleep. It was hard to get away from the. I guess the foals wanted me to sleep with them on the ground that night. A compliment I know, but not going to work.

    I love the surprises of animals. I love finding double yokes and the small surprises that make like a treasure.

  • By: Nancy McGee

    We've had two Delawares since the beginning of March. We just *LOVE* them. They are great with my two-year-old and my 92-year-old grandmother loves hanging out with them in the yard all day. I can only have two hens here in Freeport, NY … but I'm going to work on changing the rules. I'd love to have a few more. I can't wait until they start laying eggs! They have been so very easy to care for and love to run around our yard and eat bugs.

  • By: ted agens

    I enjoy your info and the whole "Beekman" thing…

    My wife and I have been keeping hens since 2005;we now have 116 hens and 2 'busy' roosters. We sell about 20 doz a week to a local restaurant and we have a fairly steady base of regular "stop-by" customers. Problem is, in this season we have a chronic over-stock problem that last until July or so. We are on a main highway and are already selling them for $1.50/dz (you can't get any factory eggs for that price in a store)! Anyone have any ideas for improvement or have faced similar circumstances?

  • By: Judith

    My husband is building a coop and run for me this summer and in the spring we will get our first little chicks :) We have been thinking about having chicks for about a year and now have decided to take the leap. I will keep checking your blog for more updates thank you so much :)

  • By: Deborah @ Antiquity

    Our chicken house is 12 X 20 feet, and although we have 32 acres, and the chickens could roam as far as they want, most seldom go beyond a couple acres. And although we open the door every day in winter, most of them don't go outside if it's below about 20 degrees. It is important to let in the fresh air though, because ammonia can really build up if you keep it closed all the time.

    We let mama hens set whenever the mood strikes, but unfortunately broodiness has been bred out of most chickens, so we usually only have about three to five a year that want to set. We incubate eggs ourselves for most of our replacement layers and meat birds, but we do get some from hatcheries, mostly if we want to try a different breed. We only have heritage chickens, though, because the modern egg layers and meat birds are not very hardy.

  • By: Leigh

    Great info Deborah, thanks- what kind of space do that number of birds occupy? Do you breed your own or order from hatcheries?

  • By: Deborah @ Antiquity

    If you want to go organic, you don't have to vaccinate for small backyard flocks. Even the manufacturers and hatcheries say that it's not necessary unless the birds will be living in crowded conditions. We've kept 50-70 hens without drugs or vaccines for nine years and no problems.

    The reason it is easy to catch birds at night is because the number of cones vs rods in their eyes means that their night vision is terrible. But they can see color more vibrantly than we can.

  • By: Christy

    On the show, Josh's rooster chase was unnecessary. Chickens and roosters are easy to catch if you wait until sundown. Once the birds go to roost, its very easy to grab them. They're drowsy and don't run away.

  • By: Leigh

    Terri- we have ordered all our "girls" from McMurray Hatchery…they will specify ship times in the year for whichever breed you want. They will also vaccinate them against coccidiosis and Marek's disease; I think that's fairly standard with most hatcheries. (I think there is an additional tiny fee, well worth it)We've never had problems with sickness, but watch the owls- they strike in the pre-dawn hours. BTW…we've had chickens for almost 10 years behind our garage in suburbia and this is the first I've heard of the lice thing. Touch wood, as one poster said! Cheers, everyone!

  • By: Charlotte Hawk

    We are just starting our backyard flock.. The chicks are two weeks old and one of our Americaunas just flew out of the brooder!! Really!! Time to put the cover on.. I didn't see it happen, but I saw this same chick trying to fly out off of the feeder yesterday. Geuss it finally figured it out!

  • By: Deborah @ Antiquity

    Thanks so much for that link, Loren. I've shared it with the people in Bloomington-Normal, IL, who are working to get their ordinances changed. They have a city council meeting coming up in Normal next week.

  • By: Loren

    Hi Deb! We started the process in October and finally got the ordinance passed early this month. Our Facebook page is under Portage Urban Chickens. It is maintained by Fernando, our fearless leader. You can check out the news article at http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/201…. Good luck to everyone who's keeping the spirit of democracy alive in our cities and towns!

  • By: Loren

    We just passed our chicken ordinance here in Portage, MI! Finally, our girls are no longer fugitives from the law!

  • By: Donna " Mingy &

    We are getting our chicks in a few weeks! Thanks for the info and the simplicity of it. Very helpful.

  • By: Deborah @ Antiquity

    Congratulations on the upcoming chickens, Sue! I'm glad you're finding the info helpful. I love my chickens.

  • By: Sue Gaynor

    Deborah,

    So far, this is great information. I can't wait for the next installment as I'm a first time chicken mother (actually will be soon).

    Sue

  • By: Deborah @ Antiquity

    Great questions, Terri! Although most people think of spring as the time to get chicks, you can start any time of year. The only catch is whether or not the chicks will be available. Really rare breeds are usually only available in spring and summer, but the more common breeds are available every week of the year from some of the larger hatcheries. If you live in one of the colder climates, I suggest not ordering chicks by mail any earlier than mid-March or April. We're in Illinois, and it is not uncommon to receive a box of dead chicks if you order in January or February, because it's just too cold for them to survive the trip unless every single person along the journey is diligent about not letting them get exposed to outside air for any longer than it takes to get from a vehicle to a building.

  • By: Terri

    Excellent article. My question is: how late in the year should one buy chickens in order to get started? Is it better to buy hatchlings in the spring, or could birds be purchased any time of the year?

  • By: Jennifer

    I hope that this article encourages others to add chickens to their backyards or barnyards. We finally did last year and it has been incredible. Not only do we have fresh eggs, but my children have a much deeper understanding of where their food comes from and just how much effort it takes to bring a fresh meal to our dinner table.

    If anyone reading this post needs a second bit of encouragement, you can read about my first year's experience with our chickens at
    http://www.1840farm.wordpress.com

    and

    http://communitychickens.blogspot.
    com/search/label/Jennifer%20Burcke

    And by the way, Eartha Kitt would have loved to tend her chickens in Josh's rhinestone Wellies!

  • By: Deborah Niemann

    Bonnie, do the lice disks contain a chemical pesticide? If so, that wouldn't be an option for us because we do everything organically. The good news, however, is that we've had a flock of about 50 chickens for nine years now, and (knock on wood), we've never had lice.

  • By: Celina

    I have 2 chickens and my son LOVES them! They free range all day and their eggs r delicious!! Everybody should consider getting some =)

  • By: eve stavros

    I had two chickens when I lived in the burbs of Houston. Clarissa and Grey Lady gave me fresh eggs and fertilizer for years and I miss those days. Hopefully will have them again soon.

  • By: Scott R Davis

    Well I have to object just a little to #4. My four girls, now a little over a year old produce way more poop than I expected. It's fairly easy to deal with and does make good fertilizer after it's composted. However, the quantity still surprises me a little.

  • By: Bonnie

    Lice: go to your local pet store or grain store…they have little disk like lice protectors…they hang or sit where ever you want to put them near the bird…that way lice will not be a problem..This goes for domestic birds…cockatiels..etc…they work great and are good for 6 months…waalaa…

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