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Happy World Egg Day!

We talk a lot about how chickens (and ducks and geese) and their eggs can have a great impact on Heifer project participant families. But you don't have to live on a farm in Honduras (or even Indiana) to see the benefits of raising domestic birds for their eggs.

Purslane in her chicken tractor 

In fact, my family has a tiny flock of chickens in our backyard. In Little Rock, Arkansas. In my neighborhood, this is actually not that uncommon (admittedly, most of the other chicken-raising families are friends of ours).

The decision to take on an animal, whether a pet or livestock, should be made after careful consideration and even research. The same is true for backyard chickens. We decided to begin raising chickens for several reasons: we want to have eggs from animals we know are healthy and well taken care of, we want to reduce our "footprint" by having a source of food right out our back door, and we want our daughter to know where some of her food comes from.

Here are a few things to consider if you're thinking about raising chickens in an urban setting.

  • Do you like eggs? This seems obvious, but if you really only sort-of like them, they won't be worth the investment of time and money. If you do a lot of baking, however, these are the freshest eggs you'll ever have.
  • Is your yard/situation appropriate for chickens? Our flock started out in a bottomless pen (sometimes called a chicken tractor), but now they're totally free range, which wouldn't be possible without our six-foot security fence (or with bloodthirsty dogs). Our friends down the street have a chicken coop.  
  • Are you even allowed to have chickens? The best way to find out is to check the municipal code for your city. The requirements in Little Rock are that chickens must have a minimum of three square feet of floor space per bird over four months of age, they must be kept at least five feet from the owner's residence, and they must be kept at least 25 feet from the nearest neighbor. Pretty laid back. Just across the river in North Little Rock, however, you have to have a permit, and the minimum distance from neighboring houses is 75 feet (this was a deal-breaker for a friend of mine thinking of starting a flock).
  • How many do you want? Chickens lay an egg about every 24 to 26 hours. We started out with four chickens, and for the three of us, we were up to our eyeballs. It'll make you pretty popular with your friends and colleagues if you're always giving away eggs. We now have two gals, and this seems to be a good number for us to maintain. We always have eggs when we want them, and though we aren't giving them away by the dozen anymore, we can generally be relied on for friends in a pinch.
A common misconception is that you have to have a rooster, or else your hens won't lay eggs. This is not true. You need a rooster if you want your eggs to hatch into baby chicks. But if you're raising chickens in your backyard so you can eat the eggs... you probably don't want that to happen. Many cities won't allow the noisy boys anyway.
If your'e interested in chickens, here are a few things to check out:


Brooke Edwards

Brooke Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas, and started working at Heifer International in 2009 as a writer. She and her husband raise two daughters in a house way too small for their four pets. They spend a lot of time sweeping.