Urban homesteading is a growing trend and for good reason. Many people are growing their own food in their yards and raising a variety of livestock. Backyard chickens are an especially good choice for smaller yards for those who want to raise them for free-range eggs, amazing compost, and as wonderful pets. (Yes, chickens make awesome pets.) But there are several things to know about raising chickens, so that you can keep them successfully.
The team at Shiloh Veterinary Hospital is here to explore the topic of backyard chickens in LA and what you need to know to make your new brood happy and healthy.
The 411 On Backyard Chickens in LA
Chickens in the city? Who knew! Since the popularity of backyard livestock is continuing to grow, it’s no wonder why municipalities have expanded the laws about what types of animals a person can own in the city.
The good news is, backyard chickens are permitted in most neighborhoods in Los Angeles. The main stipulation is that chicken coops must be at least 35 feet from neighboring structures and 100 feet if you have a rooster.
Other rules include that you’re only allowed one rooster and their are chicken number limits depending on your neighborhood. Check with your local city hall on other regulations.
Raising Backyard Chickens: Starting from Scratch
Chickens are sociable, gregarious birds, so it is no wonder why many animal lovers adore them. There are many things to consider when keeping chickens, and the first big one is the local livestock ordinances. We’re guessing that you have purchased hatched chicks (since incubating eggs is a tough undertaking unless you are experienced).
Now that you have your chicks…
- Set up your brooder.
Since your newborn chicks are no longer with their mother, you will need to set up a brooder. A brooder is generally composed of a large box that is lined with pine shavings for cleanliness. In your brooder, you will have a shallow water dish or waterer, feeder, and a heating lamp or a radiant heater. You will want to keep your chicks warm and dry during their development.While they are developing in their brooder, they will need to be kept in a safe place, away from predators, like in your basement or garage.
- Taking care of the chicks.
While chicks can be very fragile, with the right brooder and care, they aren’t that hard to raise. The main things are to keep your chicks warm, clean the brooder frequently, and provide water and the right starter feed for your little ones. You can order chick starter feed online or at any farm or garden store that specializes in livestock feed. Keep your pets clean by gently wiping away debris around their face and beak, and cleaning their behind with a small washcloth or paper towel.
- Handle your chicks.
To raise happy chickens, you must handle them when they are young. Picking up your chicks gently and petting them in your palm helps them acclimate to being handled and helps to socialize them. If you want your chickens to be pets, this is the key to making them a friendly, happy bunch later.
- Set up the coop.
It will take about 6 weeks for your chicks to develop enough to move into their permanent coop. There are several options in coops, from those on wheels that can be moved around the yard to permanent coop structures that can be built off of a back porch or as a stand-alone. You can purchase coops either fully built or ones that can be built using the materials provided. DIY-ers can build a coop on the cheap if they do a little research. Your coop must be big enough for the chickens to roam freely without overcrowding and secure enough to prevent loss from wildlife depredation. Your coop also must include private nesting boxes. Line the nesting box with straw and the floors of the coop with sand, kitty litter, or corn cob shavings.
- Range your chickens.
Ranging includes feeding and allowing your chickens to roam around grubbing for things in the yard. Depending on your town’s ordinance, you can allow your chickens to roam a few hours a day in the backyard, providing it is secure enough to keep out predators. Using a mobile runway coop that has an open bottom can allow them to range safely. Feed your chickens a nutritious chicken pellet diet, which you can throw on the ground as they range or while in the coop.
Well, there you have it! While we have only scratched the surface of chicken husbandry, this should give you some basic information on how to raise backyard chickens. If we can answer any questions about these steps, or if you would like to schedule an appointment, we are here for you. Just give us a call!