I'm not sure about where you live, but in Seattle and the rest of the Pacific Northwest, raising chickens is about as prevalent as having any other kind of domesticated animals. It's not uncommon to see city suburb coops in neighbors' backyards or to be gifted fresh eggs from a friend's chickens.
As with any other animal, however, chickens require a lot of work and loving attention—definitely more than your common dog or house cat. Although, with the right know-how and a can-do attitude, one can raise and utilize backyard chickens quite successfully. Here are some pros and cons to consider if you're interested in building a backyard coop (and make sure to always check your city regulations and laws before even considering
• Farm fresh eggs—the difference in taste is astounding!
• You can raise and feed your chickens healthy diets that ensure quality eggs.
• The opportunity to sell your eggs at a farmer's market.
• Chickens are usually friendly and delightful little animals, so they make great feathered friends.
• Keeping chickens can be an opportunity to teach your children responsibility and respect for animals.
• Chicken "fertilizer" can speed the growth of plants.
• My personal opinion: they're cute and fluffy. Cons
• Keeping chickens is hard, dirty work and not an undertaking to be entered into lightly.
• It may be hard to find a specialized fowl vet, depending on where you live.
• Neighbor complaints or animal threat. If you're going to house roosters, check with city ordinances beforehand and be prepared for noise complaints (or odor complaints if you don't keep the coop clean—which you should
). Also, unprotected chickens may be at risk to dogs, foxes, coyotes, birds of prey or raccoons.
• It can be expensive. Chickens require food, water, and grit: a pebble-like substance that helps them digest their food, as well as a safe and cozy coop (preferably ventilated and sunny). The safest coops are "pest-proof" and are installed several feet into the ground to prevent animals from digging their way in.
What do you think? We'd love to hear from some seasoned backyard chicken owners (forgive the pun)!(Image: Andie Powers)