Raising Backyard Chickens in the Suburbs


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A chicken with a fluffy feather head.When our oldest was 18 months old, we decided we wanted to live a more sustainable life. We started our own garden, began composting, and started raising backyard chickens. Though my green thumb quickly became brown, our love for chickens grew over the years — and so did our flock.

Today, many refer to me as “the chicken lady.” With the price of eggs soaring, now more than ever I am asked about raising chickens. Real talk: If you want to get chickens to save on the cost of eggs, that won’t happen. Between startup cost, feed, and the cost to maintain a healthy flock — backyard chickens won’t save you money. But raising chickens is still a fun and rewarding experience to have with your kids.

If you are considering adding chickens to your family, here are answers to the top questions I receive about starting a backyard flock.

Do You Live in the Country?

We don’t live in the country or own a lot of land. We live smack dab in the middle of Richardson. Houses to the left, houses to the right. It’s just your typical quarter-acre lot in the middle of suburbia. And we have chickens . . . 10 of them!

And we aren’t alone! In my neighborhood, enough families are raising backyard chickens that we even have our own Facebook group! But not all cities and neighborhoods are created alike. Check with your HOA and local city ordinances to see what rules exists about keeping chickens in your yard.

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Where Do You Put Them?

We have a side yard devoted to our chickens. When we first started out, they had a small coop in our backyard where they free ranged during the day. As our flock grew, and we experienced the reality of city predators like bobcats and hawks, we built out more dedicated space. Now they are in a large protected run all day. If the kids are playing in the backyard, we’ll let the chickens out for some extra free range time.

One of the biggest mistakes that people make is underestimating the size of the coop and run (the protected area where the chickens can walk around). While most coops from the local feed store are a wonderful place to lock your girls up at night, chickens need quite a bit of space to “run” during the day.

On average you want to have 10 square feet of yard space per chicken. So, if you have a flock of four chickens, you need 40 square feet for them to roam during the day.

Are Chickens Friendly?

Chickens are incredibly social animals with tons of personality. Ours follow us around, beg for food, and even knock on our back door when they want our attention. The key to friendly birds is to treat them like any other pet. You get what you give. If you give love, play, and treats, they return the same affection. We have handled all of our birds since they were baby chicks and interact with them daily. And for that reason, they come when we call them. They snuggle in our laps for sweet wing scratches.

How Many Should We Have?

The first rule you learn about with chickens is a rule called “chicken math.” Like Pringles, you can’t have just one. Chickens are a flock animal and not only seek companionship, but also crave pecking order. Three or more birds allows chickens to maintain a functioning pecking order.

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I always recommend you start with at least four chickens. Why four? Between the Texas heat, predators, illness, and dumb luck, you are bound to lose a chicken. Four allows you to lose one bird and still keep a happy flock without scrambling to add more.

Also, you do not need a rooster for hens to lay eggs. Hens lay eggs regardless. The only thing a rooster provides is fertilization. You can consume fertilized eggs, just be sure to pull eggs nearly every day to stop the chick development.

Raising Backyard Chickens: Mama Hen with babies

Where Do I Start?

When we first discussed adding chickens to our family, I wanted pullets (grown birds) because the thought of a heat lamp around my toddler terrified me. But then a local chicken expert introduced me to a safe heat plate. Suddenly I was sold on chicks.

We hand-raised our babies, keeping their brooder (the hen who sits on the eggs) in the kids bedroom. We watched them feather out right before our eyes. We jumped in the deep end of raising backyard chickens and never turned back.

With that said, some folks really would prefer to skip the grow-out portion of raising chickens. They would rather try out chickens to see if feathered friends are their thing. Rent the Chicken is an incredible option to do just that. This company delivers everything you need to get your backyard flock going. I’m talking egg-laying hens, food, water dispensers, instructions — you name it. If you decide chickens just aren’t your thing, at the end of the trial period they will come pick everything up and rehome the chickens.

Check out some more of my favorite resources:

If you are thinking of joining the ranks of backyard chickens, I highly recommend going to a local feed store and chatting about chickens.  My favorite places to go are Rooster Hardware in Lake Highlands and Roach Feed and Seed in Downtown Garland.

Our family absolutely loves our girls and cannot imagine living our crazy life without them.

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Katy Brank
As a professional policy wonk, Katy helps companies navigate the impact of domestic and international politics on business affairs. As a mother, she passionately teaches her kids to understand and participate in the world around them. Katy is married to her highschool sweetheart. Together, they have two boys and a girl — or as they refer to them — the Heir, the Spare, and the Queen in-between. Their dog, who believes king-sized beds are too small, their aquatic turtle named Chelsea, and their flock of backyard chickens, round out the Brank Family Circus, who reside in Richardson, Texas. Her Instagram page and personal blog, Sandbox Politics , document her adventures in raising the next generation of global citizens.


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