Sustainable living: keeping backyard chickens (even if you live in the city)

Backyard chickens are perfect if you are aiming for a sustainable life – this is Esmerelda the rescue hen, one of my first three chickens and the start of a love of having hens around

Backyard chickens are great pets and also add some serious sustainability credibility to your life: they eat food scraps, improve your soil, keep bugs in check and give you eggs. Chickens can live happily in an average backyard (but remember to check with your local council for any regulations.) Our move from country to city as new parents ended our chicken raising for a while but with a curious three year old who’s hero is Dirt Girl, we decided to bring some chickens back into our family.

The initial set up for chickens is basically a coop, feed and water containers and some space for them to cluck and scratch around. Coops are on Gumtree and available at hardware and pet shops or you could get really adventurous and build your own. The Backyard Poultry Forum has helpful information on how to build a coop and also links to coops for sale. For us, the patience of a three year old didn’t extend to waiting for one to be built so we got a flatpack which took about an hour to put together.

Backyard chickens are perfect if you are aiming for a sustainable life even in the city – this was Precious, another rescue hen

Chickens themselves sell for around $20 – $30 for a layer chicken (there are also different meat breeds and egg breeds). Our new girls are crosses of New Hampshire with a Rhode Island Red, a Leghorn and an Australorp. These types of hens are hardy and generous egg layers so once they grow up we’ll look forward to collecting fresh eggs for breakfast again. While purists say you should give your hens the chop when egg production slows, in the past our older girls become pets so eggs or not, they are here to stay!

The new hens settling in to our city townhouse – they seem pretty pleased

As well as layer pellets, chickens will LOVE any fruit and vegetable scraps you send their way and treats like cracked corn supplement their diet and make for super-bright yolks. Chickens are seriously waste eating machines and they kindly share their poop to fertilise your garden as well so you can really start to get some sustainability going in your own little patch of the earth when you introduce a few chooks.

It’s so nice to eat fresh eggs from happy chickens – you can really see and taste the difference! Its incredibly satisfying to share your eggs with family, friends and neighbours too.

Backyard chickens equals fresh eggs for breakfast!

Backyard Chickens Checklist

  • Coop ($100 – $400)
  • Chickens ($20 – $30 each)
  • Straw or wood shavings (about $15 per bale)
  • Feed containers (about $20 each)
  • Pellets ($15 for 25 kilos)
  • Lice powder and worm medicine
  • Backyard chickens are so easy to care for and an entertaining and intelligent pet so if you’ve been thinking about growing your own fruit or vegetables, why not add some chickens into the mix!

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