(NaturalNews) Depending on where you live in the world, keeping a few chickens is generally a viable option, even in a large city. Relatively inexpensive and maintenance free, hens will reward you with fresh eggs daily, assist with pest control, provide manure for the garden and give lots of joy to children, who usually love raising chicks.
What hens are best to buy for cities or suburbs?
People often tend to acquire chickens without researching breeds. At poultry auctions, the runts and poor layers are usually readily available, and one will be starting off with very poor stock if these chickens are purchased. Day old chicks for sale are very often males because battery chicks are sexed the day they hatch; females are kept for mass egg production and the "worthless" male chicks are sold to the unsuspecting.
Research carefully the kind of bird needed for your family before rushing out to buy. Are you looking for egg production, a bird to provide meat, or one that is good for meat and eggs, or are you not interested in consumption but simply want a scratcher to assist with bug control? Decide if you want point-of-lay hens (more expensive) or younger chicks (more work and equipment investment needed).
Taking care of chickens in the city
Build a coop that can be moved, with a lid that can be opened or removed. The hens will need a safe, secure place where cats and dogs cannot get in. Dogs can be trained to live alongside hens, but not if they are hunting dogs.
Hens will need a pole to roost on at night, which can easily be inserted into the coop. Clean straw must be provided for laying hens. Clean the coop regularly, remove the straw and add to the compost heap. The manure chickens provide is a great accelerator for the composting process.
If left to free range in the garden, chickens will deal with a snail or slug problem, but they may destroy a vegetable or flower patch if allowed to run loose for a long time. Allow them time to roam and do what chickens are designed to do - scratch and have a sand bath.
In winter, make sure they are dry and warm. Check on them regularly - a poorly managed flock can become a financial drain and they can end up sick and diseased. Be sure to find a responsible "chicken sitter" to take care of them when you are away.
What to feed hens
Give hens plenty of fresh greens, crushed egg shells, warm oatmeal porridge or mash, a scrambled egg now and again, snails and slugs, weeds from the vegetable patch and plenty of fresh water. They will scavenge and scratch very happily on their own for any other nutrients they can find.
The first thing to do is check with your local municipal offices to ask what the laws are in your area and/or whether or not there are limits on the amount of poultry that can be kept in the city or suburb where you live.
Fleur Hupston is a professional freelance writer. She is passionate about natural, healthy living and is currently studying to be a naturopath. She divides her time between writing for Natural News and various other sites, home schooling her children and studying part time.