If you’re new to backyard chickens, here’s a cheat sheet to get you started.
1. Know the law.
A growing number of towns, including Charlotte and Raleigh, let you keep backyard chickens as long as you build your coop to certain specifications and keep it a certain distance from your property line (in Charlotte, that’s 25 feet). For details on Charlotte’s animal ordinance, click here. Note: If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowners’ association, chances are it prohibits chickens.
2. Get the chicken housing set before you bring home the birds.
We can’t stress this enough: Chickens have enemies everywhere. If you bring them home and hope to get by with a dog kennel or some other less-than-secure arrangement (such as a coop with an open top or unsecured floor), you will lose birds to raccoons, opossums, hawks, and owls. Plans for coops and runs are available in books and online. Here’s just one example.
3. Keep the babies warm.
Baby chicks need a secure, indoor place to live until they feather out. A back porch or garage is fine, and they must be in a container (such as a washtub or bin) with an attached heat lamp. They’ll need clean water and a kind of feed called “chick starter.” Clean the straw in their bin as needed. Remember to sanitize your hands after touching chicks.
5. Watch for feathers.
Once the chickens are fully feathered, they can move to their permanent lodging. If you buy your chicks this spring, you will be eating their first eggs at the start of fall. For more backyard chicken tips, see previous articles on getting started and things to know.