Newbie urban chicken raiser with questions!!

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by SeaChick, Apr 25, 2007.

  1. SeaChick

    SeaChick Songster

    Apr 25, 2007
    Southern Maine

    I am not sure which specific forum to post in since my questions cover many topics.. hope its ok here!

    My daughter and I would love to raise laying hens for fun and to feed the family. We live in a tight suburban neighborhood in South Portland Maine. We have many questions, hope someone might be able to help us here!

    1- Feasibility--- Our zoning laws prohibit livestock, but we think we'd like to try anyway (have heard that several folks in nearby towns with same laws have been doing it for years.) Our lot is only 100 x 50, very tight neighborhood. We'll of course offer eggs to immediate neighbors. But I definitely want to minimize smell as much as possible. We are thinking that the "tractor" type of coop, made with a small coop and attached run, portable, which we could move about the backyard, might minimize the smell issue by not collecting poop in one place. Is this feasible? We have an area about 40x 35 that we could move it around on, mostly grass with some bare dirt and flower beds. Is that enough space to move the coop around on and expect the manure to get scratched into the grass enough not to smell? And not to be icky to walk on when the coop is moved? If not, and a stationary coop with a fenced run is preferable, what is the preferred method of dealing with manure in an urban setting? Our compost bins are pretty low-efficiency since they are shaded by trees, definitely wouldn't be able to get any good hot, fast composting action going there. What do other city folks do with the poop to keep the smell down?

    2- What's really involved?--- My 10-year old daughter would like to do this and she'll have most of the responsibility caring for them. What's really involved so that we can evaluate it before comitting.... how many times a day, for how long, will she be caring for the hens?

    3- Where to get the chicks---- does any one know any places in Maine or New Hampshire (or MA) that sell single, sexed heritage breed chicks? I did find Ideal on line and they will sell singles. I assume we'll be OK raising the chicks in the house in a box or fishtank or something with a regular light for heat... and that we don't need fancy equipment for this... correct?

    4- Maine weather---- I understand that we should choose cold-hardy breeds and also that we will need to provide some heat in the winter, as well as artificial light if we want them to lay more (we do!)... can this be accomplished simply by fixing light bulbs (special kind? red?) inside the coop portion of the little portable coop/run described above? And just tarp the run part to keep snow out? Or would it be better to move the whole thing into the unheated garage as well?

    5- Breed recommendations--- Assuming that it's actually feasible (I hope so!) does anyone have breed recommendations as far as:
    Winter laying success
    Prolific layers

    Whew! That's all for now, I think. I sure appreciate any advice anyone can give us!

    Stacey, Neil and Olivia
    South Portland Maine
    Sweet personalities
  2. bigzio

    bigzio Crowing

    Jan 20, 2007
    Stacy, The same thing applies with any livestock or pet, as far as being around all the time to care for them is a must because they depend on you for feed, water, and dry housing.

    Cold weather breeds need to have small combs. Stay away from single comb breeds that are easy to get frosbite. Rose comb, pea comb, etc are the best in cold weather states.

    Chicken odor is basically a lack of staying ahead of the problem.

    Everyone will you tell you their breed is best, however you need to decide what is best for you. Go to and enjoy everything on line or request a free catalog to study. Good Luck.

  3. arwmommy

    arwmommy Songster

    Apr 13, 2007
    Can't help with most of your questions since we don't even have our babies yet (and are in the same situation as you except we are allowed hens, even in our tight zoned quarters!) but I thought I would offer a great website to buy single, sexed birds.........

    They also have a great guide to caring for the chicks that should give you a good idea on labor/time commitment. It is on the left lower hand of the screen titled "Free chicken E-care Book" and really was a great catalyst to us understanding what was involved.

    The other books I would recommend are "Keep Chickens!" and the "Storey's guide to raising chickens" both of which you can find on Amazon.

    Good luck!
  4. nikkimay

    nikkimay In the Brooder

    Apr 8, 2007
    Pacific NW
    Just to reply to a few of your questions - if chickens are not technically allowed in your area, consider the very real possibility that someone might 'tell' on you, and you could be asked to get rid of the chickens. Prepare for how heartbreaking that would be, especially for the 10 year old, and have a plan for what you would do with them if this happened.

    Also, would talk to each of your immediate neighbors, to make sure none of them are going to have a problem with your new pets.

    A tractor set up will probably not work year round with your weather, but you shouldn't have a problem if you keep their area clean.

    As for adding light for increased laying, keep in mind that forcing the hens to lay year round is not the best for their health, and will shorten their life spans.

    As for time, you will at the very least need to spend some time checking on them morning and evening to feed and water them, and make sure all is well - also presumably letting them in and out of a secure coop.

    Best of luck, and keep us posted!
  5. Queen of the Lilliputians

    Queen of the Lilliputians Songster

    Apr 5, 2007
    Hi neighbor! I live in Pittston (near Augusta).

    Everybody answered most of your questions, I think, but I had a couple of things to add.

    I am getting my chicks from Agway, since I can get however many or few I want, and they are already sexed. The only drawback is that they don't have a ton of choices.

    The second thing is that we are getting Rhode Island Reds, New Hamshire Reds, and Barred Rocks. All are supposed to do great with our cold temps. Rhode Island Reds are also supposed to be fantastic egg layers.

    That being said, hubby and I still insulated the coop (LOL R-19!). It was leftover from another project, so we got out of it cheap. We have also put in a light for a heat source when the temps drop below freezing. One of Hubby's farmer friends suggested covering the run with a tarp in the winter to help keep some of the snow out.

    Good luck with your new project!
  6. herechickchick

    herechickchick Songster

    Mar 28, 2007
    Memphis TN

    I just thought I would say that in my area, Memphis Tn (and I am smack in the middle of the city), you are not allowed to have live stock with in 100 yards of a residence but they do not consider chickens livestock. We are allowed to have as many chickens as we want as long as they are confined (mine will be in a dog run with the chicken house inside the run, very roomy!). So you might want to check into that, you may not be in violation of any laws or regulations.

    Good luck!!!!!
    Oh and check out for lots of info on all of the different breeds!
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2007
  7. SpottedCrow

    SpottedCrow Flock Goddess

    Before I went through the time, expense and heartbreak of having to give up your birds, check to see exactly WHAT they think is livestock...
    My Chicken license is on the same form as hot tubs and liquor licenses...[​IMG]
    Or you could get silkies...they lay little tannish eggs and aren't much bigger than a dwarf bunny.
    And they have good personalities.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by: