Pets: Keeping chickens 101

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Nearly every household with chickens does it differently, though most get started with elbow grease and less than $300. Here are some basic things you'll need when starting your own on-site egg facility.

Permit. Residents must apply for annual permits from Columbus Public Health. Before a permit is granted, a staff veterinarian visits the site to ensure it meets local ordinances.

Space. Plan on how much space you'll need. Each bird needs about two to three feet in the henhouse and four to five feet in an outside run. They should have plenty of room to roam in the yard.

Housing. A coop provides shade, warmth, protection from predators and a place to lay eggs. It should be kept sturdy and accessible - a place where birds will feel safe and cozy. Free building plans abound online.

Birds. Day-old chicks are often available at feed stores, while farms and hatcheries sell more mature birds. Chicks are cheaper and cuter than older birds, but they must be raised before they start to lay eggs. (Either way, make sure to buy hens.)

Nutrition. Most urban chickens eat store-bought feed made from corn, wheat and other grains. They supplement the mix with natural edibles, including grass, weeds and insects.

Time. Daily maintenance includes making sure birds have clean water, adequate food and time out of the coop for exercise and diet. You'll also want to check for eggs every morning. Every few days, you'll want to clean the coop and dispose of any waste.

Sources: Rachel Tayse Baillieul, backyardchickens.com, urbanchickens.org