FAQ on Backyard Chickens

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If you would have bet me a couple years ago that I would be writing an article on backyard chickens I would probably bet double or nothing. However, this past year has been similar to an episode of Big Brother. Expect the unexpected.

It all began in March 2020. We can all recall that month when many of us found ourselves with a house full of students and no school. We are forever grateful to our amazing teachers that seemed to roll with the punches. One particular assignment changed one of our kids as he seemed to find his calling in life.

The assignment was called Passion Project and students had to research a topic they were interested in, write about it, and share it with their peers. One of my sons wished to know more about chickens and raising them. We spent our evenings reading about backyard chickens and what it takes to care for them. My son embraced this project as he drew diagrams of what the coop would look like and shared all the information he learned with his classmates.

Fast forward a few months and we found we had extra time on our hands to make this passion project a reality. We live on a very small lot, so we knew we had to be aware of space and learn the rules if we wanted to have backyard chickens.

Here are a few FAQs you may have if you are considering owning backyard chickens.

What are the laws for backyard chickens in Ohio?

The first thing you should to do is contact your local zoning office and find out if you can even legally own poultry where you live. Then, click here to obtain a permit for chickens if needed.

How many chickens should I get?

Chickens are very social, so three to six birds is a nice size. We purchased our chickens when they were just chicks. Six-week-old chicks should be ready to transition to the chicken coop if the outdoor temperature is at least fifty degrees.

How much outdoor space do I need?

The more space you can provide, the happier the chickens will be. Plan for at least 10 square feet of outdoor space per chicken.

Do I need a rooster for my hens to lay eggs?

No! Your hens will lay eggs whether there is a rooster or not. The eggs will not be fertile and hatch into chicks without a rooster. We were surprised to find that one of our hens was really a rooster. About three months after buying the backyard chickens, we heard a very distinct “cockadoodle doo!”  We looked at each other and laughed in surprise. Our neighbors were wonderful and patient as we found a new home for our rooster. (Roosters are not allowed in the neighborhood we live in.)

How old do chickens need to be to lay eggs and how many do they lay?

Most hens lay their first egg around 18 weeks, depending on breed and environment. In winter, we bought our backyard chickens and were told we would most likely see our first egg when we had a warm day. Chickens can lay up to one egg a day and stop or slow down in the winter.

What breeds of chickens should I get?

We researched various breeds of backyard chickens and visited our local farm shop to discuss the benefits of certain breeds. The breeds we went with are: Buff Orpington, Easter Egger, Black Australorp, Golden Laced Wyandotte, and Sussex. We strongly recommend visiting City Folk’s Farm Shop located in Clintonville. They are a great resource to use when deciding chicken breeds and answering any questions related to chicken food and bedding. We also joined a Facebook Page called Columbus City Chickens.

How do I make my coop safe?

We  heard horror stories from backyard chicken owners about their flock being wiped out in one evening. So I made sure to have an honest conversation with my kids about the possibility of predators such as: raccoons, hawks, foxes, possums, and even dogs and cats.

building a chicken coopbackyard chickens

Here are the ways we have made our coop safe for our backyard chickens. First, we made sure to have a roof on our coop. We lock up our chickens at night. When making a run, we learned that many predators can dig. When building your run, make sure you bury hardware mesh at least 2 feet deep around the compound- 4 feet deep would be ideal. We also have motion sensor lighting that will scare off predators in the dark. We collect eggs daily and make sure there aren’t scraps lying around that will attract predators.

What books do you recommend reading before owning chickens?

The Beginner’s Guide to Raising Chickens: How to Raise a Happy Backyard Flock by: Anne Kuo

Raising Chickens: Beginners Guide to Raising Healthy and Happy Backyard Chickens by: Janet Wilson

Good luck as you embark on your chicken journey. There is nothing like fresh eggs and knowing that you provided a safe and thriving environment for your chickens!

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Melissa Burnett was born in New Jersey but moved to Ohio at the beginning of a school year where she thought her parents forgot her at Kindergarten and spent most of her first day in tears. Since then, she learned to transfer her imagination onto paper and write stories. She taught Title 1 Reading and wrote children’s books before embarking on her journey into parenthood. Melissa is a mother to twin boys and a younger boy who keeps her on her toes. She enjoys Friday stay home movie night with her boys and dreaming up business ideas with her extremely patient and loving husband. When she is not breaking up wrestling matches, Melissa and her husband spend their time working on rental cabins in Hocking Hills. They also enjoy popcorn and coming up with new popcorn flavors. Melissa promises she does not have motherhood figured out, but she does have many funny stories to share and a word of advice “when you go through the car wash with kids…make sure your window lock is on.” Follow her blog: melissaburnett.com

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