post off: would you keep chickens?

I’ve been fascinated with the idea of “city chickens” for awhile — two or three in a backyard enclosure and all the eggs I need. (That’s the hope, anyway.) Now friends of mine in Cincinnati are going to actually give it a try this spring. It’s legal to keep a small amount of poultry within city limits in lots of places — The City Chicken is a good place to learn more, with a growing roundup of state-by-state laws. The topic also came up in the Treehugger forums, where one reader mentioned the fanciful and funky Eglu for all your backyard chicken needs. So who has city chickens? And who would try it? –Mary T.

Photo by Laura Pandaru

From our partners
laura k

Chickens are loud and might not go over well if you have Neighbors nearby.
If they made silent Chickens I think everyone would want one, well maybe not everyone but still a good idea.

I actually live in a neighborhood where a house nearby keeps chickens. I was a little hesitant when I heard about this at first because of the noise concern, but when the person in question came around with a petition for them to keep chickens they were happy to answer my questions about the lil birds.

While I have heard the chickens cluck a few times, it’s become more endearing than anything. I think the most important thing for a person keeping chickens is to be able to talk to their neighbors about it – it really works!

Angela M.

Considering our success with bees… I’d be afraid to try!


My big concern would be racoons. They killed off all of the goslings that hatched in a nearby yard. Would backyard chickens also be their prey? You’d have to have to have a good/safe enclosure for them at night, I guess.

I’ve got four teenage chickens living in my basement right now, getting big and strong to move out to their coop in a month. So far it’s been fun, though I wouldn’t do it without a basement or garage to keep them in–they’re stinky! In my neighborhood in Portland, there seems to be a coop every fourth house or so. The only time they cluck much is when they’re laying– which I can forgive them for because there’s an egg at the end!

I would love to keep chickens. Not long ago, I was riding the bus to work (I live in Seattle) and saw a woman reading a book on keeping chickens. She looked so cool and “farm girl goes to the city” in her style — I wanted to strike up a conversation, but was too shy :-) And I’ve always wanted ducks…moreso than chickens. Our old house in Crown Hill was near a small private duck pond that had a few of the domestic variety most of the time, but filled with 30 or 40 mallards during migration!

I would love to get a couple of chickens — in fact, my 10-year-old daughter has been begging to ever since we saw the chicks for sale at Portland’s Pistils Nursery on a trip there. (A old neighbor had several chickens, and it was so nice to get those fresh eggs! The clucking never bothered us at all. In fact I don’t remember hearing anything but pleasant noises from the coop.) But we have cats and a dog, so I would fear for the poor hens’ lives. Also, the idea of having to build a coop is daunting, as we are DIY-challenged to say the least. But I think it’s a great trend. Yay for city chickens and kitchen gardens!

We’re in the midst of brooding our first backyard flock. There are some very cute pictures and videos over at my blog.

This is really a second step for us. We have been involved with an egg co-op at an urban farm for the last two years. It’s a good option for folks that may not be able to commit to caring for a backyard flock. Rather than having 3 chickens to care for every morning and night, you get to have 40 chickens for an hour a week…and a dozen eggs.


Be careful if you’re thinking about this. You really need to be considerate about your neighbors privacy. Our city allows up to 5 chickens but no roosters. You may also need to check with the city about where the coop can be placed. In our city it had to be at least 50 feet from any common walls.


I have three chickens and I keep them more as pets than anything else. We do get lots of eggs, more than my husband and I can keep up with. I don’t think they are particularly noisy, especially in small numbers. They are definitely quieter than any of the dogs in the neighborhood (including mine!). In my city you can keep up to 20 chickens, but I would never keep that many, not because of the noise, but the stink. Chickens poop and it smells. With three I can keep on top of the smell, but anymore would be alot of work.

We keep ours in a poultry tractor (we built ourselves) during the summer and a permanant coop in the winter.

We have had them since the day they hatched and they are named Noodle, Marsala and PotPie. They are alot of fun to watch and interact with. It is like having tiny dinosaurs in your backyard.


I know many people who keep a few hens (not terribly loud) but no roosters (dreadful noise).

They lay eggs anyway, even without a rooster.

Our city requires an expensive special permit and I don’t have the time to take care of more animals right now.

But a neighbor two streets away got two hens a month ago. They are laying now, a couple of eggs a day. They are very beautiful to watch.


In a way, I would love to have a few chickens. However, with Moby, the dog that allows NOTHING in HIS yard and Merlin the killer cat chickens would last seconds not minutes.

I’ve had 2 chickens in my tiny city yard for the last three years, ever since I adopted a young hen that was abandoned in our neighborhood. A chicken-keeping friend gave me a second hen, since chickens are not happy as “only” critters.

I do not let my dog loose in the backyard, she is a 95lb Akita with a strong prey drive, taking my dog for walks is a small price to pay for having the hens and their fresh eggs. I know of six neighbors who also have hens. I do not worry about cats, my full size hens are bigger than most cats, and I’ve seen them in action. I had never kept chickens before and was surprised at how easy it is.


My favorite “city chicken” is this one:

We used to have it at family Christmas as a traditional Polish/Hamtramck sort of food.

I wanted chickens last year, but my husband (who grew up more rural than I did) vetoed it… “they’re mean, they’re ugly,” and so on. (Counter-argument: “That’s all to the good, when it comes time to eat them you don’t feel guilty!”) A little homework, and he announced that we were instead getting ducks.

We have eight Khaki Campbell ducks, seven hens and a drake (bonus: it’s illegal here, for noise and cockfighting reasons, to have roosters, but drakes are okay), which give us seven very chicken-like eggs a day.

The pool is the only bit of nuisance… Campbells can in theory go without swimming water (not all breeds of duck can and stay healthy), but if you’ve once seen them playing in water, you just can’t deprive them. So they have a kiddie pool, and we might put in an in-ground pond, though the filtration requirements are daunting (they’re dabbling ducks, and rinse mud from their bills into the water, a *lot*). For now, we have a submersible pump, and the water goes into the gardens… every two or three days in hot weather.

To our relief, the neighbors are all in love with them (even before we started handing out free eggs), and just yesterday my next-door neighbor requested the use of the ducks to clean the henbit, chickweed, and goose grass (catchweed) from his backyard. We have a portable pen (“chicken tractor”) that we’ll put over there temporarily.

Predators haven’t been a problem; we’ve had some urban hawks speculate, but the ducks are very alert to that. None of the owls in the neighborhood are species to prey on ducks. Coons would perhaps be a problem (a big one will take on a grown duck if hungry enough and if it caught the duck sleeping) but we do coop the ducks at night. Aside from that, our only concern has been if a stray dog were to hop our fence and get after them, but it hasn’t happened. Most dogs, even the neighbor’s Labrador Retriever, don’t really know what to make of the ducks and haven’t shown a predatory interest, though I know of other people who’ve had neighbor dogs who went to great effort to escape their own yards and break in to chicken enclosures, so it still may come up.

Not in the city but if I lived in the country for sure. My aunt and uncle had chickens and as I kid I loved collecting eggs and feeding them.

We have chickens in our urban back yard. They’re not noisy (they cackle a bit when they’re laying, but it’s during the day and even our closest neighbor says she never notices it). They eat snails and slugs from the garden, dig through our compost and poop in it so it burns down faster than you could imagine, and they love eating the leaves off of oxalis (one of our big garden weeds).

We hand-raised them so they are very sociable and sweet; they follow me around the garden when I let them out of their secure enclosure (we have hawks as well as raccoons, possum, and cats to worry about). They do kind of trash the plants, so I don’t let them out unsupervised. At night they go into their little room in half our shed and we shut the door to keep them safe.

As far as pets go, they are easier to take care of than cats. We can leave them alone for entire days at a time when we are busy, and they don’t notice.

Tiffany S.

They were just showcased in Sunset magazine and super cute coops can be found here:

As much as I’d love to have them (especially Auracanas for their fun colored eggs), I don’t think I have time for the work or the smelly poo. Plus our dog would go nuts. It’s a nice fantasy though.

Back in the day, when Kirkland was full of horses instead of mini-mansions, our neighbor had Auracanas, and it was super fun to visit. But then, again, we all had an acre and a half.


No way; when I first moved to the Chicago area a few years ago, I rented a house from a friend’s parents and they kept chickens in the backyard. Two hens were being bullied by the rest of the group and were moved into the attached garage. The whole house stank (I’ve got two dogs and the chicken smell was way more potent than my dogs) and we were constantly beseiged by raccoons, foxes and I heard coyotes a few times (this was out in the burbs). At least once a week I was woken up by screams from the coop as a ‘coon invaded. I quit using the backyard at all, taking my dogs out the front. They didn’t bother the chickens, but it was too smelly and gross to even bother going out back. I couldn’t move out soon enough (and did as soon as I found an apartment in the city).

The part I really never understood: they didn’t even collect/use the eggs, just stopped by twice a day every day to feed/water/visit the birds.

Yes, yes, yes! I want chickens AND a goat, but my husband has nixed the goat unfortunately. The chickens, I hope to do next year. Never having to buy eggs again- worth the nasty poop methinks.

I’d get chickens in a flash, if I had a yard. I grew up in a semi rural neighbourhood; we had chickens and they were a blast to watch.

As mentioned by others, they’re not noisy (I even like the roosters’ crows … no where near as jarring as a car alarm or yappy dog), they keep the garden pests in check, their droppings make for superb compost, they can be very attractive, they are always entertaining, and, oh yeah, their eggs are a benefit.

If size/space is an issue, you can raise bantam hens. They’re much smaller but with all the same perks. You might have to substitute two to three bantam eggs for a regular egg in your baking, though.

I second Tiffany on the Auracanas. Their eggs are most beautiful.


No city chickens, but my parents had them while I was growing up in BFE Indiana. I say go for it, but have someplace safe for them at night and DO NOT get the big, fat white ones. They probably lay eggs like crazy, but the mess! Some old, eccentric cousin of my Grandma’s gave my Mom an Araucana when he came to visit. Weird present, awesome chicken! She laid green eggs and was pretty much the quietest chicken ever. The Rhode Island Reds are nice, too. We had a one-legged one for years, thanks to an encounter with a raccoon.

Mary T

This has been the most enlightening thread ever. Who knew that so many of you were already doing this? I think in my case it’s definitely a fantasy — as I was saying to Sarah just above (someone I know in “real life”), with our two mastiffs, even with a steel-enclosure ringed by an electric fence, we’d have the most stressed-out chickens known to man. This is fascinating reading, though!


I have a flock, please keep in mind the that you do need a predator proof enclosure, even in the city. Even in the daytime, once predators know you have chickens they will come. Raccoons and possums can, and will rip, your chicken to pieces through the wire. Rats will nip soft parts in the house and eat eggs. Laying eggs is intensive on their bodies and they can be susceptible to many reproductive problems. Diet is very important.

Amy C.

I really want to try this; luckily it’s legal in Chicago.

shelterrific » Blog Archive » a visit with the city chickens

[…] had a recent visit with my friends in Cincinnati who just started raising chickens — it was enlightening! My friends live in a fairly urban […]

This has made me chuckle. I would love to keep chickens but can you believe it there is a clause in our deeds that prohibits us from keeping chickens or pigs.

Hey from a fellow chicken freak – I look forward to more.


Despite what people may think, hens are noisy, and in the mornings at first light, often create a lot of noise.

The people behind us have 2, and after a year of being woken at first light – weekdays and weekends … and then having a continual squawking for 30 mins to an hour, I have had to tell my neighbour I’d had enough. It really isn;t fair – and if someone wants to have them let me suggest they put the coop near to their house and experience the noise first hand before improsing it upon someone else.

If you have dogs, you definitely need to keep the chickens in a separate, enclosed space. Even the littlest dogs give in to their prey instince and will go after a chicken. We just lost one of ours to our dog after the gate didn’t latch completely. The other one was wounded but seems to be okay (she’s inside for the moment now).

We just got 3 new chicks to keep the surviving pullet company. One is a bantam – she’s for decorative purposes mainly. Bantams lay small eggs; usually the yolk is standard size but there’s less white, so I don’t know how evenly they can be used for baking. We’ll probably just eat them scrambled or hard-boiled (or pickled).

We used wood siding to create an enclosure (so the dogs can’t see through it) and built a coop from an Ikea wooden bunk bed. They get locked inside the coop at night, but we’ve never seen racoons or possums in the yard since we’ve gotten the chickens.

One of our pullets was especially loud in the mornings; the other was really quiet. So, it just depends on the bird how noisy she’ll be. Some breeds are known for their quiet tendencies, but you really never know. Aside from the morning ruckus, though, they didn’t make much noise throughout the day. Our chickens are located next to our house, but about 50 feet from either of our neighbors homes (city ordinances require 35 feet minimum).

Two chickens gave us enough eggs for eating, but not enough for my baking. I suspect with 4 we’ll be more than set. One thing about their eggs: if you feed them a good diet (chicken feed, veggie scraps, grass and weeds), their eggs will be so bright and tasty you’ll never be able to go back to regular store eggs.

shelterrific » Blog Archive » chickens! coming to a backyard near us soon

[…] couple of years ago, one of our most commented posts asked “Would you keep chickens?” Overwhelming you said, heck yeah, we’d love to raise chickens, and quite a few of you […]