FAQ City Chickens

Chickens can be extremely rewarding and enjoyable. However, like any pet, it is best to consider their unique needs prior to making a commitment to bring them home. Following are questions frequently asked on the subject of chickens to help you evaluate if chickens are a good fit for your family. Special thanks to Seattle Tilth for letting Swansons reprint this information.

What does the city of Seattle allow? Are other cities similar?
The City of Seattle allows 8 chickens per standard lot, with an additional 1 bird allowed per additional 1,000 sq. ft. Many other cities are similar. Some allow less, some allow more, and some prohibit chickens. A homeowner should contact the appropriate zoning and land use department before attempting this venture so that all rules and regulations are understood.

Are chickens dirty?
That depends. As with any animal (and people), chickens can be “dirty” if they are not properly cared for. A chicken that is properly cared for is just as clean as a dog or house bird.

Are roosters the noisy ones, or are hens noisy too?
Roosters are noisy. Hens are much less so. A hen will cackle at times during the day, and will occasionally (especially when disturbed by an unfamiliar person or animal) squawk, but she will be quiet most of the time. She will be completely silent when it is dark, as she will be sleeping. Many hens will cackle while they are laying their eggs, but these, and most other sounds, are not very loud, and are certainly quieter than most everything else that occurs in the surrounding neighborhood. The only time where such sounds may be unpleasant is in the early morning, at times when neighbors may want to sleep late. To counteract this, many chicken owners will keep the coops dark on those days until later in the morning, or ply neighbors with fresh eggs.

How many eggs does one hen lay per day? Or per week?
The answer will vary depending on 1) The time of year, 2) The breed of the hen, 3) The diet of the hen, 4) The age of the hen, and 5) Other husbandry practices. Most of the standard breeds of chickens that have been selected through the years for egg production will lay between 180 – 320 eggs per year for their first year of laying. On one extreme, there are records of hens averaging an egg a day for over a year. The rate of laying tapers in the second year and beyond, until it may only take place during the spring. Some of the breeds that haven’t been selected for egg production (selected for show, or other qualities, instead) may only lay eggs in the spring and early summer. Appropriate feed mixtures also stimulate egg production.

Should you have more than one hen?
Yes. Chickens have a strong social structure.

Do you have to have a rooster for a hen to lay eggs?
No. Without a rooster, hens will still lay eggs. There are no roosters to be found at all the mega-farms, where most eggs come from. If you don’t have a rooster, the eggs can’t be fertile, and won’t hatch. However, this is not the goal of most chicken owners. And, non-fertile eggs are (arguably) just as nutritious and tasty as fertile eggs.

Can they run around your yard? Do you need to keep them fenced in?
They can run around your yard, but care must be taken to protect them from predators. Therefore, they should be securely fenced in most of the time, especially during non-daylight hours. If they are not fenced in during the day, they may wander too far and leave the property, inviting attacks from dogs and other animals.

How long do they lay eggs before they become non-laying hens?
As mentioned above, productivity diminishes after the first year. It is still good the second year, but then declines rapidly. At about three or four years, production is not very efficient. Most commercial and farm hens are culled after their second season of laying.

Can you bring chickens into your house?
Yes, if you want. They are harder to “potty train” than most animals, though. They defecate more often than mammals. However, some people do keep their “pet” chickens in their house.

SEATTLE TILTH

Seattle Tilth offers seminars on chickens, goats and organic garden throughout the year.
Contact Seattle Tilth directly at (206) 633-0451 to inquire of further information and register