Chickens in the City?

I doubt I will actually do this, but wanted some input, encouragement and/or discouragement based on experience

Backyard Chickens

Backyard Chickens

This is a picture of my friend Eric’s backyard chicken coop. He lives in California, somewhere Napa-ish so yes, a totally different climate than we have.

But I understand that it is now legal to keep chickens in the city limits of Duluth. This being PDD, and so many of you being earthy, artsy back-to-the-landers, I assume that someone has looked into doing this.

Here are my concerns: 1) ease of use (Eric has an actual coop and fenced in area which I do not have, but I have heard that there are “mobile” fences that can be moved each day)

2) Safety/predation danger. Although I am smack dab in the middle of the city, we do have live skunks and other varmints on the loose nearby, as well as a generous collection of feral cats, but don’t go all judging the Hillside on the one, I am sure that mile for mile hermantown has more of those than we do.

3) How hard is it to keep them healthy and alive? I’m told they are good at maintaining grass for you and just eat bugs, etc, but is this really true. Also, are they susceptible to disease, etc

4) How hard is this really



about 14 years ago

almost forgot ... 5) we do have plenty of yard available for said project, but probably a very tiny budget and low to moderate tolerance for failure.


about 14 years ago

My mom has chickens on a small farm outside Omaha. She's got a sheltered pen with the egg-laying cubicle-type things, and a door to an outdoor pen. They're out there all winter, and I don't think she's had to do anything special for them. She's got the lights for incubating and hatching chicks - she might turn those on if it gets real cold.
I think the biggest challenge she's had has been keeping the other varmints out. Foxes, roaming dogs, cats are all drawn to the chickens.  I suppose hawks and eagles and drunken college students could be a problem up here too, so put a roof or lid on the shelter/pen. Sometimes they pick on each other - the pecking order is a harsh reality. And you have to feed them more than grass and bugs. I think she uses ground corn, but I'm sure Dan's Feed Bin would have Chicken Chow.


about 14 years ago

Talk to Alison or Kirsten Aune -- esp. Kirsten b/c she lives in a similar neighborhood as you do. She can give you some intelligent advice, as she raises chickens.


about 14 years ago

from experience, chickens are easy...provided the requisite facilities are in place.

messy, but easy.

chicken poop takes a really long time to break down (the nitrogen in it'll burn the shit out of anything you put it on), so it's really no good for fertilizer til it has has a chance to decompose for a couple of years, and depending on how many birds you have, be prepared to deal with a lot of it.

if you have a *yard*, i'd suggest picking a permanent coop and pen for them for the reasons listed above.

chickens are also pretty defenseless...which makes them easy prey for just about anything with pointy teeth. raising them in the city pretty much negates some of the preferred manners of dispatch when dealing with predators. 

you *could* however (if you had that *yard*) spend a little ching and fence the whole darned thing in and run chicken wire across the top, sort of like a canopy (a friend in Mpls has a similar setup for her cat). this could go toward alleviating some of the poop disposal through dispersal over a wide area, but you can eventually kiss your grass goodbye.

if you're doing this for table subsistence, you should at least get used to dispatching your meals as soon as possible. you'll have to learn to deal with putting an old girl down eventually when one of your hens is past her prime.

barred rock hens make excellent layers and are pretty kid friendly.

bantams and guineas are sorta small and really noisy...which is something you also should consider with regard to your neighbors.

chickens make noise.

lots of it.

just some more chicken stuff to think about. kept 'em when i was a kid, in addition to a few goats, geese and a passel of dogs.


about 14 years ago

The chicken people have their own website:
yeah, I said chicken people


about 14 years ago

We are considering bird-scaping the yard as well. Been randomly reading from the Storey Guide to Raising Chickens. Almost too much practical info- like how to help a hen pass an egg if it gets stuck.  Errm... maybe it's better to just jump in. Yeah. If you get into big trouble, this book should sort things out.  

Looks like the Duluth Public library has a copy, out till 4/27.


about 14 years ago

Minnesota Stories just posted a video about this: Chickens in the City. There's some interesting points about frostbite in the -20 degree weather.

To me, it seems like a lot of effort to go through for eggs. Plus, I think dealing with all the crap would turn me off to the food.


about 14 years ago

My wife and I are also considering it, though to be honest I'm mainly supporting her desire for fresh eggs in a hope to highlight the absurdity of our city government.  

The ordinance passed last fall says that a chicken permit must be obtained, and that said will only be issued once a coop is inspected by the city animal control officer.  
We have a licensed rental property within the city limits.  The city building inspector has yet to inspect the property, even though the three year permit is up for renewal this fall.  

I'm betting anyone a growler of TPB goodness that if I go ahead and pull a chicken permit they'll inspect the coop before the rental house.


about 14 years ago

No longer in Duluth, as many of you know, but out here in the country we raise a small amount of chickens, turkeys and (soon) geese. Chickens are easy. All they really need is cracked corn (a 50 lb bag is around $8) and water. You can also feed them all your table scraps. The buggers will eat pretty much anything. They'll about stop laying when it gets below 20-30 degrees, but all spring, summer and fall you can count on about 1 egg per day per chicken. Kids love them. They're drama queens and fun to watch. 

Bad points? Biggest one is, as Zra mentioned, they're defenseless (even if you have a rooster). This is why we have turkeys (and geese soon), which will scare the crap out of most any animal. Most dogs, especially German Shepards and other large breeds, will eat chickens. We used to have a German Shepard and she ate all of our chickens in one weekend. We gave that dog away. Our two current dogs, a pit bull/lab mix and a border collie... leave them alone and are only interested in eating their food. 

You'll need a coop (or part of a garage) with laying boxes and one or two roosts, and a penned in area, preferably. Doesn't have to be anything fancy, just out of the elements. Chickens can fly by the way, though not very far.  

Also, you'll need at least one heat lamp in the winter or they'll get frostbite and possibly freeze to death. 

Noise? No problem out here, though I can imagine some pissed off neighbors if you have a rooster. Our turkeys (males) are far more noisy than the chickens could ever be. 

If you do it right, for whatever size your property is, the poop smell shouldn't be a problem. Clean the old stuff out in the spring and fall. Start small. Our current brood came from someone who overdid it and was overrun with too many chickens and not enough space. 

Why do it? There's no comparison in the quality of eggs (or meat, if you so choose) to factory farm raised chickens. Also, as I said, they're fun to watch and kids love them (as do I). Chickens, as I've found, are pretty amazing and very taken for granted creatures. Not to mention "growing your own" is always cool.

Oh, and as Zra also wrote... bards (black & white) are a good breed, as are the plain ol' white variety.


about 14 years ago

Some time ago the Duluth City Council had the matter of how many chickens you could have in your yard in Duluth on their agenda.  I was amazed, but then figured that if it needed to be debated in the halls of our fine city council, there must be enough people keeping chickens.  I never paid any attention as to the coucil's decision.  Having spent a number of years in australia, though all Ausies have a "chook or two" in their back shed for the eggs, and their really pretty low matience.


about 14 years ago

On the noise issue: roosters are not allowed in town for obvious reasons.

Paul Lundgren

about 14 years ago

I think the maximum number of chickens allowed is five.


about 14 years ago

we miss you, gwanto...don't worry, we're looking after molina while you're away.


about 14 years ago

Aw shucks, thanks Zra. After 18 years in the Twin Ports, the past year has been a challenge, but it's getting better and better. Still, no matter where I live, Duluth will always be home to me.


about 14 years ago

Additional thanks to 'Zra and everyone, actually for all of the good information experience and detail.  

The Lady is nixing chicks on the count of "salmonela" and new baby fears, I think that is crap and that there is more health risk from getting factory farmed food than anything we raise ourselves.  But speaking of crap, I (per 'Zra and others) forgot about how smelly the stuff can be.  And the noise. I could and would love to tell stories sometimes of my life in Belize (where with any room at all has chickens, even in the "city." 

Thing is, they are noisy and that whole cock crows at dawn thing is crap.  The ones I lived around crowed ALL THE TIME.  A minority of my Hillside neighbors can be profoundly annoying  and shockingly bad-mannered late at night and chicks might just be the just desserts some deserve.  But more likely there is a risk of vandalism and antagonism from various malcontents and undersupervised children.  Add that to the smell problems, the varmint issues and my lovely Lady's (over zealous) concerns about Salmonela and ... Chicks are nixed, for now.  

When/if I can afford the coop solution and we have more word of the Duluth Chicken people (thank you Beverly) experiences leaks out maybe I'll do it. 

Meantime, I guess it's another summer of trying to figure out what to do with all my grass and come up with some more creative, less smelly/noisy solutions to never having to mow again ...

Thanks again for the quick and painless trial and error kudos PDD-land!  Fun to be a budding part of this vibrant, thoughtful, altruistic and occasionally cantankerous virtual community


about 14 years ago

Still want to grow and nurture an amazing thing in your backyard that also yeilds lots of tasty results?  Get bees!  (and yes, I'm serious!) I've got a few coworkers who are doing it, and it is amazingly safe and fascinating.  Harvesting takes a gentle hand and a bee suit, but they otherwise live right by the house and you'd never know they were there.  Hardly any maintenance, and more honey than any one family could possibly use.


about 14 years ago

Don't accuse me of being a being a baby, please, but I'm allergic to bees, so that is not viable in our case, but a really good choice for many people, I'm sure.  

I have some friends who grow/barter honey from their hives at an undisclosed location in Duluth and they have shared a few bottles with us, it is tasty, totally agreed.  And they really enjoy the hobby a great deal  They also say that certain gardeners and tree lovers in their neighborhood appreciate having bees nearby for pollenation effects


about 14 years ago

Apologies about not citing the source, but I vaguely remember reading that chicken scratching helps small gardens.  Something about killing small pests or scattering seed.  Is that even close to correct?

In any case, I know of a retired couple that work chickens without a problem.  They do not live in the city, though, so I suppose that's not much help.


about 14 years ago

I just realized, after doing a search, that chicken scratching usually refers to embroidery.  Should have said "scratching chickens".  My bad.  To make up for it, a rather off topic quote from "Snatch"...

"That's why you should beware of any man that own's a pig farm." -- Brick Top (and he doesn't mean the smell) :-)


about 14 years ago

I love my chickens.  The ladies names are Sofie and Blackie.  I have had chickens in the city for the last 6 years (yes-illegally without trouble).  Sofie is from my orginal flock.  Two hens are plunty for me. Sofie lays once a day-still!!! Blackie only lays every day or three although she is far younger (only two).  So be careful of the breeding, it does make a difference in productivity.  I have lost chickens to shunks and raccoons, which is heart breaking.  I found it best to lock them up at night.  Since I built a coop with a locking door I have not had this problem.  I con't think they're too loud or messy but my neighbors like them so that helps.
  When the chicks were little I handled them a lot and now they are very tame, I have no problem letting them out of their fenceing as they stick around.


about 14 years ago

chicken scratching is great in the garden... *after* the harvest, not before. they eat a whole lot of stuff you wouldn't expect.


about 14 years ago

lobster tastes like chicken


about 14 years ago

Wow! what an idea ! What a concept ! Beautiful .. Amazing 

Max Facemire

about 14 years ago

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about 14 years ago

we have chickens at our house there really cool. They make your house a home. Every1 should have chickens they can be kinda messy poop wise. We let our chickens free during the day an coop them in the night we live in the country of northern minnesota. We have had up to 40 chickens at one time thats 40 eggs aa day. Right now we have 2 an 3 chicks cause last summer alot of them were old died or something. We have a chicken that is 8 years old right now. I didnt think that they got that old. We have hatched many healthy chicks over the 5 almost 6 years we have had them. There was a chick before we found frozen to death in the corner of our laying box. I was 9 or 10 years old an really wanted it to live. We put it under the hair dryer for about 45 minutes on high before we left to our uncle jeffs funeral my dad didnt think it would live but i did i had faith it would. After we were done hair drying it it started to move an open its beak my dad still thought it would die. By this time we were late to my uncles funeral so we put it back in the coop with its mom. Wen we got bac i was so excited ta go see it. I ran ta the coop it was sitting there looking at me talking. Thats how it got its name miracle jeff.

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