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10 Challenges to Raising Chickens in the City

Raising chickens is becoming more popular, and with good reason, it’s a fun hobby with huge benefits! Many people are choosing to raise chickens in urban areas and within city ordinances. 

While chickens do make great pets with benefits and backyard flocks can be raised even in very small yards, raising chickens within city limits comes with its own challenges.

Before you start picking out chicken breeds and building that backyard chicken coop, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into. Here are the challenges to raising city chickens. 

10 Challenges to Raising Chickens in the City

1. No Roosters Allowed 

Most cities don’t allow roosters to be kept in urban flocks. When we first got our birds, I was fine with the fact that we’re not allowed to keep roosters in the city. That was because I’d never had a rooster, and only knew of their personalities from cartoons. 

When we unknowingly ended up with a rooster, I discovered just how wonderful they are! 

Roosters are perfect protection for the flock. They spend their time standing on the highest pillar in the yard, scanning the ground and the skies and warning their harem of ladies if they spot something, even if that something is just a pigeon flying by.  

A good rooster truly cares about his hens and will do anything to keep them safe, even if that means taking on a vicious dog in an almost certain death match … and they say chivalry is dead!

Roosters are also immensely beautiful creatures. We’ve had a few temporarily living here on our urban farm, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching them strut their stuff in my yard. 

With that said, unfortunately, most cities and suburbs don’t allow you to keep a rooster. If you accidentally end up with one, you’ll have to either re-home it or cull it, which can be really challenging.

2. Flock size limits

Size limitations are truly the biggest downside of raising city chickens. 

Most local ordinances have a cap on the number of chickens allowed. Our city allows up to 25, but each bird needs to have at least three cubic feet of space in their enclosure. 

Our coop is big enough for about a dozen birds. If we had the space to keep a hundred chickens, you can bet we would!

Speaking of which, beware of chicken math. This is an absurd mathematical phenomena in which “a few hens” quickly and inexplicably turns into a whirlwind of mysteriously multiplying poultry in which the chicken keeper has no control so he/she deliberately bends the rules of common math in order to continue to live under the delusional guise that he/she still just has just “a few hens.” 

Understand that the urge to get more birds is hard to stifle, and you’ll constantly push the limitations of your small space. Before you know it, you’ll be begging your spouse to move to the country so you can get more chickens, and then goats, and then cows. 

Did I mention chickens are a gateway animal? 

If you’re choosing to raise chickens in the city, it’s important to stick to a very small flock. This will make for more happy chickens and happy neighbors. 

3. Butchering Complications

In the country, folks have an array of locations for butchering their birds that allows them privacy and ease of use. 

Here in the city, we struggle to come up with any space that’s free from prying eyes, and gives us enough room for a decent workspace. 

We don’t need to cull our chickens often, but when we do, it’s a mighty big issue.

You may not wish to raise chickens for meat, and that’s just fine, but it’s important to have a plan in place in case something goes wrong. You may need to cull a sick or injured chicken, and if there isn’t a local vet that treats chickens, you may have to do it yourself.

Another problem is the fact that butchering animals in most cities is highly illegal, which brings us to the next point.

4. Legality Troubles

Raising chickens in your city may be illegal, it is in many cities and suburbs around the world. If you choose to ignore the local laws and become a chicken rearing rebel, you have to be aware that it could come back to bite you.

Friends of ours got caught with chickens in their yard and were forced to find a new home for all of them all within one week. Other cities may charge you a hefty fine for breaking the law. Word to the wise: beware. 

If chickens are illegal in your city, just don’t get them. It’s too difficult and too much stress to try to avoid the law on this one. 

5. Licensing and Fees 

If your city does allow backyard chickens, that liberty might come along with some lovely permits and fees. 

Every city is different, but some make it difficult and expensive to raise an urban flock. 

In our city the charge to keep chickens is $40 every year. You are also required to have housing and fencing that meets city standards, and are subjected to inspections, both announced and unannounced. 

If the operation isn’t meeting local regulations, there’s a fine at the very least, or they can make you re-home your flock. Is it a pain? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.

6. Confined spaces

Oh, what I would give for a big old barn to house our flock!  

Our backyard birds have plenty of space to roam for three seasons out of the year, with the backyard and run available to them. Come wintertime, however, they are confined to the coop most days. 

Here in Upstate New York it gets mighty cold and blustery in the winter, and with several feet of snow on the ground, there just isn’t any way to free range our flock. If we lived in the country and had a barn for our ladies, they would at least have some extra space to roam in the colder months.

If you intend to raise chickens in the city, you’ll likely have a very small space in which to keep them. Keep your flock sizes small and find a way to let your birds get some exercise, even if you have a tiny yard!

7. Neighbors

Neighbors go on both the pros and cons list when it comes to raising city chickens. We’re very lucky to have understanding neighbors that enjoy watching our chickens rather than calling the authorities.  Of course, the egg bribery helps a bit. 

Many neighbors can’t understand why someone would want a flock of chickens. Some are nosy and interfering, others are downright cranky and may put up a big stink about your new hobby. 

Our best suggestion here is, if you want good neighbors, you have to be a good neighbor. Thankfully small flocks of chickens aren’t likely to cause a lot of neighborhood noise or stink, as long as you keep up with waste management and provide proper care to your birds. It’s a good idea to share your fresh eggs with your neighbors as often as you can. 

8. Noise

Although chickens aren’t the loudest creatures to keep in your yard, they certainly aren’t the quietest.

There have been several times where we’ve temporarily housed a rooster, and I would cringe every time I heard a crow coming from the yard, waiting in fear for the next sound to be pounding on my front door. 

Even hens can be a rowdy bunch, when one lays an egg, the rest have to sing out in praise of it. Even though our immediate neighbors are wonderful, it doesn’t stop me from worrying that the existence of our chickens will bother someone in the neighborhood.

To make this challenge a little easier, focus on getting chicken breeds that are known to be quiet and keep the number of hens to a minimum.

9. Smell

Properly cared for chickens should not ever smell. 

If their enclosure is cleaned often enough, or you use the deep litter method, there should be no ammonia or poop smell to speak of. 

But let’s face it, sometimes we get too busy, or forgetful, and neglect to clean the coop and run as much as it needs. In these cases, yes it will begin to smell. 

In an urban setting, your neighbors are incredibly close by. The smell of your coop may be noticeable and bothersome to someone living 20 feet away from it. If your neighbors tend to spend a lot of time outdoors barbecuing or playing, they might be annoyed by the farm smell wafting over the fence. 

If you get chickens in the city you must be vigilant about clean up and pest control.

10. Fencing

While chickens that are raised in rural areas don’t necessarily need fenced yards, city chickens absolutely do. 

If you intend to let your flock out of their enclosure to free range in the yard, you’ll need to keep them confined somehow. Chickens have no sense of boundaries and will wander as far as you’ll let them. We’ve heard numerous complaints from fellow urban chicken keepers about their backyard hens wandering into and destroying neighbors gardens, or getting eaten by wild animals or neighborhood dogs. 

If you don’t already have a fence in your backyard, you’ll need to get one. Putting in a new fence can be expensive and time consuming, making this a biggie on the con list. 

So, there you have it, the challenges to keeping chickens in the city. If the cons list didn’t scare you a bit, or you’re the type to laugh in the face of danger and chicken poop, then read on friends, this venture is for you!

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