If you’re one of the families in Georgia considering raising chickens in your backyard, there are a few things that you should know before you bring your new fowl friends home to roost:
Are You Allowed to Keep Chickens?
Before you get too ahead of yourself, check to find out if your property is zoned to allow for poultry, and if you’re even allowed to keep chickens in your backyard. You can easily find this information out by visiting your local county or city planning office, and finding out which zone your property is located within, and what specific regulations or bylaws apply.
This is a crucial step because the rules on keeping chickens vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but some counties don’t allow any farm animals, even a small flock of chickens, in residentially-zoned areas. Some counties and cities have had their enforcement officials issue warnings, citations, monetary penalties, or even confiscate chickens if they find them in a zone where they aren’t allowed.
Even if your area has the proper zoning requirements, it’s common courtesy to check with your neighbors to make them aware of your decision to bring home a flock of chickens. Some people may be upset by the noise, or the smell, and could be problematic regardless of the legality of keeping the chickens. Of course, sharing some eggs never hurts negotiations!
Where Will Your Chickens Live?
While free range hens pecking around the yard might sound quaint and charming, they’re only safe until the neighborhood dog decides he’d like to have some chicken for dinner. Better to keep them in an enclosed pen where they can be safe.
A chicken pen should be large enough that each bird has at least three square feet of living space to wander around and stretch. A great option for backyard chickens is a “mobile pen” which is usually on skids and can be pulled around the yard or field, providing the chickens with a fresh patch of grass and insects to enjoy.
Whether you decide to go with a mobile coop or a stationary one, making sure your chickens have access to fresh water, feed, and a roosting bar is also necessary. A roosting bar is elevated off the ground to make the birds feel safe from predators at night, and provides them with a comfortable place to lay their eggs. For reference, you only need one roosting box for every four to five hens.
Should You Get a Rooster?
It’s a common misconception that you need a rooster to get your chickens to lay eggs. In fact, unless you’re planning to fertilize the eggs and raise baby chickens, you can forgo getting a rooster entirely. Which is a good thing, unless you live in a rural area or have extremely understanding neighbors who love being awakened at 5am to a rooster’s call.
When Will You Start Getting Eggs?
You can expect to start getting eggs when your hens are just shy of six months old. After that, you can expect each hen to lay about an egg every twenty-four hours. When you’re planning the size of your flock, consider the size of your family and how many eggs your family needs. You can also sell any extra eggs, if you’re so inclined, but make sure that you obtain a Candling License if you want to start selling them at your local farmer’s market or produce stand. However, if you’d like to sell them or give them to friends or people who come to your home or farm, you don’t need a license.
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