The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Is the backyard chicken keeping trend bogus?

Increase in chicken numbers may be bogus.When times get tough, people get chickens.  You've probably heard the same reports I have about new zoning regulations allowing chickens in cities and about the numbers of backyard chicken keepers skyrocketing.  If our economic system crashes, at least we chicken-keepers can subsist on eggs and an occasional roast fowl.

On the other hand, Slate suggests that the surge in urban chicken-keeping is a bogus trend, invented by journalists who needed to fill some space in their newspapers.  The article made a good point that all of the evidence for the trend appears to be anecdotal rather than based on hard data.

Whether the trend is real or not, we like chickens and think you will to.  So this lunchtime series is a rundown of a few chicken-related topics near and dear to our hearts.  We won't try to reinvent the wheel and tell you all of the chicken-keeping basics, but we will mention some of the fields we're most interested in at the moment.

This post is part of our Chicken Trivia lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I don't know about other cities, but here in Denver the art of urban chicken keeping has exploded. I can speak from first, second and third hand experience. We started keeping chickens this year, as did about ten other people I know. Compare that to the ZERO people I knew before who kept chikens. Anecdotal yes. But also true.
Comment by Everett Mon Jul 6 14:49:06 2009
It's good to hear your voice from the front lines. :-) Out here in the middle of nowhere, I haven't seen any increase in chicken production...but I don't get out that much either.
Comment by anna Mon Jul 6 20:27:23 2009

Same as comment 1. altho we live in the county semi rural. Raising chickens has gained popularity in the past 1.5 years here in Rowan county N.C. We recieved 7 sexlink chicks 2 months ago and there growing fast. They already look like teenage hens.I let em free range on our 3.25 acres mostly just in the yard tho. Many people have started to raise chickens this year. Ive learned already to watch out for the coons and possoms,foxes,and coyotes that weve been hearing at night but havent seen yet. Have the 8x10 foot shed turned into the chicken house and the old dog lot into a fenced yard. made the 4 foot chicken run from scrap laying around.Now i have to figure out how to make a sliding door on a rope and a timer,just to make things easier. Thru trial and error i learned that heat in a metal shed will be at least 30 degrees hotter than thee 90 degree heat outside.So i had to cut a vent near the peak, it was then that the fan i already had put in there actually started doing its job. Not bad for not knowing what im doing huh:)

Comment by dav Sun Jul 12 02:53:25 2009
Smart idea on the vent! I'm curious about how much you have to feed your chickens when they have so much space to range on. Do you have to supplement their forage with storebought feed?
Comment by anna Sun Jul 12 08:49:59 2009
Chickens are the new dog! The rural chicken "craze" is most evident here in Northern Connecticut. We started farming select veggies, got four Buff Orpington's as "pets" and are now enjoying eggs and considering expanding in this direction. What is so surprising to us, is how many people we have meet who also now have chickens as (egg producing) pets. I predict more chickens will rise in stature as noble pets and companions - Mark my words!
Comment by Stephen Fri Jul 17 11:16:35 2009
"Chickens are the new dog" --- I like that! Very catchy!
Comment by anna Fri Jul 17 11:33:29 2009

Here in Ballard, WA chickens are everywhere! We just got our own flock of 5 in June and we are abolustely loving it. Our neighbor across the street has 8 hens too. I have some photos on my blog. I keep mine in a pen, but I also have a very minimalist chicken tractor that I put them in for a few hours per night.

Comment by Jeff W Sun Jul 24 01:25:18 2011
Interesting that you put your chickens in their tractor at night. I assume you mean in the evening, but before dark? Chickens are very sensitive to light and tend to get on a perch and settle in for the night once evening hits.
Comment by anna Sun Jul 24 21:47:15 2011

I live in central fl, I'm a small local chicken breeder, have been for a few years... There's the large Hispanic population, so there's never been a time when the larger birds haven't been in demand for fresh meat.. Chicks though have been somewhat harder to move. There was just nobody wanting to raise them, minus the few in their trailers on 5 acres... But just this last year, late '10 on, I cant hatch them fast enough!! The sheer number of people stopping by in their nice new looking cars, as opposed to the big pickups is something that points to.................... A fad, Maybe, its just people wanting to be a bit more secure in something. A squawk, then, breakfast, is secure, right?

Comment by T for the farm? Sat Aug 27 18:58:04 2011
Great data. I love your observations of the difference in social class of the folks now turning to chickens. I think that's the real reason people are starting to notice --- backyard chickens have invaded the middle class.
Comment by anna Sat Aug 27 19:51:16 2011

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