urban chickens

Eggonomical or eggstreme?

Chickens can now roam free in the backyards of San Diegans, thanks to a change to the San Diego Municipal Code in early 2012.  The chickens can even be accompanied by beehives and up to two miniature goats.  The number of chickens is based on the distance of the coop from the neighbors.  Most homes would be allowed up to five chickens provided the coop is located in the backyard, five feet from side property lines and 13 feet from the rear boundary. Five hens produce no more waste than a dog, and chicken poop is a great nitrogen-rich fertilizer!

Councilman Todd Gloria, who shepherded the amendment through council, was happy with the unanimous support of his colleagues. “There are so many District 3 residents who have wanted this for years.” Egg production from two hens should produce a dozen eggs a week. Some of the benefits of homegrown eggs are that they contain 25% more vitamin E, 33% more vitamin A and 75% more beta-carotene. Many chicken farmers see a benefit in knowing that the hens are raised in humane conditions, and their manure may be added to compost piles or used directly as a fertilizer when tilled into the soil.

As the cost of food rises, and the movement towards ecological and sustainable living grows, many people want to raise chickens. Major fears — disease, odor, manure, a magnet for flies and rodents — haven’t materialized in cities that allow the practice. Just remember to wash your hands after being around the hens and don’t eat or drink in the area that the birds occupy.

Chickens have personalities, just like dogs and cats, and they can live well over a decade.  The fact that a noisy rooster isn’t needed to produce eggs makes them even more attractive to urban dwellers. So, is it “cheeper” to produce your own eggs rather than buying them at the grocery? Keep in mind that the costs associated with urban chicken farming fluctuate, however, basic “eggonomics” will tell you that it takes approximately 2.5 years to “recoop” your investment of feed, chickens and a basic chicken house.

— First published in HillQuest Urban Guide #10, 2012