LUCKILY, DENVER CITY COUNCIL ENACTED FOWL-FRIENDLY LEGISLATION THROUGHOUT THE CITY IN 2012, AND MANY OF DENVER’S SUBURBS FOLLOWED SUIT.
In fact, Denver wants to support you in your chicken husbandry quest, so the city has put together a best practices handout, an indispensable resource. Meanwhile, here are some tips from TRELORA to help you start achieving your urban homesteading dreams.
KNOWING THE LAWS
Laws about chickens boil down to three things: safety, happy neighbors, and happy birds. Denver doesn’t want your coop to catch on fire and spread to your house, so in almost every municipality, your chickens must be at least 15 feet from your house and your fences. Also, your neighbors will love your surplus eggs, but they probably don’t want to hear your rooster at 5:00 in the morning, so in almost all cases, it’s ladies only. Don’t worry–they don’t need a man! (At least to lay eggs!)
You also must manage chicken droppings to limit smells for your neighbors (No problem–it makes the best fertilizer!). Finally, your chickens must have a warm, dry place to live with lots of space to eat bugs and walk and scratch and just be chickens. But you knew that.
These links will direct you to each city’s page with more detailed ownership information:
ACCORDING TO THE CITY OF DENVER, A SUCCESSFUL CHICKEN COOP:
- Provides adequate space for the number of birds
- Is well ventilated
- Minimizes drafts
- Maintains a comfortable temperature
- Protects the chickens from wind and sun
- Keeps out rodents, wild birds, and predatory animals
- Offers plenty of light during the day
- Has adequate roosting space
- Includes clean nests for the hens to lay eggs
- Has sanitary feed and water stations
- Is easy to clean
- Is situated where drainage is good
Remember the Best Practices Handouts we mentioned? Read it!
WITH THESE DETAILS IN MIND, YOUR ONLY LIMITS ARE YOUR IMAGINATION, YOUR STYLE, AND YOUR BUDGET.
If you want to buy a coop, plan to spend $300-600. Many companies sell them online, but you may be able to find a used coop on Cragislist or freecycle. If you have the moxie to build your own coop, it could cost you as little as $50, especially if you use supplies or structures you have on hand.
We at TRELORA love this set of “21 Awesome Chicken Designs” from Pioneer Settler that redefine what a chicken coop can be. An elegantly designed coop like these could potentially raise the market value of your home! You can also get extensive inspiration from the photo database of Backyard Chickens. (Check out their Chicken Coop Construction Forum for more practical hints!)
WHETHER YOU CHOOSE A CHIC OR SIMPLE DESIGN, MAKE SURE YOUR COOP HAS THE FOLLOWING ELEMENTS:
Run: an outdoor space for chickens to forage for bugs and grass
Roost: an elevated place for the ladies to sit at night, nice and dry if it rains.
Nesting Box: a designated space for egg-laying, usually a square box, made cozy with wood shavings or straw
Coop Walkway: great for roost access, essential if your chickens’ wings are clipped
Electrical Wiring: lighting stimulates egg production in the winter months
Vents: helpful for creating airflow throughout the coop to keep birds healthy
Educate yourself about food before you bring the birds to their new home. Egg-producing requires tremendous energy, so treat your ladies like prime athletes and ensure they have high-protein feed. Denver has many places to buy chicken feed, but the most important thing to remember is if your birds receive nutritious food, their eggs will be more nutritious. If you’re looking for organic feed, the most affordable place in town is Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply. To estimate how much to buy, plan on full-grown birds eating about ¼ pound of food per day. You should also regularly supplement your chicken’s diet with leafy greens and vegetables for vitamins, oyster shells for calcium, and grit for digestion.
Now that you have made your ladies a home, here comes the most fun part–pickin’ your chickens! Start by using My Pet Chicken’s Breed Selector Survey for some quick recommendations, or spend some time studying Backyard Chicken’s detailed comparison of major breeds.
Once you have a good idea, decide if you want to purchase chicks or adults. Raising chicks is rewarding because you can see their entire growth and development. If you have children, it’s a perfect way to introduce them to your family’s new hobby, with plenty of adorable photo-opportunities.
Starting with adults, on the other hand, often means that you won’t have to wait several months for eggs. Some hens will even be ready to lay a few days in, once they feel comfortable enough. If you are looking for chickens in the Mile High City, the first place to look is Denver Urban Homesteading’s monthly Chicken Swap, hosted at Earth Dog Denver (370 Kalamath St) from 10:00 am – 12:00 pm the first Saturday of each month. Not only can you purchase food and find an adorable clutch of Rhodesian Reds, you can also meet other chicken farmers and ask them for advice. Wardle Feed & Pet Supply, which carries live chicks from February til Labor Day, also hosts a monthly chicken swap on the third Saturday of each month from 8:00 am – 2:00 pm. Wardle also regularly offers a Chicken Keeping 101 class, which could be useful to new enthusiasts.
Ultimately, purchasing chickens is just the beginning of the journey, providing more joys than delicious omelettes or eggs benedict alone can provide. You will learn the unique personalities of each bird, you’ll develop a rhythm for caring for them, and most of all you’ll be adding value to your life, and even your home.
And of course, if you’re looking for a new home where you can have chickens, we can help you find it!