Frequently Asked Questions


I just got this great letter. Enjoy!

Hi Allison,
I've just been perusing your website because I need a new bumper sticker- I ordered 5, about a year or two ago, and gave 4 away to very happy recipients, and then lost mine in a car wash!! (I put my bumper stickers on magnets and then on my car...) So, I will be sending you money for another bumper sticker, but that is an aside...
I've also been reading your site with interest as I am preparing an informal presentation on urban chicken keeping for a meeting tomorrow. I got my first day old chicks 3 years ago and love them, as you can understand! My family calls them my "therapy chickens". The second year I got more chicks, and this spring- yep, more. I figured I'd cull the oldest ones next spring, but what had started out as a flock of 7 hens soon seemed inevitable to become a flock of 7-21 hens (for what it is worth, I live in a neighborhood where all lots are 1/2 or 1 acre)...You know, if you count on eggs from 7 hens, and then they start to get older and lay fewer eggs, but baby chicks won't start laying right away so you need ones that are already laying in the meantime, and, suddenly, you end up with 21 hens to satisfy your 7 egg need and your adoration of baby chicks in the spring! Then I had excess eggs, so I started providing eggs first to people who I knew, and then as word got around, to people I hadn't known. Soon, I had a waiting list and those who were lucky enough to be my regulars repeatedly told me my hens' eggs were the best eggs they'd ever eaten- even better than the eggs at our local health food store that carries local eggs! Wow, that felt good, and I felt like I could understand the sense of pride a farmer who sells directly to consumers must feel, providing families with truly fresh, nutritious food.
But one unhappy next-door-neighbor, a neighbor who was trying to sell her house at a price that is rather high for our neighborhood and for their size of house, and in a very slow housing market, called the county about my hens. When I asked her if it was she who had called, she said yes, because "they smell horrible and are so noisy!". Funny thing is that her husband had repeatedly said to me since I got the hens (and I did talk to him before I got the chickens, but not to her, alas..) that he never smelled them and never heard them. He never said anything about his wife, but made a point of telling me that he had no problem with them, many times. She had first called the county last fall to complain, about my hens and the across-the-street neighbors' chickens. Last year we both got by with our chickens still at home- I have a friend who is a lawyer and he contacted the county, asking if they'd not take any more action until I decided if I wanted to apply for a zoning variance. I never applied (it costs $300 and quite a lot of paperwork, including maps with circles and arrows and diagrams and a menu for Alice's Restaurant), and the county never took any more action. This year, only I got the letter from the county and I did look more into applying for a variance, but the county inspector was grim with me. My hens are now temporarily moved to a friend's farm, but I am considering what I will do to get them back. It is infuriating to me that I could keep animals that are truly a possible threat to the health of the general public but cannot keep my backyard flock that my family and several others rely on for their nutritious eggs and that I and visitors to my house rely on for "chicken therapy". I think lots of backyard chicken owners feel relaxed by just watching their chickens. And of course there are more good reasons to have chickens, but I don't need to go on about that here!
So, the neighbors' house has gone into contract (even before I moved my chickens), and the neighbor said "I don't care about your chickens anymore!", but the county inspector said "Yes, but the cat is out of the bag now," and our zoning doesn't allow chickens. I read with envy and frustration the post on your site from the other central Ohio urban chicken owner. I don't really know how many people in central Ohio have hens, but I bet even I would be surprised at how many there are! I simply want to be one of them again. Perhaps I'll take the road of other cities and work to change the law. That will take research and time that I'm not sure I have, but we'll see...
Oh, the reason I started this e-mail (!) was to say that I used to use hay in my coop but after the numbers of my flock increased it got to smelling bad instead of sweet like hay. I found out that hay has too high of a nitrogen content so, mixed with chicken poop, smelled like ammonia. I never tried using straw, although I liked your idea about putting in about 4" of straw in the chicken yard when it gets to be bare dirt, because our chicken yard got to be that way. In the coop I started using leaves (high carbon content)- it was fall and was easy to go around and collect bagged leaves from the curbs. I collected enough for the whole fall and winter and part of summer! I didn't think about some leaves being poisonous. Maybe I got lucky! I also have sprinkled lime in the coop, usually just before putting fresh (dried) leaf bedding down. I just thought I'd pass that along in case it is of help.
Thanks for "listening"! I had no idea I was going to write so much, and hopefully you didn't mind. The loss of my hens is still fresh...and I have to tell my troubles to people now that my therapy hens are an hour away!! lol : )
Take good care,