Pandemic Homesteading: Is a Backyard Chicken Coop Right for You?
Raising chickens in your backyard used to be considered your patriotic duty as a homeowner, especially in times of war or hardship. During WWII, the government released propaganda posters encouraging homeowners to get on board with backyard poultry farming, containing slogans like “Keep ‘Em Flying. You CAN Raise Your Own Chickens.”
Now, in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic is asking our nation to work together in a similar way. Homeowners are engaging in home-based activities to support the greater good, our economy, and safety. Perhaps these initiatives are why we’re seeing a resurgence in personal chicken farms?
NPR interviewed Kendall Fox of the Freedom Ranger Hatchery in Lancaster County, PA, who agrees that there is a correlation. “People are at home so they’re looking for something for their families to do while they’re home.” In fact, the hatcheries have more business than they can handle right now. “We are swamped with orders,” says Nancy Smith, owner of the Cackle Hatchery in Lebanon, MO. “We can’t answer all the phone calls, and we are booked out several weeks on most breeds.”
Before you contact your local hatchery and bring your own flock home, you’ll need to consider the effect on your home’s property value and find out if backyard chickens are legal where you live.
Not everyone is excited about the idea of a mini poultry farm in their backyard. In Texas, State Rep. James White filed a bill that would allow Texans to have at least six chickens. While the legislation, which includes stipulations about owning roosters and coop locations on your property, is not receiving much push back, such a friendly reception is not always the case.
Backyard chickens have been associated with unwanted noise (cue crowing roosters) and in 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tied them to a salmonella outbreak that spanned multiple states.
But, with staples at grocery stores occasionally hard to find and the future supply of meat in question during the coronavirus, backyard chickens are making a comeback despite their previous bad reputations. States are supporting the movement by passing more lenient legislation and even offering online forums to support would-be chicken farmers.
Lindsay Chichester, Extension educator in Douglas County, Nevada is a part of this online program. She notes in Nevada Today, “Even before the pandemic, there was growing interest in producing our own food in our backyards and communities, as part of the ‘local food’ movement. But now,” she continues, “COVID-19 has really caused that interest to skyrocket. In addition to wanting to know how to grow their own vegetables and fruits, people also want to know more about raising poultry for eggs and meat.”
If you live in an area zoned residential or commercial, you are likely to face more restrictions than your rural counterparts. If backyard chickens are banned in your area, Realtor.com suggests enlisting community support by citing examples of chicken-friendly cities and calling on like-minded groups to support your cause, like the garden club or a local animal rights group. Be sure to check your state’s specific guidelines before setting up your coop and buying your chickens.
The simple answer is…no. There is little research or data surrounding the effect a chicken coop has on your home’s value. However, there are persisting negative ideas surrounding chicken coops that seem to remain in the minds of typical homebuyers with little to no previous knowledge regarding backyard chickens. It may be smart to take steps and head off these misconceptions when setting up your home coop. Here’s how:
- Chicken’s will attract wild animals: A clean coop poses no more risk for attracting rodents and other wild animals than a dog or a cat might. In fact, some breeds of chickens catch and eat small mice and moles. Another bonus: they feast on common pesky insects like ticks and mosquitos.
- How to Head Off the Misconception: The first step is to keep your chicken coop clean. Also, installing motion-activated lights around your chicken coop is an inexpensive way to ward off nighttime nuisances like raccoons. Work with your REALTOR® to develop a fact sheet about chicken coops and chicken coop maintenance that can be shared with potential buyers.
- Chicken coops are unsightly: There are plenty of regulations surrounding the size, height, and location of a chicken coop. It can be easy to get so caught up in adhering to those guidelines that you forget to address the aesthetics of your backyard coop and you may be left with a mash-up of fencing, gates, boards, and poles that will turn potential buyers off.
- How to Head off the Misconception: For six chickens, you’ll need a minimum of 60 square feet (inside and outside space combined). That’s a big part of your yard and it can either be become a feature or an eyesore. There are many amazing chicken coop kits for purchase that you can coordinate with the style and feel of your home. com suggest “placing the coop in the corner of your yard where it’s not in plain sight.”
- Backyard Chickens Will Upset Your Neighbors: If your coop is in accordance with local guidelines, is attractive, and well kept, there should be no solid reason for your neighbors to object. In fact, the article The 6 Silliest Arguments Against Backyard Chickens says, “Rather than driving neighbors apart, chickens are usually conversation starters.”
- How to Head off the Misconception: Having a discussion with your neighbors before you set up your backyard coop is essential. This would be the time to help educate them on the benefits of backyard chickens (fresh eggs for friendly neighbors) and answer any questions they may have about the process. If your neighbors are still nervous about your homesteading ambitions, or if you plan to move in the near future, you can install a portable chicken coop that is easy to set up and takedown.
If you’re looking to fill your time, and maybe your fridge, during COVID-19 related stay at home orders, a backyard chicken coop may be the perfect solution.