How much outdoor space do you have?
● It’s a typical suburban yard. Congrats, you’ve got plenty of space. Columbia Public School District science coordinator Mike Szydlowski says he was pleasantly surprised to find that poop from free-range chickens breaks down quickly in small yards.
● I want to limit the amount of grass you sacrifice to your chickens. Go forward with caution. The less space you have for your chickens, the more their poop will pile up. If you’re still interested in raising chickens in a smaller yard, one option might be to keep the chickens in a larger coop with a “run” of grass for them to roam. That way the rest of your yard is kept pristine.
● No yard to speak of. Chickens may not be for you. They’re outdoor scavengers at heart, and they love to root around for bugs and seeds. Couch cuddlers they are not.
How much do you love sandals?
● I live in boots. Closed-toed shoes are where it’s at for potential chicken parents, says Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture director Billy Polansky. They keep the gross stuff out, and they protect your feet from getting pecked by curious birds. Who’s ready for an ankle tan?
● I'm willing to slip into close-toed shoes occasionally. Prepare to lace up and hold your nose. You’ll need them if you’re cleaning out the coop.
● My Birkenstocks/flip-flops/Chacos never leave my feet. Chickens will peck your toes because they look like worms and maybe even step on them with their dinosaur-like claws. Ouch! Maybe chickens aren’t for you.
Are you quick on your feet?
● Yes, you’ll never catch me. Your athleticism will come in handy when you’re trying to corral a bunch of feisty hens back in the coop. Fair warning, they are much faster than they appear.
● I get my heart rate up occasionally. Now is the time to practice your sprints; hens will make you chase them. The good news is that they may eventually learn to return to the coop themselves at night. Yay for survival instincts!
● I prefer not to run. Chickens will probably wear you out. How about a cat?
How savvy are you on the city’s chicken ordinance?
● I know my stuff. Your coop is up to code. You’ve got an enclosure and fenced area, with wire covering the windows and no openings larger than an inch wide.
● What ordinance? The city allows residents to have a maximum of six hens and no roosters. Noise and odor must be contained within your property line. A full list of the rules can be found under Article V. of the city’s code of ordinances.
Do you have an appetite for drama?
● Soap operas and telenovelas are my jam. Chickens are also into backstabbing, pecking orders and love triangles. You should have a lot in common.
● I can tolerate a bit of drama. You should consider the entertainment value of chickens. They’re not pets or loyal companions, but they can be hilarious to watch.
● I really just want to relax. Enough said. Time to enjoy your backyard minus all the squawking.
Scrambled or fried, how often do you eat eggs?
● I eat eggs everyday. Perfect! Szydlowski says one hen can produce an egg a day, and in Columbia you can have up to six hens in your yard.
● I like eggs but don’t eat them everyday. Chickens are probably still for you. You can collect the eggs and deliver them curbside for friends and family who might need them.
● I only eat eggs once a week. You should stick to regular grocery store cartons.
Are you prepared to drop a (relatively small) bit of cash?
● Yes, anything for fresh eggs. Bourn Feed is currently offering curbside pickups for chicks, and farm stores are delivering as well.
● Maybe, it depends how much. Chickens are relatively low cost compared to other livestock. Szydlowski says his $15 bag of chicken feed can last several weeks. The biggest expense of getting started will probably be the coop, which vary in cost from about $150 to $300. Chick price could be between $3 to $5 but will vary by breed.
● No, store eggs are pretty cheap. True. Maybe it’s time to start that Walmart pickup order.
How long can you wait for eggs?
● I'm not in a hurry. You’re in a great position to buy chicks. Szydlowski says his chickens started laying eggs in about four months.
● I would like fresh eggs relatively soon. Consider buying a hen, or continue buying eggs from the grocery store for a few months.
● I need eggs when I need them. Chickens may not be for you. It takes them months to start laying eggs, and they will sometimes not lay as many during the winter or if they are under stress, says Polansky.