City by city, more metro areas are implementing a friendlier stance on keeping backyard poultry within city limits, usually with fairly extensive regulations but permitting them nonetheless. This stems from an influx of immigrants from countries where keeping chickens, even in the middle of the city, is standard practice. Relying on their backyard flock for eggs, meat, and garden cleanup is an everyday and basic necessity of home life.
Another factor for the change has to do with people, even city dwellers, having concerns about where their food comes from.
Raising your own chicken meat, duck meat, and eggs is not only an economic plus for the family, but knowing where your food came from and how it was made is comforting and well worth the effort. And, on a standard American city lot, there’s plenty of backyard space to raise a few birds responsibly. So, it’s easy to see why the sweeping change in these laws from metro to metro is happening so rapidly.
Raising your own chickens in a backyard in the middle of the city does take some special considerations that people in the country don’t have to deal with usually. You may have to consider things such as noise levels from your yard, how many birds you can get and whether or not they’ll do well together, and of course how much room you can devote to a shelter and run space in your particular yard. Usually, this means as a city dweller chicken owner, quiet birds are ideal. Birds that are friendly and not prone to jumping fences and running away are a plus. And finally, birds that do well in smaller spaces are definitely a general necessity.
There are many breeds of chicken available, so what breeds will fit this special list of concerns for the city bird keeper? Here are some quick suggestions to get you thinking about breeds that might work for you.
Generally, friendlier, easy going birds are best suited for city life. Unfortunately, all breeds have their friendlier birds and their meaner, wilder birds. A lot of choosing what birds end up in your metro flock will depend on that individual and not the breed. There are breeds however that generally have more friendly birds, calmer birds, and even quiet birds than other breeds. One thing is for sure however, hens (girls) are friendlier overall and quieter than roosters. You don’t need a rooster if you want eggs and meat from your flock. You only need a rooster if you want to make fertile eggs and babies.
Orpingtons are friendlier, more even, quieter chickens in general than many breeds. Orpingtons are dual purpose birds (meaning they’re decent layers and good for eating if you’re interested in that), and do well in all parts of the varying climates. Orpingtons are a favorite of many seasoned chicken keepers. They come in all sorts of colors, and their cute, round shape makes them an adorable and entertaining pet chicken. In most cities with laws allowing birds in their backyards, they’re usually limited to numbers of birds- and since Orpingtons are large chickens, you get more bird for your buck in the metro. Orpingtons are hardy chickens and do fine in a coop, but don’t mind being out in the snow on the coldest winter days, in fact- they prefer it.
Ameraucanas are a breed known in the hobby as the “Easter Egger” because this breed lays lots of eggs that come in pastel shades of blue, green, brown, cream, and so on. They’re also a notoriously kind breed, with calm dispositions and quiet demeanors. Ameraucanas do well in smaller living spaces and are happy wherever you stick them, as long of course as they’re kept clean and entertained. The Ameraucana is also a larger chicken and again, you’ll get more for your buck if you live in a city with strict limits on how many birds you can keep. And, since they have almost no comb or wattle (the red fleshy stuff chickens get on their faces), they’re ideal birds for way up north. A common problem with chickens in the cold is freezing of the comb and wattle, and the larger they are the more they might freeze and harm the chicken.
Australorps are a breed that is probably one of the quietest, most friendly of them all. They lay lots of eggs and are easy to tame and fall in love with. They have larger combs and wattles, so they may not be the best choice of breed for cities in the northern parts of the country where temperatures can get well below freezing in the winter.
Bantam chickens are small versions of many breeds, and do well in smaller areas. They can be good layers of eggs, which are impressive in size compared to the size of the bird although still smaller than standard breed eggs. Bantams are cute, but can be noisy or quiet as individuals like standard chickens. And, because of their smaller size they generally fare better in warmer areas, but with a good insulated coop it’s more than possible to keep them as far north as Minnesota over the winter.
Again, the best bird for your city back yard may have nothing to do with breed, but more the individual bird. Find the right individuals, and your city homestead will reward you with lots of delicious healthy eggs, meat, and maybe some springtime babies to share with your neighbors. It may never hurt to bribe neighbors with cartons of eggs if you have hens that happen to be more vocal either.