The cock-a-doodle-DO’s + DON’Ts of owning chickens

Chickens, chickens, everywhere! Photo via Unsplash

Thinking about owning chickens? I spoke with Matthew and Lauren Manly of Reed Creek Homestead in Shelby County to find out what you should know about owning chickens around the greater Birmingham area.

Terms to Know

All my life, I assumed the word “chicken” was code for “hen.” Turns out, I was today years old when I realized that’s not the case. Oops! Before you peck deeper into this article, consider brushing up on that chicken lingo.

  • Pullets: Females under 1-year-old
  • Cockerels: Males under 1-year-old
  • Hens: Females over 1-year-old
  • Roosters: Males over 1-year-old
  • Chickens: General term for pullets, cockerels, hens and roosters

Am I allowed to own chickens where I live?

Birmingham, Reed Creek Homestead, chickens
I said I came BEFORE the egg. Photo via Reed Creek Homestead’s Facebook page

If you’re thinking about owning chickens, this is the first question you should ask yourself. 

When it comes to owning chickens, every city has different rules. In fact, some neighborhoods even have their own rules. 

If you live outside city limits in unrestricted and unincorporated areas like Shelby County, chickens are typically no problem. But what if you live within city limits? Well, this is where it gets a bit tricky. 

Typically, owning livestock within city limits is not allowed. But, it turns out that chickens are often an exception to the rule. Wow! Check out those chickens pecking their way into the legal zone.

To find out if you live in an area that allows chickens, your best bet is to check with your specific city hall to learn what the rules and regulations are pertaining to owning chickens within your city limits. 

What about that cock-a-doodle-doo?

King of the roost. Photo via Coosa River Farms

Obviously, I couldn’t dismiss roosters. Who could forget such an impressive, and very loud, bird?

When it comes to roosters, you are generally allowed to own them in unrestricted and unincorporated areas. Within city limits, though—it’s a cock-a-doodle-don’t!

Why aren’t roosters an exception to the rule like chickens? Well, the main reason is that they are loud. Like, disturb-the-peace loud. And let’s be honest, most people who choose to live in city limits don’t usually vibe with the crow of a rooster at the crack of dawn. 

Why should I own chickens?

Birmingham, Reed Creek Homestead, chickens
Sweet hen. Photo via Reed Creek Homestead’s Facebook page

Thinking about owning chickens? Consider this:

“First and foremost, decide why you want to own chickens. Personal use? Breeding? Pets? Deciding your purpose for owning chickens will determine how you need to go about researching before getting started.”

Matthew and Lauren Manly, owners, Reed Creek Homestead

For Matthew and Lauren, their reason was a love of animals and a strong passion for farming, homesteading and becoming self-sufficient. 

“Raising chickens has been a great starting point to making that happen for us. The way we see it, we have chosen a lifestyle that is fun, but also allows us to do something for a living that we enjoy. Raising chickens was just one aspect of our homesteading dreams. When you love what you do and can make a living doing so, it’s a no brainer!” 

Birmingham, Reed Creek Homestead, chickens
Egg production depends on many factors including breed of hen. Photo via Reed Creek Homestead’s Facebook page

One of the main reasons to own chickens is access to fresh eggs. The question is: how many eggs will you get?

According to Matthew and Lauren, hens typically lay one egg per day, but some breeds lay eggs more frequently. Another factor that can affect the amount and/or frequency of eggs is the weather.

“Eggs can greatly reduce in the cooler months. Hens can also reduce egg production in extreme heat. This is one reason why we recommend researching to find what breed best suits your needs.”

Birmingham, Reed Creek Homestead, chickens
My hair in the morning. Photo via Reed Creek Homestead’s Facebook page

For eggs you can eat, you only need hens. But, if you plan to raise baby chicks, you’ll need to add a rooster to the mix. Matthew and Lauren said that one rooster typically needs anywhere from 5-10 hens to himself depending on the breed.

Not only do roosters fertilize the eggs, but they also act as protectors for your hens in case predators are near.

“We recommend starting your flock with 5-10 chicks at minimum. It can be extremely hard to determine sexes at chick age with most breeds. That way you still end up with at least a few hens.” 

What supplies do I need to own and raise chickens?

As with owning any live animal, you’ll need some supplies to keep them healthy and safe. For everything you need, visit your local tractor supply company or local co-op. Here’s a beginner’s checklist to start you off:

  • Water + Feeder
  • Feed
  • Chicken Coop
  • Bedding/Litter: No, not cat litter! Litter refers to whatever organic material is used on the floor of your chicken coop to make it cozy and soak up excrement. Examples: straw and pine shavings.
  • Nesting Boxes: A clean, quiet + dark place for hens to lay eggs.
  • Roosts: Where chickens go to sleep + rest inside their coop.
  • Chicken First-Aid Kit

To learn more about Reed Creek Homestead in Shelby County, check out their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Do you have any tips for owning chickens? Let us know on social at @BhamNow on Facebook and Instagram, or @Now_Bham on Twitter.