Considering backyard chickens? Here are some quick tips

Last November, the City of Kitchener passed a by-law that would allow people to have backyard chickens and is currently in the application process. Here are tips and things to consider before getting backyard chickens.

Conestoga College will offer backyard chicken classes starting April 6

A good coop will keep out predators like raccoons. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Backyard chickens will soon become part of some Kitchener homes this spring - the city is accepting applications from residents who want backyard chickens.  

In November, the city passed a by-law that would allow residents to have backyard chickens.

If homeowners want to know more about how to take care of their future chickens, Conestoga College will offer backyard chicken classes starting  April 6.

Mike Craig, owner of Backyard Bok Boks in Guelph, a backyard chicken rental company, will be teaching the "Backyard Chickens 101" course at Conestoga College.

What to consider

  • Chickens need natural space. They will need room to be able to scratch and dig, said Craig. The general rule is around one square metre per chicken.
  • They will need some kind of shelter.  Craig recommends having a coop that has different levels of roosting bars goes a long way, as they like to roost up high to protect themselves. Also keep in mind that in the winter time, chickens will need more space and will need some form of heat.
  • Chickens will also need protection. You will need some kind of fence, whether it be chicken wire or some kind of light electrical net, said Craig. This will to ensure that your chickens are protected from their main urban predator, raccoons.

Chicken health

Craig recommends getting chickens from a local farm that breed their chickens in areas with lots of space.

"You are going to have healthier hens in the long run," he said.

Having enough natural space in your backyard is also important to keep your chickens happy. They need room to scratch and dig but also to be able to give themselves dust baths.

Here are some indicators that your chickens aren't happy:

  • Chickens stop laying eggs.
  • Egg shells are weak.
  • Unhealthy feathers or skin.
  • Constantly pecking each other.

Craig said that another thing to look for are poultry mites.

"They will eventually get them," he said. "They get them from other natural birds in the area."

He recommends using diatomaceous earth, a white powder made from fossilized diatoms, a form of algae, to dust nesting boxes and the chickens to prevent them from getting poultry mites.

Kitchener rules

The city is in the process of sending out application forms to residents that have shown interest in getting backyard chickens, said Gloria MacNeil, director of by law enforcement for the City of Kitchener. 

There is also a one-time $50 fee that will cover the cost of processing the application and cover the by-law officer's time for inspecting a homeowner's property.

"Once we process that, an officer will go out and do an inspection of the coop to make sure that it meets all the setback regulations and that it meets all the other requirements to ensure that the chickens are well looked after and housed properly," she said. 

Setback regulations requires at least 1.2 metres from a rear lot line and 2.5 metres from a side lot line. 

Homeowners will be allowed to have a total of four backyard chickens. Rooster are prohibited as are sales of eggs or any chicken related products. 

Chickens will also need ID bands, MacNeil said. The bands will have the same number as the homeowner's application form to help identify who the chickens belongs to.