Secret backyard chickens have been a hot topic the last few years. Are you interested in keeping secret backyard chickens, but not sure where to start? Whether you live in a HOA, or just a city that restricts backyard chickens, I have a few tips to help you keeping those stealth hens on the down low.
First, the cover my butt statement:
Let me start by saying I am a law abiding citizen… but I believe that chicken laws are not in the general populations best interest. I suppose I can understand a limit or ban on roosters because their noise is obtrusive; but hens make very little noise compared to a yappy dog. So having said that, you need to research your local laws on chickens and do your best to comply with them. If you choose to keep chickens under the radar you accept full responsibility of the consequences should you be found out.
Now let’s talk about how you’re going to keep those secret backyard chickens!
Secret Backyard Chickens
Tip #1 – Your Coop should be lower than your backyard fence or wall. Typically backyard fences are about 6 feet tall; I suggest your coop be no taller than 5 feet. Yes, for many of us, that mean bending over to get in there and clean things out; but it also means you’re keeping a low profile.
Tip #2 – Keep your coop and yard clean! Not only for the health and happiness of your lovely hens, but if you don’t you’re going to have flies. Your neighbors will not appreciate the extra flies in their backyard, at their bbq, in their house…etc. Even if their dog’s poo is all over their backyard, they’ll blame your chickens first!
Tip #3 – No roosters! I thought about not putting this tip, because it seems obvious to me that a rooster will quickly give you away. But lately I have seen a lot about rooster collars making it possible to keep roosters quiet and safe in backyards. I am not a fan of such devices because it keeps a rooster from fully being what he was designed to be. But furthermore, they don’t keep a rooster completely silent. So I say again, if you’re going to keep secret backyard chickens…stick to hens only. You DO NOT need a rooster for yummy morning eggs.
Tip #4 – Keep your flock small and manageable. You may want a dozen eggs every morning but let me tell you, the more laying hens you have the more noise you’ll have. They may or may not only make noise during laying; sometimes my girls get very demanding in calling me out for treats and the like. Some days they just seem to talk to each other more. Start small, you can always add more girls in later. And you must realize that some hens are just plain loud and may need to go. I had a couple of leghorns that never shut up – great layers but the noise was so intrusive for a neighborhood that I finally gave them to a friend with property. You can’t stay stealth with a bunch of loud mouth bitties giving you away.
Tip #5 – Clip those wings! Even if you don’t plan to free range your hens, you need to keep their wings clipped to ensure not accidental escapes happen. The last thing you need is for your secret backyard chickens to take flight over your neighbor’s wall and meet them or their hungry dogs! I once walked out my back door to find my favorite girl had flown on top of the coop and then up to the top of the wall and was just walking along the top for the world to see; and my neighbor’s big nasty dog. I had to entice her with blueberries and meal worms…she’s a smart girl who has me well trained. How to Clip Chicken’s Wings
Tip #6 – Be willing to educate. One of the biggest reasons people THINK they don’t want chickens in their neighborhoods is that they are not educated about them. If you decide to talk to your neighbors before getting hens, or you’re discovered, it is good to have some information about the benefits of backyard chickens. You can tell them how they provide free pest control, free fertilizer and amazing fresh eggs…which brings me to my next tip.
I suggest you pick up a copy of City Chicks for yourself and to share with others.
Tip #7 – When in doubt, bribe. Yeah, I know it is unseemly but sometimes you’ll find that your fresh eggs in the hands of a nosy neighbor can change everything. So yeah, I’ve given out my fair share of bribery eggs.
Tip #8 – My last tip isn’t really a tip so much as a call to action. We, backyard farmers, hoa homesteader, urban homestead, have to stop lurking in the shadows. If we really want to live this life we must fight for property rights. Get yourself into groups that are fighting for your right to keep backyard poultry. But be prepared, with any rebellion comes some backlash; and you may get turned in and lose your flock.
Those are my tips for keeping secret backyard chickens. It is a shame, really, that I even have to write an article like this. In 2017 we have moved so far away from what was normal only a few generations ago. I hope that property rights and common sense will make a way back to the forefront of our society. In the meantime I’ll do what I can to educate and get involved in changing laws and policies; I hope you’ll join me!