Nowadays we’re conscious of where our food comes from, we want to know our animal producers have a good quality of life and we enjoy reaching back to our rural roots. These desires have led to a trend in backyard chicken keeping that’s not exclusive to those who own acres and acres of land. Even folks in suburbs and cities are getting in on the act and keeping a few chickens for eggs or meat in their backyard if local rules allow it.
What are the best backyard chickens if you live in an urban area? Whether you live on a large farm or a small urban lot, the rules of chicken keeping remain the same. A flock needs to have good quality food, fresh water, and a clean-living space to lay eggs, get out of inclement weather and safely perch for the night. What changes, is the consideration of roaming space and nearby neighbors. If you live on some acreage, you have the luxury of letting your flock roam freely during the day. If your space is small and neighbors are close, your chickens may have to stay in an enclosed space until you’re home to watch them roam around your yard for some free-range exercise. In that case, you will need to give some consideration to breeds that can tolerate a more controlled urban existence and keeping a rooster may be out of the picture.
While this may sound confining to the dream of the backyard chickens, the good news is that it’s not. There are many chicken breeds that will fit the bill and make urban chicken keeping a pleasant and fun experience for all. Consider sex links and bantam chickens as you’re planning your urban flock.
Sex Link Chickens
Sex links are a standard size chicken that works well in an urban setting because the male and female baby chickens can be identified by their color at hatching. While hatcheries are normally good at sexing their day-old chicks, they’re not 100 percent accurate. If you live in a neighborhood that prohibits roosters and you have an accidental rooster, then you have a problem. Sex link chickens get rid of this. Sex link chickens are often a hybrid and have different names at different hatcheries. However, some purebred chickens, like the Crested Cream Legbar, are also sex-linked.
Bantam vs. Standard Size
Bantam chickens are basically miniature chickens and they make excellent candidates for small space living. Their size — around one-quarter the size of a standard size chicken — means they require about one-third the living space of a larger chicken. These small chickens come in two varieties. Some are smaller versions of their larger counterparts. Others are considered true bantams, meaning there is no larger counterpart.
It is important to know that bantams live about four to eight years versus eight to 15 years for a standard size chicken. Their eggs are smaller – two bantam eggs equal one medium egg – and they often lay fewer throughout the year. But, if you’re not urban chicken farming, then bantam chickens will provide enough eggs for a family.
Popular Bantam Breeds
Barred Rock – The Barred Rock is an excellent standard size chicken and an excellent bantam. They are good brown egg layers and are cold hardy.
Belgian Bearded D’Uccle – These true bantams are showstoppers, especially in the Mille Fleur variety which literally means “a thousand flowers.” With muffs, beards and feathered legs and feet, and a friendly personality you can’t help but fall in love with this breed.
Brahma – This is a gentle and sweet backyard companion. It’s funky look with feathered feet and legs and profuse plumage give Brahma chickens a unique look. Brahmas lay delicious brown eggs and are cold and heat hardy.
Easter Egger – This is a hybrid variety, so no two chickens will look exactly the same. Easter Egger chickens lay mainly green or blue eggs, but they can also lay pink, white, tinted or pink eggs. Note: Whatever the color of your Easter Egger’s first egg, that will be the color they will always lay. They don’t switch colors with each egg-laying cycle.
Leghorn (White) – Leghorn chicken bantams are just as prolific as their standard counterparts, giving a large number of white eggs.
What are your favorite backyard chicken breeds to keep in a small space? Let us know in the comments below.