How city dwellers are raising flocks in their backyards
By Geri L. Dreiling
My obsession with backyard chickens started about a decade ago. Since then, I’ve researched chicken coops, the care and feeding of chickens, how to reinforce a coop to keep out predators, and city regulations on keeping chickens. (Fortunately, backyard chickens are allowed in the city of St. Louis.)
And yet, I still don’t have chickens.
Initially, my family was less-than-enthusiastic about sharing our compact backyard with fowl. I also worried about having to find someone to care for my flock while on vacation. Then there were the tales of midnight massacres that my chicken-owning friends would share with me. Even in the city, foxes, hawks, raccoons, and opossums are on the prowl, looking for an easy meal.
But after going on The Sustainable Backyard Tour last weekend, my enthusiasm for chickens has reawakened. And with it, I have a new interest: ducks.
The Sustainable Backyard Tour in St. Louis highlights eco-friendly yards and gardens throughout the St. Louis metropolitan area. This year, there were 46 yards on the tour. My husband, my daughter, and I visited nine homes that were all within 15 minutes of our house. Four of the yards included chickens.
Here are a few observations I gleaned from our tour.
1. Chickens don’t have to stink.
The freshest yards were also the tiniest. The homeowners explained that they used the deep litter method, which relies on beneficial microbes to keep the coop clean.
2. Chicken coops don’t have to be elaborate.
The backyards we visited varied in size. The coops ranged from a large outbuilding to one that was long and narrow.
3. Ducks crack me up.
One of the homes had a mixed flock of several chickens and one duck, a Pekin, the Donald Duck breed. And like the cartoon character, the duck we met was full of personality, waddling around the yard, a friendly creature curious about visitors.
Will I finally take the plunge and get chickens? I have some more lobbying to do in my household. In the meantime, I’m researching caring for ducks and planning the location of my coop.