If you’ve been dreaming of collecting eggs from a coop just steps from your back door, it’s important to do your research before raising baby chickens. The considerations range from community laws to chicken care and everything in between. But once you know all the details, becoming an urban chicken farmer can make you and your family cluck with delight. They’re fun to watch, educational for kids and a great hobby for adults.

Laws

The first step on your chicken quest is to research and understand the laws in your community. Laws vary and may contain rules about permits and fees, number of birds allowed, enclosure requirements and coop location limits. Check online for your city’s municipal code and search under both “Animals” and “Zoning.” If backyard chickens aren’t allowed, you can always take the issue up with your city council. Also, check any rules pertaining to your HOA or subdivision if applicable.

Breeds

You’ve got a lot of choices when it comes to selecting just what type of chickens will occupy your coop. For a comprehensive list and what to expect regarding behavior and egg production, check out backyardchickens.com.

Care

As with any pet, your chickens will need proper care and attention. Consider the time commitment involved before embarking on this journey. The basics of chicken care include providing food and clean water daily and providing a protective and clean shelter and run. The Humane Society has some great info on chicken nutrition. Chickens may also require the occasional trip to the vet if they become ill or injured.

Coops

Chickens need shade from the heat, insulation from the cold, and protection from danger. You can build your own coop or buy one at a supply store. A proper enclosure with good ventilation and clean straw bedding will keep your egg-producing pals cozy. Hens need a nesting box for laying, which will also make your collection easier, and they need a place to perch at night when they sleep. Your coop should provide safety from predators, including any of your own mischievous dogs.

Yard

At night your chickens should be in their coops for safety and comfort, but during the day, they should have access to a spacious area of the yard where they can dustbathe, scratch and forage. The chicken run should include a combination of grass and loose material like dirt or sand, and be fenced in to keep wildlife or neighborhood pets out. Routinely inspect your fencing for any gaps or places where animals have attempted to dig under.

Concerns

Chicken habitats can quickly get smelly and attract flies, creating health concerns. Clean your chicken coop and run often. Check out these methods from Hobby Farms. Live poultry can carry Salmonella or other harmful germs. Follow these precautions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to reduce the chance of contracting an infection from handling chickens, equipment or eggs.