Let’s face it, good, fresh eggs are expensive. Whether you buy free-range from Whole Foods (Stock Quote: WFMI) or freshly laid dozens from the local farmers market, this kitchen staple will set you back at least $5, and in some places even more.
Why not consider shelling out your hard earned scratch to raise chickens in your own back yard? You will get healthy, delicious eggs for less. (And while you're at it, check out our delicious, inexpensive egg recipes.)
Step 1: Learn the Local Laws
Most cities and towns allow you to keep a small flock of birds, providing you don’t have a rooster to annoy your neighbors. Call your town hall to find out. If you need help navigating red tape, or just some advice and moral support, there are regional groups, such as JustFood.org, dedicated to bringing a little country to the city.
Step 2: Count Your Chickens
How many chickens do you want? A good layer will pump out as many as 20 dozen, or 240, eggs in one year. Think about how many eggs you eat a week and decide.
Once you’ve figured out how many chickens you need to make some room for them. Chickens need at least three square feet per chicken and you should have at least two chicken runs to rotate. (Hey, while you’re at it you might as well start plotting a little vegetable garden too!)
Step 3: Get Set Up
Whatever you decide, you’ll need some sort of fence to keep your chickens in and the neighborhood dogs, cats and children out. A quick trip to the hardware store for some long wooden stakes and some chicken wire (it's called that for a reason) will do the trick. Fence materials will cost about $50. There are lots of options. Many urban chickeneers opt for a small fenced-in area, and then let their chickens into the yard to forage on grass and bugs during the day.
Next you’ll need to make them a coop, where they will lay eggs and sleep. These can range from expensive custom-built jobs to free structures constructed out of salvaged wood scraps. They need not be fancy. A perfectly serviceable coop can be made from a re-purposed tool shed or kids' play house. Keep in mind that your coop will need bedding, like shredded newspaper, and should be cleaned often. (You can find some ideas at BackyardChickens.com.)