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Apr 022010

Schaeffer says she doesn’t have a huge lot because she lives in the suburbs, but it’s big enough to accommodate a 5-by-7-foot coop and a 6-by-12 foot run for her three chickens to roam. In some cases, breeders raise their coops on stilts, leaving the area beneath for the chickens to play.

“You have to have a safe yard with at least 6-foot fences so the chickens can’t escape and run into dogs.” It’s also best to have a netted covering to keep out hawks.

Like Bonham, once she found, she learned a lot, including how to build her first coop.

Kathy Bonham says her enterprise uses hardware cloth, a type of fencing that keeps out predators from below the ground and above. The hardware cloth is buried two feet deep to keep animals from burrowing a hole into the chicken coops.

“And,” she points out, “our chicken coop is green. My son and I made it from salvaged lumber from an old garage and shed that were 100-years-old.”

The chicken coop must be secured with wire and a tightly closing door to keep it secure from predators (Photo: Kathy Bonham.)

A chicken coop must be secured against predators. Bonham's coop is fenced in, ventilated and has a tightly closing door to keep the chickens safe at night (Photo: Kathy Bonham.)

Some cities and towns require a permit to raise chickens. But these vary depending on the area.  In Austin, Texas, for example,  you can have up to 10 fowl per household but they must be kept in an enclosure that is 50 feet away from the neighbors, and the city is considering banning roosters, for obvious reasons.

In Chicago, you can have an unlimited number of chickens as long as they are for pets or eggs, not slaughter. And in Los Altos, Ca.,  it’s one hen per 1,000 square feet, no restrictions on coop locations but no roosters. A helpful website is the, where there is a list by state on the laws in major cities., surprisingly, has a link to chicken recipes! Asked about this, Ludlow says people raise chickens for three reasons. The first reason is as a pet; the second is for eggs; and the third is for meat.

The line of demarcation: “If you name the chicken, you can’t eat it.”

Schaeffer says she understands people who eat their chickens. They do so knowing that the chicken has had a good life, eating bugs and weeds and playing in the dirt.

Bonham says that she and her husband plan to process some of their chickens. “Our chickens are free-range. They run around and are less fatty. They have access to all the bugs and greens they like.” Grocery-store chickens, she notes, are typically raised in tight quarters and are de-beaked when they are born.

Freely ranging chickens at the Bonhams feed on grass (Photo: Kathy Bonham)

Freely ranging chickens at the Bonhams feed on grass (Photo: Kathy Bonham)

Whatever the reason people choose to raise chickens, says Ludlow, they seem to enjoy the website. In fact, he says, there are even folks who don’t have chickens yet, who enjoy the community. “People like to belong to something,” he says.

And chances are, if they don’t have chickens yet, it won’t be long before they do.

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