20 unusual ways to save money: Raise chickens

I'm not a member and probably won't be unless my wife can talk me into it, but it does seems like a pretty cool club. If you want to save money, raise chickens. It's a unique idea, yes, but it's not as crazy of an idea as one might think.

Less than two miles from our house, whenever I drive toward the Interstate, I'm treated to the rather fun sight of some rogue chickens running about in the front lawn of a house. It's not a farm. This is a home in a rural area, yes, but it's flanked by other houses. In other words, in what my mind envisions as the 21st century, chickens in suburbia seems wrong.

But cities around the country have passed laws allowing residents to keep chickens in their backyards, including: Fort Collins, Colorado; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Wake Forest, North Carolina; Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; Salt Lake City and even New York City.
It's starting to become an attractive proposition because you can at least theoretically save money on eggs, especially if you're buying the pricier organic kind. Some blogs and articles suggest that you can get started for under $100. Baby chicks are extremely cheap -- $2 to $5 -- to purchase, and after you have a place for them to sleep, it's really a matter of feeding them. Aside from chicken feed , your barnyard buddies will be eating the bugs and weeds on your lawn for free, which is yet another benefit. The chicken manure also makes a nice fertilizer, and of course, if you occasionally find yourself out of food in the refrigerator and pantry, you do have an automatic backup plan for dinner.

But raising chickens isn't just about saving money; it's the idea of knowing that you're eating eggs that are fresh and devoid of any pesticides.

It's a big enough trend that Newsweekrecently wrote a feature article about raising backyard chickens, and there are numerous web sites and blogs out there devoted to raising chickens. One of the biggest, according to Newsweek, with 18,000 members, is BackyardChickens.com. But there are also plenty of other chicken raising sites out there like TheCityChicken.com, UrbanChickens.org, which shouldn't be confused with UrbanChickens.net.

But if you are thinking of raising chickens, obviously, there are a few things to consider:

  • It may be a growing trend, but not all communities are on board. You should check with your local government office, before buying chickens. For instance, even if you already know that your community allows chickens to be raised in a residential neighborhood, they may limit the number you raise.
  • Your pets. We have two very large dogs, which has been my stock answer to whenever my wife says, "We should raise chickens." Sure, we could build a little fenced-in area for the chickens, but I'm still dubious. Old MacDonald, I'm not.
    It's a lot of work. Not only do you have to set up the chicken coop, you do have to regularly feed them, clean their living area and make sure that you bring them into their coop at nightfall, to protect them from predators, and will someone look after them while you're on vacation? You probably can't take five hens and some baby chicks to the vet.

Geoff Williams is a freelance journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).

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