9 Myths About Backyard Chickens
This month, I’m going to get a little political. That’s right, it’s time to talk about backyard chickens. This is a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. I’ve had backyard chickens twice, at two different addresses, and I loved them. Chickens are a great source of eggs, which let you be a little bit self-sufficient with your food. They’re also really entertaining pets. The kids loved them.
As I write this, Lee County doesn’t allow backyard chickens, but individual cities within the county have their own rules about chickens. For example, Fort Myers and Bonita Springs have allowed chickens within city limits for the last eight years. There is a movement to legalize backyard chickens in Lee County as a whole. This movement is being spearheaded by Heather Scutakes, who runs the Facebook page Backyard Chickens of Lee County, Florida.
Heather and her organization are petitioning the Lee County Board of Commissioners to change the current ordinances (Chapter 34 Sections 1291 and 1294) and allow citizens in Lee County to raise backyard chickens. When I heard about Heather’s mission, I didn’t hesitate to throw in my support. I fully believe that backyard chickens offer a lot of value and should be allowed.
People who don’t have chickens or have never been around chickens believe a lot of negative myths about chickens. Heather joined me on my podcast, “The HartBeat Show” and helped me debunk a lot of myths people use when they object to allowing backyard chickens.
Myth No. 1: Chickens are dirty and smelly! “Like any other bird, chickens spend hours a day dust bathing and meticulously preening themselves to maintain good hygiene,” Heather clarified. “As for the coops and runs, when they are managed and cleaned properly, they don’t smell, just like any other animal that might be outside.”
Basically, the only time a chicken coop smells is when the humans aren’t cleaning it up once a week.
Myth No. 2: Chickens are noisy and loud! Another big objection people have about backyard chickens is the noise. To be clear, roosters are noisy and loud, which is why cities that allow backyard chickens don’t allow roosters. Hens, however, are pretty quiet.
“The decibel level of a hen is about the same as a human,” Heather added. “You and I talking in a backyard would not be louder than a chicken … To go a little deeper into the noises that chickens make, it’s important to note that chickens sleep at night when we sleep. They’re not going to be making noises at night when it’s quiet. They’re also not going to be making loud noises at six o’clock in the morning like a rooster would.”
Myth No. 3: You have to have a rooster to get eggs! “You only need a rooster if you want those eggs to be fertilized,” Heather explained. “Most people who are doing backyard chicken keeping in the city aren’t interested in having chicks. They just want to have enough eggs for their family.”
Myth No. 4: Chicken poop is messy waste! Here’s a fun fact for you avid gardeners: Chicken waste is a great fertilizer.
“Chickens produce valuable waste that can be used as a valuable garden amendment, like fertilizer,” Heather explained. “Five hens produce about 5 ounces of valuable garden fertilizer daily, compared to an average dog that generates approximately 12 ounces of pathogenic, unusable feces per day.”
Myth No.5: Chicken coops are ugly! “Chicken keepers view their coops with a sense of pride,” Heather said. “We see some beautiful coops out there. They can look like a small house in your backyard, or even a playhouse. Some people don’t even realize they’re chicken coops.”
Myth No. 6: Chicken coops hurt property values! Considering my line of work, I completely understand why people might be concerned about how chickens could impact property values. But as Heather stated during our interview, there’s never been any evidence to support the claim that backyard chickens hurt property values.
“A Forbes list of the top 10 housing markets appreciating in value shows that all 10 actually permit chicken keeping,” Heather explained. “A lot of real estate agents are concerned that having chickens next door to the house they are trying to sell could cause problems. It’s only going to cause a problem if the coop is not maintained well. But that’s true with anything. There could be junk in someone’s backyard that causes a problem. It’s not a chicken-specific problem.”
Heather made a really good point here. I’ve found that if someone lets their chicken coop get run down and ratty, then there’s a high probability that their entire backyard and front yard are going to look just as bad. It ain’t a chicken problem — it’s a human problem.
Myth No. 7: Chickens require a lot of land! “Every once in a while, I hear people say, ‘Oh, you don’t have enough room for chickens if you live in the city,’” Heather told me. “The fact is that chickens require no acreage to be kept well. Residents of all major U.S. cities, including New York City, Denver, and Los Angeles, keep chickens with no acreage at all. The number of chickens a family could responsibly raise in a backyard is ordinarily much more than they wish to keep. I think it’s very reasonable to have four or five hens in an enclosed coop with a run.”
When people hear about backyard chickens, they imagine chickens just running wild in their neighbor’s yard. This isn’t accurate. Chickens are kept fenced in a coop with a run area to protect them from predators, like foxes, hawks, or neighborhood dogs. When I got a permit to have backyard chickens in Fort Myers, we sent in a picture of the coop and where it would be. City ordinances define how big or small coops can be, how far it has to be from your house, and how far it has to be from your neighbor’s property.
Myth No. 8: Chickens attract rodents! “Rodents and wild animals reside in every single neighborhood,” Heather stated. “I know I've seen them in mine, rats right on the palm trees. They’re attracted to food sources, like seed from wild bird feeders or garbage cans that are left out. Concerns relating to attracting rodents should be addressed by restricting wild bird feeders, which entice rodents and other animals into your yard. Skunks and raccoons frequent backyards regardless of whether chickens also occupy these yards.”
Myth No. 9: Chickens are only kept for eggs, so the size of the flock should be limited to how many eggs a family needs! “Many people do keep chickens for eggs, but not every chicken is going to lay an egg every day,” Heather explained. “Additionally, chickens are kept for a lot of different reasons. I know we have a big 4-H group in the area that raises chickens as a project and shows them as a show animal. They’re not just for eggs. Groups like 4-H should be able to continue what they do. It’s really beneficial to have our kids involved in an organization like that.”
There are a lot of great reasons to allow backyard chickens in Lee County. If you’d like to learn more about what goes into raising backyard chickens, then I recommend following Heather’s page, Backyard Chickens of Lee County, Florida. It’s a great resource, especially if you support legalizing backyard chickens.
“We want to encourage sensible regulations,” Heather said. “I think it’s going to help feed people. I think it’s a great idea to help us be more self-sufficient.”
In addition to busting myths, Heather and I also talked at great length about what would go into legalizing backyard chickens in Lee Country. You can catch the whole conversation on my Facebook page at Facebook.com/TimHartJr.
Born and raised in Southwest Florida, I have been in the Mortgage business since 2001 I'm a grizzly, battle tested mortgage veteran. I am also the Host of Rates & Reels, which is the most popular fishing show in Southwest Florida, hosted by a guy named Tim. In my spare time I love spending time with my family, coaching baseball, and anything else my kids or wife want me to do. I would be happy to help you or someone you know with any of your Mortgage needs.
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