It’s chick time! Know the rules and how to care for them

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If you’re thinking of raising chickens in our backyard, be sure to check local laws to see if they are permitted.

(Posted March 21, 2022)

By Amanda Douridas, Madison County Ag & Natural Resources Extension Educator

The first chicks appeared in supply stores at the beginning of March, and that means chick-rearing season is upon us. I have my own backyard poultry flock, so I very much understand the excitement, fun and joy these birds can bring, not to mention food. However, a few missteps can lead to frustration and heartache if your birds are not living their best life.

If you live inside the city or village limits, you do need to make sure you are allowed to have poultry and under what conditions. I did a little research into the municipalities around Madison County, and here is what I found.

Regulations

Roosters are not allowed on most lots and chickens cannot free range. Housing restrictions are written into ordinances and usually require secure, covered coops that allow for free movement and are predator proof. In some cases, a minimum square footage per animal needs to be met. Most also require housing to be in the backyard or not visible from the road.

London: Allows 6-10 chickens depending on lot size. A one-time $50 permit is required, and an inspection will occur once chickens are acquired. For the detailed ordinance, contact the city.

Plain City: One chicken is allowed per 725 square feet which equates to 12 animals for a standard 8,700 square-foot lot. Roosters, geese and turkey can be kept on lots that are at least one acre, with other restrictions in place. The full ordinance can be found at go.osu.edu/pcchickens.

West Jefferson: The village recently updated its legislation. A maximum of four chickens are permitted. A one-time $50 permit and an inspection are required. A conditional use permit may be an option if poultry is being raised for 4-H, FFA, or a similar youth organization. For the full set of rules, contact the village’s department of development at (614) 379-5250.

Mount Sterling: No poultry or other farm animals are permitted within village limits.

Care

It can be tempting to purchase those sweet little chicks or ducks when you see them in the store, but please remember that they do grow up and can live for several years, so it is important to ensure you can care for them. Figuring out what to do with them after purchasing is not an option. Whether you purchase from a hatchery or supply store, a minimum number is required so they can maintain sufficient body temperature during travel. Be prepared to care for the minimum order or have a plan in place before they arrive for what you will do with the extra.

Chicks have the same basic needs as other living creatures: food, water and shelter.

Shelter: You will need a brooder because chicks have to be kept in an environment that is 90-95 degrees for the first two weeks. Drop the temperature by 5 degrees every week until they are 1 month old. They grow rapidly, so be prepared to make space as they grow. Ensure the housing is predator-proof, dry and clean. Good ventilation is also important to prevent illness and help with drying. One to two square-feet per chicken is a good estimate on space required for adult birds.

Food: Use a starter feed for chicks that has 18-20 percent protein for at least five weeks. To prevent coccidiosis, use a medicated feed containing Amprolium. After five weeks, if you are raising meat birds, use a grower feed; if raising laying hens, use a layer feed. If you have a mixed flock, you can use a grower feed and supplement calcium. Layer feed is too low in protein for grower birds and will cause issues. Store feed in rodent proof containers. Select a feeder that keeps the feed clean and available to all birds.

Water: Provide plenty of fresh water every day. Select a waterer that keeps the water clean and will not spill. Hanging waterers and feeders do a nice job at this. Chickens very easily figure out where to get water, so do not worry if you need to switch waterer types. If feeding through the winter, you will probably need a heated waterer. Chickens do not sweat, so in hot weather, make sure they have access to cool water.

Biosecurity: Avian influenza is once again threatening domestic birds as migrating waterfowl move through our area. Keep your birds separated from any areas where waterfowl may be grazing. The Ohio Department of Agriculture will test birds suspected of having avian influenza. If you are in contact with other poultry or waterfowl, change your clothes, shower and disinfect your shoes before interacting with your poultry. For a list of vets that see poultry, visit: https://vet.osu.edu/extension/poultry-resources.

Manure: Your birds will create manure. Please handle this properly. It can be composted and used in gardens. Some municipalities require it to be disposed of through garbage services. If the amount of manure gets to be too much, reduce your flock size to what you can handle.

For more information on poultry, visit: https://u.osu.edu/poultry/.

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