4 tips for owning backyard chickens in Utah

4 tips for owning backyard chickens in Utah


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SALT LAKE CITY — With Easter around the corner, many Utahns may be considering starting up a flock of chickens in their backyard. Chickens can bring benefits to a backyard, the abundance of fresh eggs being just one of many.

Before embarking on an adventure of the feathered kind, it’s important to take a few things into consideration. Chickens are, for the most part, low maintenance, but they do require a little know-how.

Check local chicken laws

Every city and town in Utah has its own laws and ordinances regarding the ownership of chickens. For instance, within the limits of Salt Lake City, chickens are permitted, but roosters are not. A resident is limited to owning no more than 15 chickens and the coop must be built at least 25 feet from any dwelling located on an adjacent lot.

Some cities and municipalities do not permit chickens, and the fines for owning them illegally can be hefty. For those who are interested in owning chickens but live in a city where the birds are not permitted, it may be useful to start a petition and spend some time discussing the matter with local government representatives. In 2011, the Provo city council voted to allow backyard chickens, having been influenced by a campaign led by residents.

Chicks vs. hens

Everyone loves a fluffy baby chick. They are the epitome of everything adorable. Pair a few chicks with small children and you’ve hit cute overload. Many families buy baby chickens around Easter with the hopes of raising them to egg-laying adulthood. What may not be expected is how long it takes to raise a chick from infancy to production-age.

A normal chicken takes about five to six months to lay her first egg, according to the domestic chicken blog the-chicken-chick.com. During that time, the chicken will need to be fed and cared for — and the costs can add up. Many people consider purchasing an older hen who is already laying to save on time.


An adult hen generally costs more to buy than a chick, but should be laying already. Consider what you’re looking for in a flock and decide if you’d like to raise chicks from the fluffy stage or grab a few ready-to-go hens.

Find the right coop

Building a coop is one of the most important steps in starting up with backyard chickens. Many county and feed stores sell kits for coops, or plans are available for purchase online.

When building a coop, the main goal is to provide a comfortable and protected shelter for chickens. The nesting area needs to be elevated a few feet above the ground to allow for adequate ventilation, according to thisoldhouse.com. Each chicken should be given at least two square feet of space in the total makeup of the run and coop, and walls should be insulated and free of cracks and holes.

Remember when designing a coop that egg accessibility is key. Consider building a coop with external nesting boxes with lids (connected to the side of the coop) or nesting boxes built near the entrance of the coop opening.

Plan on sanitation

Chickens are generally clean animals in and of themselves, but they can carry diseases humans should avoid. Chickens can transmit a few different kinds of diseases to humans, and proper sanitation should be employed around backyard flocks.

The poplular chicken-keeping blog hencam.com posted about the necessity of hand washing when handling chickens: “There are very few diseases that humans and birds share,” the website stated. “Our biologies are just too different. That said, there are a small number of pathogens to know about, all of which can be neutralized by hand washing and good animal husbandry.”

A chicken owner should wash his or her hands after feeding or watering the flock, after gathering eggs, or after having any sort of contact with the birds or the coop. Eggs should be rinsed off with a drop or two of antibacterial soap before consumption.

Coops should be cleaned and sanitized on a regular basis. Clean straw or wood shavings should be used to cover the exposed dirt areas of the coop floor, especially in the winter to avoid mud.

Living with chickens can be fun and rewarding. Chickens have their own community systems and are fascinating to watch. Gathering a basketful of fresh eggs on a sunny day is a wonderful activity for young and old alike. Before starting your own backyard flock, do a little research and decide if chickens are a good fit for your family.

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Robynn Garfield


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