Chicken Run 

Backyard hens are now legal in Richmond. Here's what you need to know before you buy.

click to enlarge SCOTT ELMQUIST
  • Scott Elmquist

About 30 downy chicks crowd together in a black tub under a heat lamp at the Southern States on West Broad Street. The store's manager is surprised there are any left.

Chicken are hot this year, Roy Lee says. Since Southern States started carrying the birds for the season in mid-February, the store has been selling out of its weekly order of 300 in an average of two days. And now that Richmond City Council has started permitting residents to keep as many as four hens in their backyards, Lee says the store plans to lengthen its usual chick-selling season through the end of April.

But as some have discovered, keeping chickens isn't always as blissful and carefree an exercise as some proponents would have you think. So what should keep in mind if you've resolved to bring home a flock?

We checked in with Patricia Foreman, the force behind Chickensandyou.com and author of "City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Makers, Bio-recyclers, and Local Food Producers."

1. State law requires stores such as Southern States to sell chickens in groups of at least six. With the city allowing only four per residence, you'll need to find a chicken friend or neighbor to share the purchase. Foreman recommends a mix of breeds because it makes it easier to tell your hens apart.

2. Chickens will enter a coop on their own when it gets dark out, but the door still needs to be closed at night and opened in the morning. Foreman recommends an electronic model that operates on a timer. That allows her to leave for days-long trips without worrying about her flock of 40.

3. A chicken eats an average of $30 worth of standard feed a year. A chick will take about five months to start laying eggs. In their prime, they'll produce about 250 eggs a year, Foreman says. After two years, that number starts to decrease.

4. Like other pets, chickens tend to grow on their owners, so you probably won't want to make soup out of them when their production falls off, Foreman says. "Spend time with your flock and handle the birds," she says. "One of the things you'll be most surprised by is how thoughtful and entertaining they are."


Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

  • Re: Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe: "Take Down These Monuments."

    • The statues should all go to the Museum of the Confederacy for part of their…

    • on August 16, 2017
  • Re: PHOTOS: Monument Avenue Commission Meeting Brings Out Heated Discourse in Richmond

    • I'm willing to bet that the neo-Confederates in these pictures (and comments) aren't actual residents…

    • on August 15, 2017
  • Re: Faith and Elected Leaders Gather for Solidarity Rally in Richmond Following Violence in Charlottesville

    • This is the kind of demonstration that should have taken place in Charlottesville, not bricks,…

    • on August 14, 2017
  • More »
  • More by Ned Oliver

    • Auto Spying

      Auto Spying

      Virginia lawmakers are fighting against the use of license-plate scanners by police. But what about the people privately watching your whereabouts?
      • Apr 28, 2015
    • City Explores Tax on Richmond Airbnb Rentals

      City Explores Tax on Richmond Airbnb Rentals

      • Apr 21, 2015
    • Flash Forward

      Flash Forward

      Richmond is getting a $54 million, high-speed bus line right down Broad Street. But do we need it? Here are the answers to seven questions you might be asking.
      • Apr 21, 2015
    • More »

    Copyright © 2017 Style Weekly
    Richmond's alternative for news, arts, culture and opinion
    All rights reserved
    Powered by Foundation