Urban and city chicken keeping made easy.

A chicken coop in an urban backyard

Table of Contents

What is Urban chicken keeping?

Urban or city chicken keeping is the practice of keeping poultry inside the city limits. It requires some special considerations as there is limited space available and there is often more laws to comply with.

The Urban Chicken and it's keeper. With images and ideas.

So you fancy being able to wake up in the morning and get yourself a few fresh eggs straight from the nest for breakfast. Well, keeping chickens in cities and urban environments is nothing new as this picture form a 1921 poultry keeping book shows.

It has been a thriving pastime for at least 150 years and gets more popular every year.

Garden chicken keeping can be just as rewarding as when you live in the countryside and there's no reason that without some planning and consideration that you could happily keep a few chickens to provide you with amusement and fresh eggs all year. You may have to just settle for slightly fewer birds.

Below: One of my relatives keeps 4 Buff Sussex hens quite happily in a city garden.

There are 5 major problems with keeping chickens in city, urban or suburban environments:

  1. The limited space.
  2. The neighbours.
  3. The disposal of waste that invariably comes with a backyard flock.
  4. The ability to free-range your chickens will be limited or non-existent.
  5. You will still have to deal with predators.

Chickens have no sense of boundaries while they are in your garden. For me they are worth the effort as an important step in the cycling of scraps to compost!

Guide to keeping a backyard flock inside the city limits:

Pros and cons of city chicken raising:


  1. Every chicken keeper, including me will tell you that fresh eggs are better than shop-bought ones, with a richer, creamier taste and brighter buttery yolks.
  2. Local produce is more sustainable and the eggs have less food miles.
  3. Chickens help reduce kitchen waste.
  4. Pets are good for humans and chickens are funny to watch.
  5. You can be sure that the animals producing your food have been well treated.
  6. Its a great way to teach children about food and animal husbandry.


  1. Chicken keeping is a lifestyle choice that effects your vacation time.
  2. You get lovely fresh eggs, but only for around 10 months of the year.
  3. It is probably more expensive than store bought eggs.
  4. It takes up your time and you need to lock up and open up every day.
  5. All animals eventually get old and die.

Urban chickens and the law:

Most cities have laws and ordinances governing the amount and type of livestock that can be kept within the city limits. Even here in England where are being able to keep animals has been a right for nearly a millennia there are still laws governing which types of livestock and how many can be kept inside the city walls.

Below: There may be rules about how close to a house a chicken coop can be.

The chances are you will be limited to either 6 or 12 hens with no roosters. There are also often stipulations about how far the coup has to be from dwelling houses and boundary walls.

Are you allowed to keep chickens in a residential area?

You should get to know your local city ordinances. Residential houses or dwellings are often limited and properties under a certain size may not be allowed poultry or may need a permit. Things get even more complicated if your are a tenant and rent your property.

Small backyard gardens require inspired coop designs.

Under the 1950 Allotment Act (UK) you are allowed to keep up to 12 hens on your allotment. They are only for the use of the tenant and not used for business or profit. If your chickens are regarded as a nuisance or a health hazard, or their welfare is affected they can be removed by the council and you could be liable for the expense incurred.

Also bear in mind as the owner of the livestock you are responsible for keeping them within your boundary and for the cost of any damage they do to a neighbours garden.

Not every city has allowances for chickens and there may be limits. most limits are 6 hens and no cockerels allowed. the deeds to your house may not allow you to keep livestock of any type so buy with care. those who rent may not be allowed to either.

What is the smallest area you can keep chickens in?

There are two ways to answer this question, if you go with a movable chicken ark then you can get away with a much smaller area for your hens that if you go for the traditional coop and run.

Below: A small chicken ark designed to be moved every day.

Keeping a few hens without making your backyard garden look like a city farm can be a challenge but I would say the absolute minimum area for keeping chickens is 1 metre X 3 metres or 3 foot 3 inches X 10 foot long. In that space with the right coop you can keep three hens or four bantams.

Keeping city chickens in a small area requires a taller coop that has been raised up to provide the maximum area underneath.

Below: Raising a coop up allows access to the space underneath giving the hens more room.

What are the problems with keeping chickens in cities?

  1. The neighbours. Follow the rules and keep those bordering your property happy. Neighbours are likely to be one of the bigger problems when keeping chickens in cities. As a rule people don't like change and any mention of a backyard flock in the city is likely to conjure up visions of crowing cockerels at 3 a.m. and hens ruining the gardens and rats running over people's feet.
  2. Vermin. People associate poultry with rats and unfortunately there's little escape from this assumption. The reality is that with a bit of planning and careful routine rats are a problem that can be easily dealt with and avoided. It is not only rats that are attracted to chicken feed, wild birds and mice will pay a visit and help themselves to your birds feed and water.
  3. The size limitations. Because of the cost associated with urban property size and space is always going to be a problem unless you have very deep pockets. The space issue can be mitigated to some extent bye height. Raising the coop off the ground and allows the chickens access to the space underneath and having a large attached run will mean that your chickens can be kept abused in a relatively small space.
  4. The noise. Chickens do not as a rule make a lot of noise but hens do cluck and squawk and there is no getting away from this. I do not find the noise irritating or objectionable but there are some who do.
  5. The waste. Keeping chickens produces waste and dung. These things need to be dealt with on a regular basis and in a manner that doesn't cause any problems with your neighbours or the refuse collection in your city.
  6. Predators. City chicken keepers often wrongly assume that they need much less protection against predators inside of a city limits. There are quite a few predators however that have made themselves at home in cities and we'll just as happily eat your chickens as anything else. Foxes, Opossums, racoon and snakes have all been found in houses and gardens and there is the surplus of pet dogs to deal with. I have also seen video of bears in towns.
    Predators are still a problem for a city chicken keeper. There are plenty of creatures like raccoon opossums and foxes there are quite happy at home in cities as much as in the countryside. These predators will think nothing eating your city chickens just as they would if you were in the country. Hawks and birds of prey are also something you still need to watch out for there are plenty of them about especially and suburban areas that back onto wild spots.
  7. Breed choice. Much has been written on choosing a breed of chickens to keep. If you are really short of space keep bantams, if you just want as many eggs as you can get then keep hybrids and if you want something special then look into a rare breed. There are plenty of types of chickens and as many colours of egg.

See the ultimate guide to buying chickens or the beginners guide to a choosing a breed of hens.

People do not like being disturbed in their houses and the issue of noise can be divisive and it's neighbours. Possibly the only way around this is to show an already working set up which benefits everybody.

Tips for making city chicken keeping easier and more pleasurable:

The one thing you will not be able to get away from in cities is humans, and not all will be supportive and some may fight you in any way they can. You can learn how to protect your investment from theft here.

Suitable chicken breeds for urban environments:

For those that would like to keep poultry the sight of a few birds wandering around their garden is a dream.

Below: These are my Silver Laced Barnevelder Bantams. Pretty, productive, docile and good winter layers.

Do consider Silkies for a garden hen project as they can't fly and make excellent pets· They are not the most productive of birds and can be a broody problem.

Use commercial type hybrids for full on egg production.

If you are after coloured eggs then look at Cream crested Legbars, Olive Egger, Marans or Barnevelders.

Bear in mind they do come in many sizes so you have many choices and do consider bantams as large birds may pollute the small spaces often found in city chicken coops.

Tips for keeping rats away from chickens:

There is a slightly misguided perception that chickens always equals rats and that where you have chickens you will always have vermin.

Hens do necessarily always bring rats, the feed, water and shelter bring in the rats, mice and other vermin and the solution is simple. Remove the feed and water after the hens roost and you lock up at night

What's this to some extent true that vermin will be drawn to the food water and shelter that backyard chickens provide it is not necessarily a done deal.

It also needs to be stated that in many parts of the world failing to deal with vermin infestations is an offence. this is something to consider quite seriously if you're considering urban chickens as you were leaving the need to deal with rats yourself or get a pest control contract.

I have seen a great many flocks of city chickens kept with no evidence of vermin or wild birds eating or contaminating the feed. See this page on how to deal with rats.

What about free ranging chickens in cities?

Free ranging is allowing your bird free access to all areas of your land and is difficult in within the city limits as there is often a shortage of space and chickens do like to wander.

Below: Hoops covered in netting allows chickens to range in relative safety and get the benefits of being free ranged and pastured.

Most urban poultry keepers I know have a larger coop and run and only allow limited supervised free range or they use an Ark and move it to fresh grass when ever they can.

The amount of free range chickens get will effect the size of the coop and run,  less free time will mean a bigger coop and run which will increase your initial costs.

There is a strong likelihood you will need to clip a wing for your backyard flock if you plan on letting them out, you don't want them flying over the fences.

What is the best coop for city chickens? Urban chicken coop ideas with pictures:

One that is raised up to provide floor space and shelter underneath.

The Eglu is a moulded plastic coop that is easy to setup and comes in sizes designed for backyard keepers to keep between 2 and 12 hens hens depending on the size of the chickens.

Below: I have had 2 over the years and they are expensive but represent good value and are easy to clean and use.

They come with a range of accessories like feeders,covers and walk in runs and stay cool in summer.

Wooden chicken arks fit easily into most gardens and you can buy them ready made if you're not up to building your own.

Below: A self assembly, flat packed for shipping ark for 4 to 6 hens.

They are easy to use and move.

The cheap wooden coop is where quite a few keepers start. They are easy to get hold of but rarely last more than 6 years.

Below: A cheap wooden coop for 6 hens.

If you have the room then you can go for a large premium enclosure with chain link fence and a shed type coop.

Below: A large Premium setup for backyard chickens.

Should you have a permanent chicken house or a movable tractor?

This is a matter of personal choice and location. In one sense permanent hen houses are easier as they have a proper base but don't allow access to fresh greens all the time.

The classic hen house and run is also likely to have a higher initial cost.

Arks need to be moved and the lack of a solid stable base can lead to damaged lawns and bald patches.

Below: A movable chicken coop.

How many chickens should I get for my garden?

Chickens are social creatures and you should have a minimum of three, less may be stressful for them.

If you like eggs as a family then get at least one chicken per person and if you are a home baker then add a couple as well. 

For a family of five get between 4 and 7 chickens. 

Get one or two more if you settle on bantams or rare breeds as they are not as productive as hybrids.

Get three more than normal if you go for Silkies or true bantams.


For homesteaders and urban farmers, the use of chickens has begun to delve deeper than simply providing fresh eggs for breakfast. By incorporating chickens into your garden, you receive the same gardening power of multiple tools and fertilizers. Those seeking a way to disconnect from modern.

Finding chicken care cover for when you are on vacation.

Look up chickens keeping problems or whats wrong with my chicken.