Chicken-Keeping FAQ

Why keep chickens?
We are passionate about urban chickens for many reasons. They bring us closer to the most basic aspects of life. They give us an opportunity to produce our own food in an ethical way. They provide fresh eggs, create fertilizer for the garden, and are voracious insect eaters. And they are great pets!
Animal Welfare Issues with Factory Farming of Chickens
Health Issues with Factory Farming of Chickens 

Are you allowed to keep chickens in Pittsburgh?
The short answer is YES! Section 912.07.B Urban Agriculture of the Zoning Code allows for 3 chickens for 2,000 square feet + 1 additional chicken for each additional 1,000 square feet. No roosters. Feed must be kept in a rodent-proof container. Urban chicken farmers must apply for a zoning variance ($300) in compliance with the Urban Farming Ordinance. We do not recommend applying for the variance until the code has been revised.  See the advocacy page for the long answer.

Are chickens easy to care for?
Caring for any animal is a large committment, but yes! In many countries with the proper climate and culture, chickens are pretty much self-reliant, free-ranging for all their food and water. In Pittsburgh, you will need to provide shelter, food, water, and protection from predators. They know on their own to go to bed at dusk each night. An automatic coop door can free you up from having to shut them in each night. 

Aren't chickens noisy?
Just a little bit. Hens don't crow. They do make a noise that sounds kind of like a seagull before they lay an egg and a celebratory clucking chorus after they have laid. Unless they are upset or spot a predator, these two sounds are the most common you will hear. Different breeds and different individual chickens have different levels of vocalization, however. 

Don't you need a rooster for hens to make eggs?  How many eggs do chickens lay?Nope. A chicken will make approximately an egg a day with or without a rooster. Some breeds will "go broody" and take a break after several weeks of laying.

Are fresh eggs different from store-bought eggs?

You will be delighted by the variety of colors and sizes of eggs that your chickens can provide for you! You will also notice how much darker the yolks are when your chickens have access to weeds and bugs. Studies show that eggs from free-range chickens are nutritionally superior to conventional store-bought eggs.  Your eggs will also be more difficult to hard-boil, because they will actually be too fresh!

Do chickens attract pests?
If your feed bin is secure overnight, you shouldn't have any issues. In fact, chickens will help rid your yard and garden of pesky insects. Some will take care of rodents and Guinea Fowl will even kill snakes!

Aren't chicken-keepers a bunch of hipsters who drop off their chickens at animal shelters when they tire of them, realize they have a rooster instead of a hen, or have hens who stop laying eggs?
A variety of people keep backyard chickens, and while there are always bad eggs (excuse then pun), the majority are responsible owners who are serious about raising their own food.  The recent slew of articles on this topic (Hipsters off the Hook: The Truth behind Abandoned Backyard ChickensHipster Farmers Dumping Their Chickens at SheltersThe Rise in Urban Chicken-keeping has led to Unforeseen Problems) are quite honestly a made-up crisis that is hurting chicken-keepers' image. With a backyard chicken often being part livestock and part pet, it is true that dealing with an unexpected rooster or an aging hen who has stopped laying eggs is a complex issue without a straightforward answer.  While philosophies and solutions vary (keeping unproductive hens as pets, giving birds to a rural farm, eating unwanted roosters), P4 agrees that chicken-keepers need to be responsible when it comes to unwanted birds.