Tips for chicks

Pointers for the fledgling urban chicken farmer

The coop: Provide at least four square feet per bird. Chickens like to sleep on elevated roosts, which can be fashioned from an old broomstick or thick branch. Hens will also need nests for laying—any square-foot wooden box will do. Building a coop is a weekend project for toolbelt divas. For the rest of us, there are simple plans online and even pre-made coops.

Eggs: Collect daily so they stay fresh.

Food and water: Buy laying feed for hens and chick feed for the tykes. Feed stores also sell nifty feeders and waterers (the hanging kind work great), which should never be empty. Chickens also love food scraps, insects and weeds from the garden.

Protection: If you let the flock run during the day, always close the coop door before nightfall. Raccoons are clever and ravenous. Skunks, dogs, cats and even hawks may also harm chickens.

Sanitation: Clean the coop weekly by removing manure and changing bedding. Pet stores sell pine-chip bedding. Straw makes an excellent, inexpensive substitute, but bales can be hard to squeeze into a sedan.

Vermin: A rodent-proof coop and regular cleaning are your best defenses against rats and flies. If you have rat problems, set traps and poison bait outside the coop at night. RESCUE! brand outdoor flytraps are effective in catching stray flies but no substitute for wise manure management.