Backyard Chickens FAQs

I'm considering raising chickens in my backyard. Are there benefits to doing this?

Urban hens lay nutritious eggs daily, and promote urban agriculture that ensures food security for families. So long as there are no roosters, they also make minimal noise (clucking and pecking).

Raising chickens also helps people develop an understanding of egg production and how the food you feed the hens affects the eggs. Consequently, raising hens can be a great way to educate younger generations about how to produce food. And doing so can help the entire household devleop an appreciation and gratitude for our food. Raising backyard chickens can also be a fun occupation for all family members!

Is there anything I need to consider when raising chickens?

There are some concerns that backyard hen owners need to consider, including:

  • preventing animal transmitted infectious diseases

  • protecting hens from predators

  • disposal of sick/deceased hens

Hand-washing and following public health advice on reducing health risks when handling urban hens, eggs, and waste will prevent the spread of Salmonella and Avian Flu.

To protect hens from predators (eg. hawks, owls, raccoons, snakes, weasels) make sure to lock them in their coop at night, collect eggs daily, ensure any leftover food gets picked up and the area is clean, and cover the coop with chickenwire to close off any possible entry points.

Disposal of sick/deceased hens can be coordinated with your local veterinarian, you can bury deceased hens, or coordinate disposal with the municipality. As always, it is important to remember to follow proper hygiene!

What breeds are generally best for raising in urban settings?

Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Buff Orpingtons, Golden Comets (a hybrid breed), Plymouth Rock, and Easter Eggers are excellent chicken breeds to consider for beginners. These hens are generally not broody, lay many eggs, and are not loud. Easter Eggers also lay eggs in various colours, such as blue, green, and pink.

What should I feed my hens?

Urban hens are hard-working backyard cleaners that help maintain the yard by removing insects and weeds. And they take care of leftover kitchen scraps too! Chickens will feed on most fruit, vegetables, vegetation, insects, nuts, and seeds. Chicken feed, which is rich in calcium and protein, provides the best nutritional value and should be the primary source of food for urban hens. Leftover kitchen food, such as leafy greens, corn, apples, oatmeal, watermelon, and pumpkin are excellent choices.

However, some foods are harmful or poisonous and must be avoided: citrus fruits, avocado, onions, uncooked beans, spoiled food, highly sweet snacks, and overly salty snacks.

How do I prevent poultry mites?

Chickens can get poultry mites from other birds in the neighbourhood. Poultry mites can be prevented by regularly cleaning the chicken coop by making sure that there is no dust, fallen feathers, or chicken droppings. Another way to prevent mites is to use diatomaceous earth powder. Diatomaceous earth, containing silicon dioxide, is formed from fossilized aquatic microorganisms and can be used as a natural insecticide, which when sprinkled on hens and in their coop acts to eliminate insects and poultry mites by absorbing fats from their exoskeletons to then dry them out.

Are there government regulations that I need to consider when raising hens?

Yes. To help people coexist better with urban hens, there are generally some regulations to consider when raising hens. Some places will not allow them to be raised at all. The Kitchener-Waterloo area is not exempt from such restrictions (as is the nearby City of Guelph, for anyone who is interested.)

City of Waterloo

Despite the many benefits of backyard hens, keeping backyard chickens was generally prohibited in Waterloo. The only exemption was for residents who had been registered with the city prior to the ban of urban fowl (including chickens). Registered residents were allowed to maintain up to the same number of chickens they had prior to the ban, for as long as they remained on the same residential property. However, as a result of advocacy efforts and support from many residents of the city and the neighbouring Kitchener Urban Hens community, this ban has been lifted since May 2021!

City of Kitchener

Residents of Kitchener are allowed to keep backyard chickens provided that they follow the Urban Chicken Bylaw (approved November 2016). Additional community resources and information are available at the Kitchener Urban Hens Facebook Group.