The first thing I said when my husband broached the idea of getting chickens was, "I'm sure it's illegal." I mean, we live on a 6,500 square foot lot right in the middle of the city! However, he had been to someone's house in Silverlake that had chickens, so we were pretty sure we fell under the same zoning laws. I wasn't convinced. I thought these people were just law breakers, something I just do not do. I don't even like to bend the rules. It's just not worth the potential headache, especially when dealing with angry neighbors.
So, I did a little research. I was shocked to find that in Los Angeles you can keep an unlimited number of hens as long as they are 20 feet from your dwelling and 35 feet from your neighbors' dwellings. I pulled out my trusty measuring tape, and sure enough, we had plenty of room. (This page, from The City Chicken website, has a good summary of existing laws in different cities.)
Now that I knew we COULD keep chickens, we had to decide if we WANTED to keep chickens. We did a ton of research, and spent hours perusing such great websites as My Pet Chicken and Backyard Chickens. What we saw had us convinced. We picked out of one of the cool coops from Omlet. This seemed to be the best choice for us as they are specifically designed for both the first time chicken owner and city chicken owner. Besides, they looked cool and seemed really easy to clean. We waited while it made it's trek across the Atlantic and in the meantime researched what breeds of chickens we were going to get. We got the coop, ordered the chicks, and they are now living in our house until they can go outside into the Eglu. (To read more about this ongoing adventure, check out Now and Hen.)
There are many reasons people to choose to keep hens. Some, like me, probably just really love animals, and look forward to interacting with them. Some like to eat them for dinner. They are great for bug control in the garden, and provide excellent fertilizer. You will also get delicious and fresh organic eggs.
On a more philosophical and possibly political note, it is really ironic that "keeping chickens" has become a "new trend" that seems to be most popular with those who can afford organic eggs at Whole Foods. So much of the green/organic movement is really just going back to some of the same self-sufficient practices that our great-grandparents would have done as second nature. (Unless, of course, your great grandparents were the Vanderbilts or the Morgans, but they probably had a gentleman farm with chickens on it that someone else attended to at least.)
Ok, rant over. This was supposed to be about chickens, so let me finish by saying that if I can do this, so can you! Trust me, once you start seeing cute pictures of baby chicks and the hilarious antics of hens, you're going to want a flock of your own! Check out these great links for more info: