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From farm to suburb, chicken coops are at the heart of the self-reliance movement

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Updated: 3/11 5:14 pm

(BPT) - Americans across the country are taking strides to be more self reliant, including growing food, composting and raising animals. While these types of activities are most often associated with people who live in the country, residents in unexpected settings are embracing aspects of this lifestyle at increasingly fast rates.

From barn to backyard, raising chickens is the perfect example of how this momentum is building. Just a decade ago you may have only seen chickens while driving through rural areas, but today coops seem to be popping up everywhere in suburban and city neighborhoods. The backyard chicken movement is thriving, providing numerous benefits to those who participate.

Why consider raising chickens? It's not necessary to have a farming background in order to raise a small flock of poultry. Chickens are inexpensive to house and feed, managing their care is surprisingly simple, and raising them is a great family-friendly activity.

Chickens in return supply nutritious, tasty eggs that are always more fresh than their grocery store counterparts, plus you can use their waste to create organic compost, an invaluable fertilizer for your garden. Additionally, chickens eat many pesky bugs, creating natural insect control on your property.

If you are interested in starting your own flock, here are a few tips from the experts at Tractor Supply Company:

1. Check with your city
Verify the local chicken laws and ordinances in the city where you live, plus check with your homeowner's association if you have one. It's a good idea to make your neighbors aware of your plans, especially if you live in close proximity.

2. Start in the spring
Every spring chicks appear at Tractor Supply stores for purchase. Chick Days is an annual spring event when you can purchase baby chicks and ducklings to start your own flock or simply visit the store to learn about backyard chickens. By working with a reputable vendor, you'll ensure you get quality, healthy chicks. Learn more at www.tractorsupply.com/chicks. Keep in mind baby chicks need special care - such as a warm space and special chick feed - until they feather out and can be moved into a coop.

3. Get a coop or henhouse
You'll need some basic supplies in order to keep your chicks healthy so they can grow and produce eggs. Start with a secure coop that provides protection from the weather as well as from predators. Make sure it is properly ventilated but does not let in moisture which can make your chickens ill. You'll also need a perch to encourage roosting in the henhouse. A chicken's natural instinct is to roost on limbs at night, so a perch - such as a wooden ladder - encourages them to do so inside instead of out.

4. Stock supplies to encourage egg laying
Depending on the breed, hens typically lay eggs once every day through spring and summer, and sometimes into fall. Hens need 12 to 14 hours of daylight to stimulate egg production, so adding a few hours of light as days shorten in fall will help extend the laying season. In addition to the light, you'll need plenty of nutritious feed and a continuous supply of water. Chickens can eat some table scraps, including bread, cooked meats, fruits and vegetables. You'll also need wood shavings for litter and cushioning nesting boxes.

The best way to ensure you start your flock correctly is to talk with people who are experienced in raising chickens. Your community may have groups focused on self reliance and green living, or you may want to visit your local Tractor Supply store to speak directly to the experts who work there. No matter what, keep motivated in your efforts - raising chickens, growing food and living independently is a rewarding lifestyle for the entire family whether you live in the city or country.

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