Chickens: space, noise, smell

Q. Dear Dervaes Family,
I actually have a few more simple questions. My housemates and possibly neighbors are concerned about smell and noise from the chickens. Can you tell me how loud they are and how smelly they will get? Also, what is the proper sq footage of lawn per chicken? I have a nice grassy side yard, with some raised garden beds, which is where I plan to keep the chickens, but I have not cared for chickens before. I am looking into purchasing the book on raising chickens. But any questions you could quickly answer would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks for your help,

A. To answer your questions:

Regarding space:

I tell everyone that the more room you can devote to a chicken coop is always better. However, adequate space is usually at least 5 square feet per chicken. Some people keep chickens in smaller places, but I find that a chicken is much more happer with 5 square feet or more.

I do have to warn you, however, that if you make your chicken coop on your nice grassy lawn, it won’t be a lawn in a year or so. 🙂 Chickens love to eat grass and if they are confined on grass they will eat it bare – which is no problem if you don’t mind it. Mine are on dirt and they love it. They love scratch in the dirt and taking dust baths. Just don’t expect to have a grassy chicken coop. It usually doesn’t last.

Regarding sound:

When you first bring your chickens home they will be a bit loud as it is a new place for them and they will be confused. After a week, I would expect them to settle down. The sound levels of contented chickens (I am referring to hens because roosters are just too loud to have in a neighborhood) is very tolerable. In fact, mine simply coo or make little sounds in their throats which you couldn’t hear if you stood more than 5 feet away.

My neighbor didn’t know I had chickens for the longest time. There are few times when they will get loud: when they are frightened and are sounding the alarm call, and when they just laid an egg. When they are frightened, I’m glad to hear them because I can go out and scare off whatever is bothering them. And when they laid an egg, they’ll usually cackle for a half a minute to boast about their egg and then shut up. Even this sound is not even close to the sound of a dog barking.

Besides these two times when they might get loud, the rest of the time they are either silent or talking to one other with soft clucks.

Regarding smell:

This is often a misconception. Most people are used to the poultry yards where there are thousands of chickens and the place stinks. A backyard coop doesn’t smell. I do maintenance on my coop every week and this usually consists of cleaning out the nesting boxes and washing bowls, etc. In the morning, when I go out to let them out and feed them, I just take a rake and rake their enclosure and that’s all. When we have tours of our place, people are amazed that they can’t smell a thing. I’ve had children play in the enclosure and city officials come in and never once has anyone said it smelled. Now I’m not saying if you put your nose right up to the poop it won’t smell but it’s never a “gaaah!” kind of gagging smell. My cat’s litter box has that kind of smell…..

But, I don’t think your neighbors or you will have any kind of concern. It’ll be a bit worrisome at first but you’ll get to see what I mean.

But nonetheless, I do have a “clause” in my bill of sale that says if you do decide to get some chickens and let’s say something doesn’t work out, then just let me know and I will help you re-home them.

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