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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gardening: Class to offer tips on keeping urban chickens

Keeping a flock of backyard chickens can be a fun family activity. Spring is the time to get set up as chicks will soon be available for sale at the feed stores.  (Courtesy of Paul Puhek.)
Keeping a flock of backyard chickens can be a fun family activity. Spring is the time to get set up as chicks will soon be available for sale at the feed stores. (Courtesy of Paul Puhek.)
By Pat Munts For The Spokesman-Review

This week, I am going to stray away from gardening long enough to talk about another popular backyard activity, urban chicken keeping. COVID-19 saw a huge rise in the number of people growing food in their backyard and right in there were people raising chickens for the first time. In the next few weeks, the local feed stores will begin stocking chicks so now’s the time to get ready.

To get you started off the right way, the WSU Spokane County Extension small farms program will be hosting a virtual Urban Chicken Keeping Workshop, March 11 from 6-8 p.m. via Zoom.

The class will cover buying chickens, their social needs, basic health care, shelter and fencing, feed and water, nesting and egg collection and how to legally sell your eggs.

The class will also cover the legality of keeping chickens including the number of birds and management of your flock so they don’t disturb your neighbors. The class will be taught by Paul Puhek of S&P Homestead Farm. Puhek raises chickens and vegetables in Spokane Valley and sells the produce and eggs at the Liberty Lake Farmers Market. Cost of the class is $15 per family.

Keeping chickens isn’t legal everywhere so you need to determine if they are legal where you live. Spokane and Spokane Valley allow hens but no roosters. In Spokane you can have one bird per 1,000 square feet of lot size while Spokane Valley allows one bird per 2,000 square feet of lot. Beyond this, other communities and unincorporated areas in Spokane County each have its own rules so check them out before you start your project.

Backyard flocks can be started with either baby chicks or with older birds. Buying chicks will give you the widest range of breeds.

“Raising a chick to the point they are ready to lay eggs takes about 25 weeks,” says Puhek. “That will involve brooders and a lot of care.”

If you want to skip this stage, you can sometimes find pullets that are ready to lay on Craigslist or through friends. Buying pullets will be much more expensive but less work in the long run.

Chickens need a good chicken house with proper fencing to provide shelter from the weather, keep them warm and dry and protect them from predators. In urban areas, hawks, raccoons, skunks and dogs are common predators of backyard flocks. The coop should also provide nest boxes for laying eggs.

While backyard chickens will forage in your garden and yard, they will always need access to clean chicken feed and water. This means you or your kids will have to develop a daily routine to check on the food and water. Chicken scratch is readily available at local feed stores. Once the chickens start laying, you will need to check their nest boxes daily to collect the fresh eggs. A flock of four hens will keep you in all the eggs you can use. You can even sell your excess to neighbors.

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