Chickens are not a common sight in our area, but some people do have them. It is legal to own hens in the five boroughs of New York City, but it is illegal to have a rooster, for obvious reasons. The good news is that you don’t need a rooster for chickens to produce eggs. There is no law on the number of chickens you can have, but if they become a nuisance and neighbors complain about noise, smell or vermin, the owner of the chickens can be subject to a hefty fine.
The best part of keeping backyard chickens is obviously the supply of fresh eggs. A young adult chicken can lay an egg a day, although egg production decreases considerably during winter. Other factors such as diet, lack of fresh water and the age of a chicken can also affect egg production. Eggs laid by chickens who have access to sunshine and free range of a chicken yard will lay eggs with bright yellow to orange yolks, as opposed to the pale yellow yolks of store bought eggs. Eggs that are store bought are often from chickens kept in extremely cramped cages and inhumane factory farm conditions.
Chickens are actually very intelligent. They can recognize their owners and figure out how to open gates. They are also actually great little exterminators. If allowed to roam free in your garden, they will gobble up garden pests such as grasshoppers, crickets, snails, slugs, ticks and other insects.
Before investing in chickens, make sure you have room for a coop. Chickens will spend their nights locked up in a coop for their comfort and safety. Chickens do not see well at night, so they will automatically go into their coop to roost at dusk. Your coop should have a nesting area with straw or shavings added to the floor where the chickens can go and lay their eggs during the day. And they should have access to a nice fenced in open area where they can move around freely. Most breeds of chickens are not good flyers, but a few of the lighter breeds can fly over a five-foot fence, especially if being chased or frightened by a predator.
There are several feed stores on Long Island that sell a variety of chicken breeds as well as coops and supplies. So, if chickens and fresh eggs are in your future, do your research, and enjoy your fine feathered friends!