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Raising chickens used to be something that only people in the country did and has long been associated with farms and wide-open spaces. But not anymore. Backyard chickens are becoming a modern cultural phenomenon.

Holladay City Council Member, Lynn Pace, who has raised backyard chickens for more than 40 years explained, “Anybody, anywhere can raise chickens. You don’t need a big yard or a big pen. All you need is a place that is secure from predators, so dogs, raccoons, and cats can’t get them—particularly at night. ” He said three or four birds will be fine in a relatively small space as long as they are kept them warm, dry, and sheltered with a clean pen.

Once you determine you have the desire and space to raise chickens, you need to know how to get started. Pace provided the information on what he would do first. “If I were just starting out, I would go to Intermountain Farmer’s or some place like that in the spring, when they have hundreds and hundreds of baby chicks. I would get three to six baby chicks. It’s important to get several—at least three—because chickens are social animals and need to be with others. They don’t do well in isolation. Intermountain Farmer’s can tell you which breed is good for laying eggs, which is good for meat, which one will be good for eating bugs in the backyard, and even which breed will be good for variety and color. Once you get the breed that matches your interests, you’ll get the chance to raise those baby chicks all summer and to watch them grow. As they mature in the fall, the laying hens will start laying eggs.”

Fresh eggs are one of the best benefits of backyard chickens. And their eggs are more nutritious than many store-bought eggs as they are higher in omega-3s, beta-carotene, and vitamins A, D, and E, while also being lower in cholesterol and saturated fat. They taste better, too.

“During peak season, most good-laying hens will lay one egg every other day,” Pace said. “But it’s driven by the weather and temperature, so in the fall, when the days start to get shorter and the weather starts to get colder, the egg laying will drop off. Then in the spring, they’ll start laying like crazy again.”

Rules and regulations for raising backyard chickens vary from city to city. In many cities, like Holladay, you can raise chickens without needing permission. In other cities, such as Salt Lake, you need to get a permit, which costs fifty dollars and is obtained through Salt Lake County Animal Services. Anyone interested in raising chickens should look into their own municipal regulations.

However, following city rules is only part of the equation for those raising backyard chickens. “If you decide you want to raise chickens for whatever reason, the most important thing is not what laws or regulations exist in the city,” Pace explained, “the most important thing you have to remember is to keep your neighbors happy.” Pace said that if you have unhappy neighbors you won’t be able to have chickens.

In addition to the fresh eggs, the meat, and cutting down on the number of insects in your yard, chickens also make for friendly, entertaining pets and provide some intangible benefits in today’s fast-moving society.

“What I like most about raising chickens is that it creates an atmosphere of wholesome living for me and my children in a world that is increasingly hectic and chaotic,” said Pace. “It’s a little bit of country in the city. Having the chickens scratch around in the backyard brings a peace and tranquility that I really enjoy. When I come home stressed at the end of the day and I slip into the backyard to see the chickens, I de-stress and life is good.”

Read more from the Utah League of Cities and Towns on DeseretNews.com or visit their website at ulct.org.