Central Texas is great place to keep chickens. We have poultry-friendly city ordinances, feed stores that sell organic or conventional feed, coop builders, communities of chicken-keepers, and a favorable climate. Here’s a sampling of the resources you’ll find in and around Austin.
To get started with chickens, a little research is needed. It’s a good idea to check your local laws to make sure keeping poultry is legal. For Austin, a chicken coop must be 50 feet from your nearest neighbor’s house, and the chickens must be properly housed and cared for, including following noise ordinances. For full details on Austin's City Ordinance, please read Title 3.0, Animal Regulation. If you belong to a Homeowner’s Association, please check with them about additional restrictions.
These days, most research starts online. Browse our Frequently Asked Questions page for quick answers to most common questions. Next, consider signing up at www.yahoo,com, where you can join the austexpoultry forum, a discussion group that focuses on Central Texas poultry keeping. Conversations about managing your flock with our local climate can be invaluable, and the forum is a good place to buy and sell chickens and gather good advice.
The City Chicken has a good introduction to getting started, along with other topics pertinent to those of us in urban environments.
A magazine subscription can provide a steady dose of good information. Backyard Poultry is delivered to your mailbox 6 times per year. Their website offers a selection of previously printed articles, and back issues of the magazine can be purchased. Another publication is the former Fancy Fowl USA, now The Poultry Magazine, which has more emphasis on exhibition fowl and the poultry industry.
For a larger, more general, discussion group, try BackYardChickens.com, which boasts over 150,000 members strong. BYC is now the world's largest online communtary for backyard chicken keepers. The site covers almost every aspect of chicken keeping that you can think of.
An interesting way to get a first-hand look at chicken keeping is to attend a Chicken Coop Tour. Austin has it's Funky Chicken Coop Tour, where people open their backyards to the public and show visitors how to set up and manage a small flock. If you are interested in starting your own tour, see the articles Michelle Hernandez, founder and organizer of the Funky Chicken Coop Tour, wrote on Starting Your Own Coop Tour and Expanding a Coop Tour.
Choosing the breeds of chickens to raise is part of the fun. For those with iPhones, iPod Touches, or iPads, check out the Pickin' Chicken Breed Selector by Mother Earth News for a mobile reference. Another good reference is the Chicken Breed Chart, which describes general traits that may fit best with your project. A wonderful photo gallery of chickens can be found at Feathersite. A large number of breeds, showing both the roosters and the hens, are displayed in full color. You'll quickly learn to recognize the differences in many varieties of chickens.
Would you believe there’s an internet radio show devoted to backyard chickens? Listen in on Host Andy Schneider, better known as the Chicken Whisperer for his daily broadcast on Blog Talk Radio. Join the chat room, it is quite a hoot! Beginners and experienced chicken keepers can learn a lot from Andy. Earlier broadcasts can be downloaded, so load up that iPod or mp3 player!
When its time to choose a house for your chickens, you can build your own coop, buy one from one of Central Texas’ artisan coop builders, or find one online. Do-it-yourselfers should check out The Garden Coop Plans for overall sound design and some excellent construction techniques.
More ideas can be found at Backyard Chickens Coop Designs site, and if you think a movable coop is right for you, look at the Chicken Tractors site. For the more ambitious and innovative builder, check out the Rammed Earth Coop, built by a parent whose child attends Austin Discovery School. This coop protects chickens from both the extreme Texas heat and the winter cold by using thick earthen walls and eco-friendly materials.
When those delicious fresh eggs start to fill the kitchen, we know exactly where they came from. To find out more about where more central Texas-grown food comes from, pick up a free copy of How to Start Your Own Coop Tour. Twelve great tips for starting a chicken coop tour in your town are available from Grit Magazine. Michelle Hernandez, Funky Chicken Coop Tour Planning Committee member, authored this article, using methods that worked so well for previous successful Tours in Austin. If you're thinking of starting a tour, don't miss these great ideas!
Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance FARFA's efforts to prevent unnecessary and expensive government regulation often benefit backyard poultry owners as well as small farms. Learn more about how government action can affect your ability to raise your small flock. Awareness of the issues is the first step toward effective action.
NoNAIS is now NOT-NAIS, because citizen action was able to affect the political process. For the backyard chicken keeper, this means we don’t have to barcode our poultry and report our new chick purchases or bird sales to the government. NAIS is now an example of how hard work and participation by the community can lead to a happy ending.