Getting started with backyard chickens

Raising chickens is fun and satisfying. There’s a short, easy learning curve. People have been raising chickens for millennia, worldwide, and it’s a breeze to get started. But to make it legal, you have to talk to our local county council.

Chicken coops

Reinventing the Chicken Coop: 14 Original Designs with Step-by-Step Building InstructionsYou can build your own, or buy. Building a chicken coop is fun if you like projects. For some ideas, check out “Reinventing the Chicken Coop: 14 Original Designs with Step-by-Step Building Instructions” by Kevin McElroy and Matthew Wolpe. From that page, you will see lots of other books with fresh ideas for coops.

Alexandria Chicken Coop & RunIf you are buying, check out the stylish coops from Williams Sonoma, more traditional designs from Petco, and lots more online coop discussions at Ready-made coops are sometimes sold at Southern States in the springtime, or on CraigsList.


Typically, you will start with baby chicken or young hens. During the springtime, many  “Southern States” stores sell chicks during “Chick Days”. Southern States is like Home Depot for agricultural supplies. Other times of the year, attend local agricultural fairs (e.g., the Montgomery County Agricultural Fair in Gaithersburg every August). Search for sellers on CraigsList. See an 8 minute video from Martha Stewart TV about chicks.

When they are babies, you keep them inside (e.g., in a bin) with a heat lamp, food, water, wood shavings on the floor:

When they are older, they live outside (year-round), in a secure, covered coop, with a protected “run” to run around during the day. See videos on getting started with a flock.

Feed and supplies

backyardchickens.comBuy feed and supplies from Souther States stores in Poolesville, Spencerville, GermantownMount AiryFrederick, or Annapolis. Organic feed is also sold by Nick’s Organic Farm in Buckeystown, Maryland; East Rivendell Farm in Damascus, MD, and other local suppliers.

Sites and blogs

A good online site is Other good sites include, community chickens,, and the Winnipeg Urban Chicken Association.

See also “Brief on Chickens 2012” guide for getting chickens approved in a local community from; and “How to get your city to allow backyard chickens” from Grist in 2011.

Social media

PinterestPinterest has a ton of “backyard chicken” pins, “backyard chicken” boards, “urban chicken” pins, and “urban chicken” boards.

FacebookSee also FaceBook pages: Chickens for Backyards, Keeping Chickens, Backyard Poultry magazine, Raising Chickens, and Community Chickens.

On Twitter, search for the hashtag #backyardchickens, or search for occasional Tweets about backyard chickens near MoCo.

Join an email list for backyard chickens in Montgomery County.

Nearby Counties

Prince George’s County – web site and petition 

Arlington Egg Project – web site and petition

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