Sustainable America Blog

Backyard Chickens

Imagine having access to your own eggs, fresh, every day. When you have your own backyard chickens, you will have access to all the eggs you can eat and you will know exactly what your chickens ate to make those eggs. Chickens are also great upcyclers, they will eat almost all your kitchen scraps – vegetables, fruit, bread, rice… basically anything but chicken!

Many counties have restrictions on livestock, so check to make sure that backyard chickens are legal in your neighborhood before you start. Courtesy to neighbors is also important protocol. Chickens are noisy animals so you want to bu sure that you place your coop out of neighbors ear shot.

When building a coop, a place for the chickens to nest and sleep at night is crucial, and you should plan for a larger enclosure where they can roam and eat bugs and the feed that you give them.

If you want to start with baby chicks, you can buy them online. There are lots of websites that sell different breeds of chicken. If you want a real egg laying machine, check out the Rhode Island Red, but there are also more exotic breeds like the Poodle Chicken… enough said.


If you start with chicks, you’ll want to keep them in a box with a warming lamp for about the first 6 weeks and they will only eat chick started feed until they get old enough to be on their own in the coop.

For the coop and enclosure, make sure you have:

  • A raised area with a “nest” where the chickens can feel safe sleeping and laying their eggs. They like to sleep off the ground because the ground is where their natural predators roam.
  •  A way to access the eggs, either a door or a roof that opens so you can get to the eggs each day. Make sure when you harvest the eggs that the chickens aren’t sitting on them! That will make them feel nervous to lay in that nest again. Wait until they are roaming the enclosure and can’t see you.

If you have a fully secure enclosure then you don’t have to clip their wings. If your enclosure is just fenced, you will have to clip the chickens wings every few weeks. They are birds and they can fly!

For some great coop designs and more information on caring for your chickens, check out and don’t forget to ask your friends for creative omelet recipes!

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.

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