Your JCLC Libraries Have the 411 on Raising Chickens


By Tisha George |West End & Titusville Branch Libraries 

 Summer is here! And in my family, we have been waiting patiently for this time of the year. And it’s not due to the blooming flora or the warmth of the sun on our winter skin, although that has definitely been a  welcomed addition to our largely indoor lives this year. 

Folks, it’s because of the chickens. 

 Keeping backyard chickens is one of the easiest and most rewarding experiences an urban homesteader can have. First, you have a box of cute little balls of fluff and in a few more months, you have fresh omelets made from your own eggs. And in between, you spread some mulch, keep an eye out for rulebreakers, do a little coop-keeping, and enjoy watching and listening to their little personalities emerge as they scratch and cluck around in their yards.

In Alabama, there are many places to get chicks. Craigslist has them. Facebook has many local groups dedicated to raising chickens and most users sell their chicks. Tractor Supply Company also gets chicks in the Spring, although you must be vigilant, calling every day to check and see if they’ve arrived; a sales associate with the Chelsea area Tractor Supply store informed me that they will sell out within hours. And there are various hatcheries online that you can order from, and they will be shipped to your local post office for pickup. 

 So, what do you need to start raising chickens? 

First, check your local city ordinances to make sure chickens are allowed in your neighborhood. The city of Birmingham is linked here.

 Second, grab some books! Learn all you can about the different breeds. There are chickens that lay white or brown eggs, but also breeds that lay eggs that are olive green or blue! And they all taste the same, so it’s really just personal preference. Some breeds are profound layers; some aren’t. And some chickens are cold hardy, while others do well in warmer climates. And there are other ideas to consider, such as creating a chicken brooder to keep the chicks warm while they’re young and setting up a critter-proof enclosure.

We learned so much by visiting our library when we began our chicken keeping journey. Birmingham has books on raising chickens, as well as building coops and creating a safe and healthy environment for them. And there are many more library materials available to you within the JCLC cooperative (which includes the 18 Birmingham Public Library locations).

 I’ve listed a few of my favorites below.

Choosing & Raising Chickens: The Complete Guide to Breeds & Welfare by Jeremy Hopkins and Celia Lewis  

Chick Days: An Absolute Beginners Guide to Raising Chickens from Hatching to Laying  by Jenna Wolginrich

50 Do-It-Yourself Projects for Keeping Chickens: Chicken Coops,  Brooders, Runs, Swings, Dust Baths and More! by Janet Garman

Backyard Chickens: Beyond the Basics by Pam Freeman

A variety of eggs from our previous flock. Photo taken by the author.

A lot has happened since I originally started writing this blog in early March. I’ve ordered our chicks and they have grown nearly their full size in just two months' time. We’ve chosen a sweet tempered, hardy egg laying breed, the Marans. From past experience, 6-7 chickens keep us in enough eggs to occasionally share with friends and neighbors. 

So now it's time to build our chickens their coop and enclosure. And that means we are headed back to the library for more books!