Getting Started with Backyard Chickens

Six months ago, I stumbled across the Web site Knowing that my historic neighborhood on the east side of Indianapolis was still zoned for the birds, the site piqued my interest. Feeling thoroughly introduced to the subject after two minutes of browsing (I have the attention span of a squirrel), I navigated elsewhere.

Over the next few months, though, I found myself with chicken on the brain. Weekly, if not nightly, I revisited the site, as well as a menagerie of similar ones. I read blogs, forums, and story after story of urban and rural Americans falling back in love with this once-familiar, feathered farm friend.

RAW VIDEO – October 1, 2009 – Saturday Evening Post Sr. Web Producer, Josh Deckard, and staff videographer, John Rozewicki, visit Heavenly Springs Farm in Greencastle, Indiana, to buy six one-day-old bantam Ameraucana chickens. Later, the chicks are shown in their new home, a cardboard box in Deckard’s basement on Indianapolis’ near-east side.

Idle curiosity promptly gave way to intense research. I wanted a flock of my own. I studied coops, breeds, feeders, feed, and anything else I could find related to raising chickens. I met owners, asked questions, and was introduced to their flocks. I was becoming a “chicken person.”

Since then, I have leaped feet first into avian ownership. I jumped aboard the urban-chicken bandwagon last week when I drove 40 minutes west to Heavenly Springs Farm in Greencastle, Indiana. There, I met Sally Mayall, a fellow chicken person, and six one-day-old, unsexed chicks, for which I paid $2 each. Sally and her family are blue-blooded chicken fanatics. “I love chickens. I think everyone should have one!” she exclaimed. Her daughter, she said, even watches TV with them.

A mature, blue bantam americuana chicken takes poses for the camera at Sally Mayall's Heavenly Springs Farm in Greencastle, Indiana. October 1, 2009.
A mature, blue bantam Ameraucana chicken poses for the camera at Sally Mayall’s Heavenly Springs Farm in Greencastle, Indiana. October 1, 2009.

My new flock are bantam Ameraucanas, a smaller, exotic breed that lays bluish-green eggs, which I found quite novel. In a New Yorker article last week, though, writer Susan Orlean pointed out that Martha Stewart once featured her flock of the same breed in her first book, Entertaining. Disappointed that Martha beat me to the punch on this one (in my defense, I was one year old at the time the book was published), I am, however, pleased to discover we chicken people are in good company.


Want your own flock? Here are some resources I found helpful:

Small Flock Management, Mississippi State University Extension

Community/Forums on

Where to buy: is a great resource to find local hatcheries, breeders, and chicken people. Navigate to the site, find your city, and search for “chicks” and/or “chickens.” Also check your newspaper’s classifieds.

Gallery: View more photos, click here.

Questions? Please, ask. Comment below.