It’s been nearly four years since the chickens came home to roost in Idaho Falls.
By all appearances, it’s going well.
The urban chicken trend has continued to gain in popularity since the city passed an ordinance allowing residents to raise chickens in their backyards. The Idaho Falls City Council passed the ordinance in October 2010. It allows residents to keep six hens in their backyards. Roosters aren’t allowed. Neither is selling eggs for profit or slaughtering hens on the premises.
Animal services supervisor Irene Brown said her office is receiving more and more inquiries about raising fowl. The city’s ordinance does not require a license or permit, so it is impossible to say how many residents are engaged in the practice.
Still, the trend seems to be going strong throughout the region.
Mike Anthoney, who’s in charge of buying livestock and pets for C-A-L Ranch Stores, said this year about 125,000 chicks destined for backyards were sold in the chain’s 25 locations in Idaho, Utah, Nevada and Arizona.
“It’s still staying very popular,” Anthoney said. “It’s a huge market because it involves everything from the feeders, the waterers, the housing and then the feed.”
Anthoney, who lives in Idaho Falls, raises chickens in his backyard.
“They’re fun to have,” he said. “People who raise chickens in town do it for two reasons. One, they get fresh eggs. Two, they’re pets. Anyone who is raising them in town has names for their chickens.”
There even are toys for chickens.
Anthoney’s hens produce an egg a day. That’s 42 eggs a week.
Animal control officer Danyelle Harker said there have been few problems since the ordinance passed.
“I know there are a lot of people with hens, but we haven’t had many issues here at animal control: not many issues, not many complaints, not many stray chickens,” she said.
Roosters are the biggest problem. They usually come when chicks are bought from a store, because every once in a while one of the androgynous young chickens will have its sex misidentified, Brown said. Eventually, what a buyer thought was a clucking hen grows up to be a crowing cock.
“The neighbors will complain because it will start cock-a-doodle-doing at five-o’clock in the morning,” she said.
Brown remembers only five chicken complaints this year: four about roosters, and one about more than six hens being kept in one yard.
Wayne Jones, an educator with the Bonneville County office of University of Idaho Extension, said raising chickens requires a commitment not to be taken lightly.
“You have to realize that they are livestock, and you have to take care of them. You can’t leave on vacation for a week and expect the birds to take care of themselves,” he said.
Other potential problems include lice and predation by raptors. But for those willing to commit, the experience can be rewarding, Jones said.
“There’s a lot of fun in raising chickens,” he said.
Jake Lowe, store manager of the Idaho Falls C.A.L Ranch Store, said a homeowner can get into raising chickens for an investment of only about $50, if they are willing to build their own coop.
“Chickens are almost one of the cheapest investments,” he said.
Reporter Bryan Clark can be reached at 542-6751.