Passionate About the Community
and the Moms Who Live Here

Backyard Hens — Nashville’s Other Hot Chicken

Why did the chicken cross the road?
Because it escaped from my yard again.

 

I had not even finished packing up our apartment when I printed off the Davidson County Domestic Hen Permit.  I had a coop picked out and had gone through all the chicken books Nashville Public Library has to offer.

 Moving to a house in East Nashville with a big backyard was a dream for many reasons, chief among them was chickens!  Within 2 weeks of moving in we brought home 6 chicks.

Backyard hens are legal in Davidson County and have been gaining in popularity over the last few years.  I know of several families who have chickens just in our neighborhood and I see Instagram chicken pictures daily. Why do all these already-busy families want to raise livestock in a cul-de-sac? Let me tell you.

They are so easy.

Now, it is true that our first months with chickens were not perfect.   3 turned out to be roosters, which are illegal, so they had to leave.  And as you might have guessed it took us a while to perfect the chicken coop, so we had many amusing moments chasing loose chickens around our yard – and our very nice neighbor’s yard.  Nobody wants to see a pregnant lady running arms out after a chicken at 6am. Oh, and chickens can fly.  Not very high or for very long, but enough to ‘jump’ right over that fence you were so proud of.

Now that they are laying they are not as interested in escaping, thank God.  They instinctually go inside their coop when the sun goes down and all they want is a little food and water once a day. 

No walks, no vet visits, no real noise and they never come inside.  Easiest pets ever.

They feed us.

As I type this there are 9 organic, fresh, pastured eggs on my counter.  Every single day we wake up to 3 new eggs, 1 from each lady.  Since I’m enormously pregnant and have a hungry toddler (and husband) having delicious omelets every morning is amazing.  And MAN they are tasty eggs, if I do say so myself. It doesn’t matter how great your farmer’s market is, you can’t buy eggs any fresher than 20 minutes old.

backyard chickens hens Nashville

I have a very tight budget, so we DIY’d a chicken run and got a coop on sale. All-in we spent around $300, which is a bit less than most people starting out.  We get 21 organic eggs a week.  At the cost of the farm eggs we were buying before, it will take less than a year for us to break even and 90% of that cost was the coop which we’ll have (hopefully) forever.
Buying a chick is about $2.  So after 2-3 years when these ladies slow down the egg delivery, we’ll fork over the 2 bucks for another lovely lady.

I love them for my daughter. 

There are some crazy chicken people out there.  If you don’t believe me check any one of the enormous facebook groups devoted to backyard chickens – chickens taking a warm bath because they feel sick and painting chicken’s claws with nail polish anyone? But I have to say they are pretty amusing to have around.
For my 2-year-old, they are magical.

cute backyard chickens hens rules regulations pros consAll you have to say is “Do you want to help with the chickens?” And she will come running, yelling “CHICK! CHICK CHICK!”  She’s not allowed to touch them yet, but she helps me carry out kitchen scraps and water and talks to them through the coop fence.  She absolutely loves to help and could watch them all day.

This winter it will become her job to carry the eggs in for me when I have my hands full with a newborn.

There’s even great research that links children who grow up with outdoor pets and livestock having stronger immune systems and fewer allergies.

Backyard Chicken Facts:

  • We don’t have to refrigerate or wash our eggs. Eggs have a special protective coating on them that keeps bacteria out while mom sits on them for the month it takes to hatch.  If you don’t wash the eggs, this protection is intact and eggs can be safely left in a cool dry area for several weeks.  It’s illegal to sell unwashed eggs in this country, which is why your eggs have always been in the fridge.
  • It takes 4-5 months for most chickens to lay. If you want to get eggs faster and make the backyard egg-factory cheaper, you can buy older hens that are laying or close to laying age locally for about $10 each.
  • Permits in Nashville are easy to get but there are lots of rules. You must apply for a permit before bringing home chicks.  And there are county guidelines for where the coop can be, how it should be built and even where it can be seen from.  Allowing them to just “free-range” full time in your yard is illegal. They have to have an enclosed predator-proof coop.  There are also restrictions on number of chickens per acre. They do not require a lot of space, but most residential backyards are only big enough for around 6 hens.  Metro Animal Control has all the permit details on their website, under Domestic Hens.
  • They can make you sick. Just because hens are hands-down the easiest livestock to own doesn’t mean they aren’t livestock.  Like any bird, they can have bacteria in their waste that makes humans sick, including salmonella.  Just wash your hands after handling them and wipe down dirty eggs prior to use. And DO NOT kiss your chickens.  I say this because it’s a topic that comes up way too often in chicken circles – seriously.  Some people are also allergic to their dander, just like with cats or dogs.
  • You can ship them through the mail.  Hatcheries will express-mail you 1-day-old chicks in bulk. For real. I wasn’t planning on buying enough chicks for this service and it kind of freaks me out. So I went to Tractor Supply instead.  All the locations are around Nashville sell chicks throughout the Spring and several have Fall babies as well.  Want laying hens or a special breed?  Craigslist is always full. 

It’s totally worth it. I woke up this morning, the first day it felt like fall, and took my toddler outside to play while I collected fresh eggs and watched the ladies peck around.  It was a great way to start my day. 


Megan Whitaker is proud to be a Nashville native who’s had pit stops in Chicago, Kansas City and LA.  She married an Alabama boy 3.5 years ago, who she converted to an East Nashville hippie.  He converted her to an SEC football fan, and works as a high school Youth Minister in Oak Hill.  She’s a Register Nurse turned stay-at-home mom and is expecting baby 2.  Her daughter was born at a local birth center and this baby will be arriving at home this winter.  Momming is her dream job, but she also has a deep love of health and wellness education.  Her passion for nutrition, non-toxic living,  and all-things pregnancy & birth drove her to start GoingCrunchyNotCrazy where she gives her nurse’s spin on being a super crunchy hippie. Follow her on Instagram @GoingCrunchyNotCrazy

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