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Farms, in Berkeley? Help!

Jan 2014

The scene: long-time residents of Berkeley, moderate income, finally saved enough to do some landscaping in the backyard, including a small patio area which induces visions of lovely, relaxed Sunday morning coffee or leisurely meals with friends. They love it!

Next: family moves in directly behind them, so they are back-yard neighbors who share a back fence. No issues there! Until: we realize said family has brought...........farm animals with them! As soon as they moved in, we were absolutely BOMBARDED with endless squawking, screeching, honking, snorting, screaming, and whatever other assorted noises chickens and ducks can make. There goes the relaxation, right? And it's not just occasional, it's constant. Well, ok, maybe playing music can help ( though we're not always in the mood for music loud enough to drown out squabbling animals, but I digress...).

But! That's not the only problem with said farm animals who live along our fence line. The bigger problem: they STINK! We aren't sure if it's poop, old eggs, feathers, rotten food, or a combination thereof, but our lovely patio area (along with other areas of our yard) REEKS. The smell is nauseating, and honestly prevents our use of our whole backyard.

The question: what to do? Yes, we've tried speaking with them, and although they do have other options for location of the outdoor ''coop'' (or whatever it is that keeps them abutted against our fence at all times) and they did say they would ''do something'', nothing has been done

This seems really unreasonable to us. Anyone have ideas? Can stench be considered a ''public nuisance'', and if so, who do we contact? Are there no rules or guidelines for keeping farm animals in the city? Can they be kept regardless of huge negative impact on neighbors? If we were to complain, who might we be complaining to?

Anyone have ideas, or dealt with similar issues? Chicken/duck poison, anyone? J/k... We are completely frustrated and honestly can't believe this is ''ok''. If politely asking doesn't work, what might you do if you were in our place?

Thanks so much for your advice. Overwhelmed by foul odor


Sounds like a good time to brush up on your city codes and get face to face with the city officials. We had a similar situation in my city (Contra Costa - El Cerrito). Our neighbors had chickens, which brought with them, noise, stink, flies, raccoons, rats, etc. Often the chickens would get out and come into my yard. Sometimes the raccoons would kill them and drag them into my back yard blood, feathers and all. The 5 cats and large dog would lounge in my yard as there was no room at their house. Before my son could play our fenced in back yard we would have to do a ''poop'' patrol. I diligently combed through the code and permit process for "livestock" for my city. This information should be posted on your cities government website. I was able to find out that chickens and chicken coups cannot be located w/in 90 feet of a dwelling or a neighbors dwelling (fence and all). In addition, a yearly permit fee was required to have a chicken which was quite lucrative (read hundreds of dollars). We had approached our neighbors several times nicely about the situation with no resolution or compromise. So I had no reservations in filing a "complaint" at the city level after months of issues. Once the complaint was filed the city was required to come out and take a look. It was IMMEDIATELY apparent that the back yard farm was not conforming to the ordinance and also a permit was never pulled to have the chickens (and all the other animals that came along). I believe the code enforcement officer stated ''why didn't you bring this to our attention sooner''. Our neighbors were cited and elected not to pull the necessary permits. Shortly the coup was gone and the chickens were sold. While Berkeley has different codes, this might be an avenue to look into. Best of luck! enjoying our space again
There is a really down to earth urban garden guy who has kind of a mediator personality. I think he does free consultations - maybe asking for tips on how to manage your side of the fence and conversation? Halliday Dresser (Wabi Gardens). 415-494-9445. I've been maintaining a coop for 10 years, and neighbor issues are important!! Good Luck with opening up a conversation! I tend to check and re check for these exact items you are citing. An empathetic coop owner in Berkeley
Each city has specific rules re how many clucking, honking, etc creatures you are allowed to have. I suggest you go to City Hall and persist until you fnd out the exact rules in Berkeley, then document the mess and have the cops over for a visit to independently verify this.

I have backyard chickens and am very insistent on keeping the chicken yard clean. If neighbors find the smell too much, then someone's lazy about cleaning up after the chickens. Or, they have too many chickens/ other pets: San Francisco for instance only allows four of each of these types of pets. Responsible Chicken Owner.


Neighbor's Chickens Attracting Skunks - STINKY!

June 2011

We live on a corner lot and our neighbor directly behind us has chickens. The chicken coop is about 50 feet from our back door. The neighborhood skunks are attracted to the chickens at night. They come through the area, sometimes right by our bedroom windows, and spray. Of course, this isn't such a big deal when it's chilly and all the windows are closed. But, when it's warm and the windows are open it is seriously stinky! We are getting skunked multiple nights a week. We're afraid to sleep with our windows open for fear of being awoken by skunk spray. Instead, we keep the windows closed and get a hot and fitful night's sleep. So, what to do? I'm sure the neighbor isn't going to get rid of the chickens. The City of Berkeley has stated that they do not trap wild animals. Anyone have a method for keeping the skunks away?


Eeeeeek. I think I would send the neighbors a copy of your posting. If I knew I was causing that type of aggravation to my neighbors, I would be deeply ashamed. But beyond that... maybe you can locate some foxes? If the City of Berkeley can't take care of the chickens, I know the foxes can! farm girl
I doubt it is the chickens that are attracting the skunks. Your neighbor isn't letting the skunks eat the eggs and chickens, is she? The skunks have probably found a cozy spot under the coop to den up. I recommend that you talk to your neighbor about modifying the foundation of the coop so animals can't get underneath. Skunks seem to have become more numerous over the past few years. I think it would help if everybody excluded them from warm cozy spots like the areas under sheds and other outbuildings. anon
There is only one solution to your skunk problem---Eat More Chicken! Other than that you could try a fence as skunks can't climb as ground dwellers. They might try to dig under a short fence but they won't climb over. They tend to be creatures of easy opportunity that follow their noses to find food along an easy route. Something like a dog or cat must be spooking them to cause the spray. Electric fences will work but the first few times they get into it they will automatically spray but then learn not to come around that area. anon

Chickens brooding then not laying

Sept 2007

Hello, I am a new chicken owner and am puzzled by the non-laying of one of my chickens. She began laying in April, then brooded in June. We put the ceramic eggs under her, and counted the 21 days until she would stop brooding. While she is acting a lot more normal, and eating and all, she had not returned to laying. I can not seem to figure out why. Any ideas? what I might be able to do to help her start laying again? thanks for any advice! wanting some eggs!


Hi -- I have to say that I never thought I would be giving out ''chicken advice'' on the BPN! Anyhow, my husband and I have raised many chickens over the years, and once in a while, came across a broody hen. We never found a solution, and after asking at a feed store in Napa, where we lived at the time, we were told that there is no solution, that like the hens who learn to peck their eggs, they must be separated from the rest of the hens or they the others learn to become broody too. We never did separate them and the other hens did not become broody, but they never did really lay well again. We'd get an occasional egg, but did not find a good solution, I'm sorry to say! Would love to hear about it if you do!Good luck ~ f
Chickens can be frustrating creatures. It can take a while for a broody chicken to begin laying again. If she's looking healthy, then there's usually no reason for worry, just patience. Also, remember that egg laying slows way down in the Fall. The dwindling light's to blame; hens need a certain amount per day to keep up production. With thirteen hens, we're only averaging about two-five eggs per day-some of this is because of varying ages of the hens; some from ''hidden'' eggs in the yard, but a lot of it's because of the lack of daylight hours. Best, -The Chicken Lady
It does seem unusual that your hen hasn't returned to laying eggs. Some breeds tend toward broodiness more than others. Now that it is fall, hens tend to lay less eggs because of the shorter days and cooler weather. I would wait till spring and at that point hopefully she's back on track. I tend to discourage my hens from going broody, by lifting them off the nest several times a day and not providing them any eggs to sit on. Although, I have to confess, once they are broody they will not lay for a couple of months. Perhaps this is an old wives tale, but I think that hens with larger redder combs are better layers. I've had chickens for 7 years. Lots of different breeds. Feel free to contact me if you like. Wilma
One of my hens went broody some time ago, and it took about two months to get over it. I had to physically remove her from the coop and lock her out on a daily basis, and did not let her brood. She eventually got over it and is laying again. I don't know what your setup is, but she may also be laying in a new secret location (mine once decided to hide in the garage at one point, which I didn't discover for a couple weeks). Anon

Thinking about getting 2-3 backyard chickens

June 2007

We are interested in keeping 2 or 3 chickens in our backyard. Who has tried this and what advice can you give us? Where do you get supplies, chicken feed, the pen/coop etc.? Do the chickens stink? What do you do if you go out of town? We have read a lot about the possibilities online, but would love to hear from anyone with actual experience. -Chicken about chickens


Try contacting the 4H Club who specialize in teaching youth about agriculture and keeping farm animals. There's an Oakland chapter that meets at the Montclair Rec Center at 6:30PM on the third Monday of each month. Contact: Marianne Depetris at 510-339-6236 gannon6@aol.com Or for an Alameda contact: Contact Email: cealameda@ucdavis.edu Phone: 510-567-6812 Official Website http://cealameda.ucdavis.edu/Custom%5FProgram/ Good luck! Also, you should check with your local authorities about what is considered animal abuse so that you can avoid that. Ie; size of cage. FYI: I believe in Oakland, roosters are illegal. lisa
First, check out the web site www.backyardchickens.com. All kinds of advice for newbies. Where to go? Try Lucky Dog Pet Shop on San Pablo in Berkeley, across from Jack-in-the-Box. Their chicks are pretty big now (pullets - females under 1 y.o.) and they are kept out back - ask for them. They claim they are all female, and my experience confirmed that. They have all needed supplies, including chicken huts, feed, etc. Good luck! Fellow newbie of few months - doing good!
So I saw your post and while I do not have chickens I have a friend who has had chickens for many years and so I asked him for his input. Here's his response: As it happens, in THIS WEEK's East Bay Express, there's a wonderful article on raising the ''Urban Chicken.'' I read it yesterday and I was struck by the fact that there was absolutely nothing in the charming article that I could disagree with (an unusual state in my readings in the popular press.) Check it out, as it's a very good, realistic, and concise overview of the project. And, as they say, it's rare to have a family pet that pays its own rent (in eggs for the family.) I hope the article will be helpful. Cluck Cluck
I got 4 chicks last year, raised them into laying hens and lost my entire backyard. They eat EVERYTHING except mint. On the plus side, they also will eat any and all left-overs (including meat. I do not feed them anything w/ poultry in it, but chickens naturally will eat insects and small rodents/birds if given the opportunity, so I do give them some meat leftovers once infrequently). My once lush yard is now a desert waste land. They've also eaten the snails and other bugs. Of course, you don't have to let them free-range, you can have a chicken run and you must have a coop and nesting/laying box. I live in Berkeley and buy my scratch from either Lucky Dog or Animal Farm. I buy bedding straw at Rivertown Feed in Petaluma, though I'm sure there's someplace closer. Lucky Dog usually has straw, but it's often damp and/or moldy. They are relatively easy to care for (yes, the yard does smell like a barnyard, flies are an issue at times, and there's a lot of chicken poop to clean off the cement and out of the coop). I leave them in the care of a neighbor when I leave town. They are a lot of fun, a bit of work, and will destroy your yard. The eggs are delicious and I know they are healthy. There are plenty of pros AND cons; If you email me I'll go into more detail about city chickens and my experience.
We've never kept chickens ourselves but our next door neighbor did for several months. When we first moved in and we saw the chickens we were quite apprehensive. However, they turned out to be very sweet creatures and surprisingly clean. We even watched / fed the chickens a few times when the neighbors went out of town. We became quite attached to them. You will notice that I speak in the past tense. That is because one night the chickens were brutally slaughtered by a marauding raccoon. Apparently, this was not the first time this happened to our neighbors. They had tried solved the problem by installing a coop with a time release latch that would unlock early in the morning. The chickens would put themselves in the coop in the early evening every night and the owners would close the gate behind them. Then in the early morning, the gate would automatically unlatch and the chickens could roam freely. The problem on the night of the slaughter was that the owners did not get out to the coop early enough to close the gate. It still saddens us. Moral of the story - look out for the raccoons. anon
I have kept chickens for many years and recommend it. I bought my chicks from Lucky Dog and I buy my feed from Animal Farm; both are on San Pablo in Berkeley. The hardest and most expensive part is getting set up with a coop and run. There are lots of designs available, all involving a place to roost, nesting boxes, food and water, and nighttime protection from predators. I built my own, but there may be prefab coops you can order over the internet. Once established, its pretty low maintenance and it doesn't have to smell; a good supply of sawdust, wood shavings, etc. does wonders for the odor problem, though it tends to be worse when the ground is wet. Feel free to contact me for further info. or if you want to come and take a look. Chris
We've got 4 chickens in our backyard and it's easy-peasy. Lots of pet stores around here have chicken supplies and some even have chicks. Typically, the closer in stores are more expensive & the stores further from Berkeley are cheaper. Last year, Lucky Dog on San Pablo sold chicks for around $5-6 bucks, while Mike's Feed in San Leandro had chicks in the $2-3 range, I think.

I got pretty picky about no animal products in my feed, so I've been going down to Hayward to Close Feed & Supply to buy Purina's Layena pellets. I don't have to go often and it's not far from my work so I haven't looked much into the organic feeds I've seen sold in the stores around here.

We built our coop ourself - it was a fun project with my parents during one of their visits. There's loads of simple plans online, nothing fancy is required - but do heed the advice of making it easy to get in and out of for cleaning, etc.

When we go out of town our neighbors take turns collecting eggs & checking food & water. They're usually more than happy to get the fresh eggs, and it's fun for their kids as well.

Our coop smells a little when you stand right next to it, but mostly that's because we're going with the ''composting'' (aka lazy) method of bedding. From what I've read it's acceptable to either change the bedding on a regular basis, or keep adding to it to get it to build up into a lovely compost for the yard.

And, of course, you should run out and try to find a copy of this weeks East Bay Express which has a short (but good) article on just this topic, including local codes (which we unknowingly broke in building our coop).

I feel like so many folks around here have chickens, wouldn't it be great if we had a local email group to exchange tips, thoughts, ideas, even short-term equipment lending (like chick feeders) and coop tours. If anyone knows of something like this - post the website/email address! got chicks


I thought I posted a response to this, but it didn't show up; perhaps I did a PM instead. Well, I *don't* think it's so easy- peasy -- I have had 4 free range hens in what once was a tropical backyard and now is a desert waste-land. I mean I once had a lawn, where I now have DUST. Tropical plants, where I now have NOTHING. Chickens eat EVERYTHING: grass, weeds, all bugs etc. My 4 hens destroyed 50 tulip bulbs, a healthy 4 foot ginger plant, several other plants including especially impatients... EVERYTHING except the mint that springs up on it's own. Their shit is either tolerable or HORRENDOUS, and it smells like a barnyard (not bad to me... think of your neighbors, though. And there are flies. Lots of flies. And we clean up. A lot.) Once a hen goes broody, you're guaranteed an exercise in tolerance... or you get eggs for her to hatch (I've been dealing with this for three weeks now). They will come in the house if you have a cat door, or you keep your backdoor open. They will scratch up anything/seed or seedlings you set out... They can fly. They can fly out of the yard over 7 foot fences (so sometimes you have to find them in the neighborhood, if your neighbors -- or dogs/cars -- don't find them first).

The upside is: they eat leftovers -- anything you put out, except for onions and mint, they'll eat. The eggs are Fantastic! Amazing! Healthy! and not 5 bucks a dozen. The down side: broody hens stop laying... and other hens may stop when one hen is broody so you may end up with no eggs for awhile unless you buy fertile eggs for broody mcbrooderton to set upon.

There are ups and downs, for sure. They can be picky about scratch; mine will only eat mealy scratch and ignore all scratch with pellets. Mine want to commune with humans, which means they try to get in the house whenever they can. A couple of the hens are pets in a sense; they allow themselves to be pet and picked up. The other two run away from humans. I have more wisdom to impart, but please email me for more. Chickens really aren't ''easy peasy'' and I don't want you to make the same mistake I did -- I love my hens, but it takes a lot of work and attention. You become a farmer when you get laying hens, it's not an easy task. hen pecked


I don't have any chickens yet! but I am a member of a yahoo group called chickenchatcoop. Here's the description: Welcome to the California Wine Country's Chicken Chat Coop! This is a place for all the good chicken lovers of the Wine Country to come together and share stories, secrets and chickens. Feel free to share about your favorite breed, or tell us about the design of your coop, if you free range on a farm or you are a city dweller with a few chicks. Need information? Check out the Files, Links and Database here. All are welcomed to share in good chicken fun!

Not all members are from wine country. Perhaps you could get some good advice here too.. I wish for chickens!


I have been looking at this website... http://www.backyardchickens.com/ Looks like they have a lot of good info too! I want chickens!
Before putting those chickens in your back yard, don't forget to check with your city's local ordinances. It is illegal to keep chickens in Oakland. Signed, Cluck Envy in Crocker Highlands julie
Well, I have chickens too - 4 hens and I am loving it. It is not easy peesy as mentioned but not difficult either and I do have a wonderful garden. I clip my chickens wings so they can only fly up 3 feet - no harm to chickens but you have to know how to do it right so if you don't know how take your chickens to someone who does know how. As for my garden - they get a small area and I have a great 3 foot high dog fence (you can get them 4' hight) to keep them where I want to so that they will not destroy my garden. As for brooding hens - I heard from an old timer that you put the brooder in a box with good ventilation and an ice bag to keep the box very cool - he said it will stop the brooding within 24 hours - I haven't tried that yet but might next year. Mine are not laying yet but will be soon. If you want chickens that come from a farm email Debbie in Vacaville (rodahughsfam at sbcglobal.net) - I got a Maran, Americauna, Red laced Wyandotte and a Faverolle all around 6 months. I bought a rabbit hutch from craigslist and renovated it into a super coop. Anyone who is up on chickens and wants to talk chicken sometime? We should start a support group if there is enough interest. BIG BIRD
One more thought about backyard chickens. I don't know what city you live in, but you should probably check with your city re the rules for backyard chickens. I live in Albany, and when I called to inquire about this, I was told to submit an application with a $500 fee! In addition to the fee, I had to produce a scale drawing of the coop, and there were very strict requirements about how large, how far from lot lines, etc. Good luck! anon
Hi again! I'm the ''easy-peasy'' poster, and I actually want to second what ''hen pecked'' wrote. If you let your chickens free range they absolutely WILL tear apart your yard and it will not be so easy. We did this for a few weeks before I decided that I'd rather have a yard than ''real'' free range chickens. So, we added on to their coop: they now have a spacious coop and a spacious ''run'' directly attached. Both are built to be rodent & racoon proof (so far, so good!). Thus, we still have a lovely yard, we don't have to remember to put the chickens in or out, and we don't have to worry about the raccoons getting them. We also just load up the chicken feed & let them eat as much as they want whenever they want, so there's no daily feedings. (Like I said, we're lazy). If we ever get nostalgic for the free range days, we let them out for a few hours. And then we remember why we built the run.

And even with the broodiness, cracked eggs, and other miscellaneous issues that come up, I still think they're easy.

good luck! easy-peasy, but not free range


Where to get a chicken coop

Jan 2007

Our family has ended up with a beautiful red hen! My 4 yr old loves the hen. And although, we have a nice backyard, we don't have a coop. Does anyone have a usuable chicken coop they don't use or need? Or, does anyone have suggestions for where I could get an inexpensive one? I have a car and am willing to drive 50 miles outside of Oakland. I was going to build a coop, but I seem to need one now. The chicken is spending nights perched on my bike, parked in our garage and laying eggs in corners of the yard, poor thing! Thanks! Lourdes


Chicken coops seem to be hot items. I looked for one for weeks prior to just building my own (not too difficult but the lumber, roofing, fencing, etc. ended up being more expensive than I had thought). Also, you need a quick solution or some hungry raccoon is going to have a delicious dinner. My suggestion is to look on Craigslist for an extra large wooden doghouse - for four chickens you need at least 8 square feet of floor space so a 2x4 structure would be enough (especially once you add a perch, and only if they are free range during the day). Obviously, you would need to add a locking door (a simple latch won't deter a raccoon), and a perch (1 1/2 inch dowel). I think 'Sierra' makes one (which you can buy as well - but I have seen them on CL for close to free) called the 'XL economy dog house'. There are sometimes actual chicken coops on craigslist, but they go fast, if they are reasonably priced. I have directions to build a 4x4 chicken coop from a Purina chicken care pamphlet (from the feed store) which I could copy and send to you. berkomax

Backyard Chickens and Bird Flu

Jan 2006

We are thinking about getting backyard chickens, and we're wondering whether or not we should be concerned about bird flu, particularly with a young child at home. Any chicken-owners out there have any thoughts on how much of a concern this is for Bay Area chickens? And what (if anything) have you done to protect your hens? chicken for chickens


We have backyard chickens and aren't concerned at all about the bird flu. There have been no cases -- either among birds or people -- in the United States or anywhere close, with Turkey the closest location. Even if there were cases down the road, our birds don't come into contact with other chickens, ducks, etc. For more info, visit http://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/bfletter.html anonymous
There is no avian (bird) flu in the US at this time. The short answer is that you are safe right now. If avian flu does make it here, any poultry, especially those outside, may be at risk. The risk for illness is greater for birds than humans at this point. But as you know, humans with close contact with birds (ie those with backyard poultry) have been infected in other countries. The human disease seems to be more fatal in children. Since one of the theories is that the virus spreads from wild birds coming from other areas, keeping birds housed indoors (in henhouses, not your house) may be protective, but not necessarily (the 2004 Canadian outbreak occurred in indoor poultry). You should observe very good hygiene (keeping anything that contacts birds out of the house or clean them thoroughly, hand hygiene, food hygiene-- CDC and the California Department of Health Services have websites with relevant information on avian flu and hygiene practices). In the event of avian flu in the US and specially in California, you will need to get rid of your birds right away. Taking medications to prevent flu is not advised. public health doc

Where to get real baby chicks

April 2003

Re Janet's message: I wonder if I'm the only person wondering where you found real baby chicks to be delivered in the mail! I've been very vaguely thinking of starting to keep chickens - would be interested in information about how to start. Janice


We ordered our chickens from McMurrayhatchery.com. HOWEVER, the minimum number of chicks sent is 25--apparently they need that many in order to stay warm. We currently have 23 (they threw in a few extra and four died on the way.) No way can we keep that many. Our plan, when they get slighly larger, is to give all but six or seven away--at the flea market? If you want some call me up!
March 2003

Re: where to see real baby chicks
My husband just decided to raise chickens. He built a coop and ordered a batch--they came in the US Mail if you can believe it. As of March 26 they were a little over a week old--still very cute. We live in North Berkeley. If you want to call right away they will still be chicks and your son is welcome to pet them--but they are growing rapidly. Janet


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