Backyard Barnyard

MONMOUTH — When Domenica Protheroe started her flock of four hens last April, she was more than ready to make a home for her family’s new additions.   A central player in the M-I Chicken Revolution, she began lobbying in 2011 to make backyard flocks in Monmouth and Independence legal after moving to Monmouth in 2009, so she was uniquely informed to raise her new chickens, named Ruby, Cozzi, Toto and Rose. Photo by Jolene Guzman From left, Cozzi, Toto and Ruby find a meal in their backyard home during a rain break Sunday afternoon.   Most people wouldn’t have to fight to change city codes before starting a flock, but the backyard chicken advocate stressed being ready ahead of time is the first step every new urban flock owner should take.    Much like putting a nursery together before a new baby is born, Protheroe suggests building a brooder, coop and chicken run before picking out your little cheepers. She also advised to be familiar with your city’s chicken laws and learn as much about proper care and feeding beforehand.   “Be prepared before you bring the girls home,” she said.   When set up properly, Protheroe said chickens are truly no-fuss pets, taking as little as five minutes each day to care for, with 20-minute cleaning chores each week. However, she does have one caveat to that estimate.   “You may find you are spending a lot more time in the garden because they are so entertaining,” she said.   Urban chickens — those raised in backyards within cities — are becoming increasingly popular, riding the local food movement wave. In Polk County, Dallas, Independence and Monmouth made recent changes to their city codes, allowing for backyard coops. Falls City has long made room for chickens within its city limits. Photo by Jolene Guzman Out and about   Following that recent popularity, events such as Old Mill Feed & Garden’s “Chick Day” and area “coop tours” are attracting increasing interest.   Protheroe said for those who want to know where and how their food is raised, chickens are an ideal option.    “I think they are an extension of the garden,” she said. “There is nothing more local than your backyard.”   Chickens, however, are not like other pets, especially if you want them to make your breakfast for you, to paraphrase the title of an M-I Revolution educational seminar.    Protheroe said her routine begins at daybreak, when she opens her coop and feeds “the girls.” At dusk, she hustles them back into the coop to close them in for the night, keeping them safe from predators.   “Their care is actually simpler than for my dog,” she said.    Resources on proper nutrition for chickens of any age are available at local libraries and feed stores for those looking for guidance. Protheroe said it doesn’t hurt to attend a seminar or coop tour for more expert advice. Photo by Jolene Guzman Three of the four hens in the Protheroe flock look for treats Sunday. Protheroe says if new owners set up their backyard coop and run properly, care for a small flock should take just minutes each day.   This won’t be news to anyone who has spent a winter or two in Oregon, but keeping chicken coops and runs dry is a concern during the rainy season.    Protheroe has had to modify her coop a few times this winter to keep her flock dry and comfortable. She said prospective chicken owners should build coops expecting soaking rain during winter and spring.   As to making sure to keep up with the “chicken house cleaning,” Protheroe offers this general rule of — ah, nose — as a guide.    “When you open the coop or run door, it should smell as clean as outside,” she said. “If it doesn’t, it’s time to clean it.”   Will Your City Allow Poultry?   Each city in Polk County allows residents to keep and raise chickens, with some limitations. Here is a basic overview:   Dallas: Those living in the city limits can raise up to five chickens — hens only — as long as chicken coops are on side and backyards at least 10 feet from property lines.    Independence: Owners of single-family homes in residential zones may keep up to five chickens — no roosters — on their property. Chicken coops must be located 20 feet or more from neighboring residences and built only on side and backyards.   Monmouth: Backyard chickens were approved for a two-year trial in 2012. The ordinance expires in July, but the Monmouth City Council will be revisiting the ordinance with a possibility of renewal this spring. Under the current ordinance, chickens can be kept in backyards in low- and medium-density zones and in mixed-residential zones. Up to five hens can be kept, housed in a chicken coop located at least 15 feet from neighboring property dwellings only on side and backyards.    Falls City: Chickens, no more than four per acre, can be kept on properties of at least a quarter-acre in size, so long as they are not intended for resale and kept in an enclosure. Roosters are not permitted.    For more information about chicken regulations, contact your city of residence: Dallas, 503-623-2338; Independence, 503-838-1212; Monmouth, 503-838-0722; and Falls City, 503-787-3631.   Learn More ...   Don’t feel comfortable bringing home any small feathered friends before knowing more about properly raising and feeding them? Old Mill Feed & Garden, 1313 Main St. in Dallas, is offering a seminar for those backyard chicken beginners called “Chicks 101.”   The class is scheduled March 25 at 6:30 p.m. It will provide information on raising your own flock of chickens, ducks or turkeys, including nutrition and care tips from experts. Photo by Jolene Guzman Baby Chick   Call 503-831-1222 or email to reserve a spot.   Start your flock:   Eagerly anticipated every year, Old Mill’s “Chick Day” means spring has finally arrived — and so have the baby chickens and ducks.   Every Chick Day — this year on April 5 — people line up well before the store opens at 8:30 a.m. to pick their perfect chicks from the thousands Old Mill brings in for the day. If you want to get a head start on your flock, check out Old Mill’s “Chick List” to select from available breeds. Find the list at and call 503-831-1222 to reserve your chicks.    More resources:   • M-I Chicken Revolution: A local group of backyard chicken advocates, M-I Chicken Revolution can provide a wealth of knowledge about caring for chickens.   Go to for the latest in local chicken news and for listings of seminars, chicken coop tours, and resources for the backyard chicken enthusiast.   • Old Mill Feed & Garden, 1313 Main St., Dallas; 503-831-1222.   • Polk County OSU Extension, 289 E. Ellendale, Suite 301, Dallas; 503-623-8395.   


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