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The unexpectedly low-maintenance pet. Earlier this spring we brought home our first chicks. During their first weeks they require close attention, but now that they are comfy in their backyard coop, we spend a maximum of five minutes each day on chicken care. I toss in a handful of feed, maybe some veggie scraps from the kitchen, freshen their water and I'm done. It's less work than having a dog!
Note: Chickens are prohibited in some cities, so be sure to check local chicken laws and ordinances in your city to see if your area allows a backyard flock before bringing your birds home.
Woo wary neighbors with fresh eggs. If your neighbors seem skeptical about your plans to keep chickens on your suburban lot, you can assure them you will be keeping the coop impeccably clean, you will be keeping only hens, not roosters, and you would be happy to share fresh eggs once the little ladies start laying.
Other chicken-keeping perks include: free, organic pest control (they love slugs!), kitchen waste removal (see a list of what they will eat here) and wonderful fertilizer for your garden from composted poop.
Seek out attractive digs. The look and feel of your coop can be incredibly important in keeping the peace with neighbors. You don't need to spend a fortune on a designer coop if you don't want to, but do pay attention to how it will fit in with other structures in your neighborhood. We found a low-profile A-frame chicken coop on Craigslist and with a fresh lick of paint ended up with a cute coop on a budget.
See more about home chicken coops
More chicken keeping resources:
Tap into beekeeping resources. While chickens are extremely low maintenance, becoming a beekeeper takes a bit more preparation. For instance, knowing that you must provide your bees with a water source would be good to learn before they decide to take a dip in your neighbor's pool. Check out these beekeeping forums to tap into an active online community of apian enthusiasts, and visit The Barefoot Beekeeper for more on getting started as a beekeeper using natural, low-cost methods.
Try a patio garden. If you are looking to dip your toes into the water of edible gardening, try starting by incorporating a few herbs or vegetables into existing flower beds. Many veggies and most herbs have ornamental foliage and lovely fruit and flowers, and can blend in quite easily with standard flower-border fare.
Give up unused lawn space to raised beds. If more production is what you are after, consider saying goodbye to a sunny piece of lawn and install raised vegetable beds instead.
See how to build a raised bed garden
Try ornamental edibles for a productive front yard. Twining vines of peas, deep purple leaves of kale, dramatic artichoke flowers, bright chili peppers and tender chives can all make lovely additions to a front yard. Gates and fences provide a natural support for climbing peas and beans, and if you mix perennial flowers in with your edibles, most people will walk by none the wiser.