A 10-year-old girl wearing a blue coat collects eggs from her family's chicken coop.
Monica Haden, 10, collects eggs from her family’s chicken coop on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023 in Lincoln. Monica helps her mother, Kate Haden, with many of the chores involved with raising chickens. Photo by Sarah Albin/NNS

As egg prices have reached eyebrow-raising heights, rather than flocking to the store to buy eggs, one Lincoln family found a different solution.

“It’s ridiculous,” Kate Haden said. “I had to buy eggs earlier this winter, because we ran out one week, and they were like $5 a dozen. You don’t pay attention to egg prices when you don’t have to buy them for months on end.”

While chickens might not be the first pet that comes to mind for many, Haden always thought about raising chickens but wasn’t sure if she could handle it. With some tips and encouragement from a friend, the idea became even more appealing to her.

“Getting eggs out of the deal was my husband’s way to buy in,” Haden said. “And now they’re literally my pets.”

4-H Extension Educator Calvin DeVries, who has run the third grade embryology program in Lincoln schools since 2019, has noticed an increase in interest in raising backyard chickens through the embryology program. Families have also contacted the Lancaster County Extension Office inquiring about how to get started raising chickens.

Before running to the local Tractor Supply Co. to pick up some chicks this Spring, there are a few things to keep in mind in order to raise happy and healthy chickens. DeVries recommends raising chickens in groups of 12 or more. 

Chicks 300x270 - Lincoln residents buy in to backyard chickens
Dozens of chicks huddle together after being picked up from the third grade classrooms they hatched in. After hatching in the embryology program, chicks are given to local farmers and families to raise. Photo by Sarah Albin/NNS

“In smaller numbers you’ll notice that they don’t thrive quite as well,” DeVries said. 

DeVries stressed the importance of providing supplemental heat, especially when chicks are young.

“If they’re positioned all over, you know they’re warm and happy,” DeVries said. “But if they’re huddled close together they’re cold, so being able to identify that is really important.”

Chickens’ egg production slows down over the winter months, due to the cold and lack of sunlight. Chickens thrive when it’s warm and sunny, in turn producing more eggs. 

“We were probably getting about six a day when it was really nice,” Haden said. “And then like right before Christmas, when it got really cold is when they stopped. But then once it warms up to like 30 or 40 degrees, they’ll lay more again.”

Early on in chicks’ development, experts recommend a medicated feed to build up their immunity. DeVries also recommends using a high-protein feed, at least 20%, while chicks are growing, then decreasing the amount of protein as they age. 

For people living in city limits, it’s important to check with both city and neighborhood ordinances and obtain the proper permits before purchasing your chicks. Residents of Lincoln can go through Lincoln Animal Control to be sure they’re meeting all the guidelines and complying with city ordinances. 

The City of Lincoln requires backyard chicken enclosures and shelters to be at least 50 feet away from neighbors houses, and at least five feet away from the property line. The city requires residents to have a permit if they own 3-20 chickens, weighing 3-5 lbs.

Steve Beal, Manager of Lincoln Animal Control recommends contacting Animal Control before you buy chickens.

“We’ll send you a packet with all the requirements, and you’ll have to draw out your backyard and where you propose to put the chicken coop,” Beal said. “Then we’ll send someone out to make sure everything meets the requirements before issuing the permit.”

Permits for owning chickens in Lincoln are $50 paid annually. For more information on permits and ordinances contact your local animal control.

Sarah is a senior majoring in Journalism and ADPR at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a minor in business. Throughout college she has interned with HuskerVision and Olsson and plans to graduate in Spring of 2023.