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Watts suggests that any prospective backyard chicken keeper first consider the available space. Most cities and many towns have specific square-foot requirements to obtain a chicken permit. Study the regulations to see if your yard can work.

Watts said she thought building her own coop would be cheaper. "It wasn't," she reports.

Two books that she read before starting out, which provided an excellent foundation, she said, are "Keep Chickens," by Barbara Kilarski, and "Chickens in Your Backyard," by Rick and Gail Luttmann. "There was nothing I wasn't prepared for after reading those two books," she said.

Online resources are plentiful, including chicken-raising sites that link rookie and experienced chicken herders, like BackyardChickens.com and Urbanchickens.org.

If you are not certain you'll stick with your chicken decisions, consider getting the chicks from a local farmer who will take them back if your plans go awry, Watts suggests. "One of my chickens turned out to be a rooster," which are banned by city regulations. "She took it back. You can't do that mail order."

-- Andrew Z. Galarneau