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Mar 10, 2014 12:25 AM by Rebecca Taylor

Urban chicken movement in Tucson

TUCSON - A growing number of people are raising urban chickens, growing their own backyard flock in the city limits.

As the popularity of keeping chickens grows, experts have some advice before feathering your own nest.

Beth Ledner has turned her home into a business, selling homegrown vegetables and chicken eggs. "We sell probably four to five dozen eggs a day," says Ledner.

Her Riverwalk Farm is located near River and Campbell.

Her love for chickens began three years ago, adopting a few from the Humane Society. She's now helping strengthen the endangered Black Java breed. For Ledner chickens are the new dog, both useful and fun!

"As you can see they're very soothing to have, wonderful pets, we get wonderful eggs, that are much better for you than store bought eggs," says Ledner, "They last much longer."

"Actually there is a pretty big demand for chicks," says Ray Strum who manages Ace Hardware near the University of Arizona.

"And we thought just for kicks, let's bring them in and see how well they do," explains Strum, "We had them, not more than a couple days and we had like six customers come in, and they have chickens around here."

Now four Ace Hardware stores in Tucson carry chicks. Strum says they have an expert determine their gender, soon after birth. They're careful to sell female hens not roosters, which are illegal in the city limits.

Property owners can keep up to 24 chickens, their coop must be clean and at least 50 feet from neighbors.

The Humane Society is where many unwanted roosters end up.

"It's usually half and half between animals that are dumped," says Sara Gromley with the Humane Society, "we just received four roosters that were found abandoned in the desert, and we get a lot of owner released chickens as well with people who can't keep them."

Before deciding to raise urban chickens there are many things to consider. They need predator proof housing and vet care. Although egg laying peaks at 18 months, chickens can live several years, meaning it's a lifelong commitment.

"My chickens live out their entire lives here," says Ledner showing off her hen house. "They stay here at night, lay their eggs in this nice little thing my husband built for me."

Ledner keeps hens and roosters. She says her family owned the land, prior to being annexed by the city, so they're exempt from the chicken ordinance.

A group in town called Tucson Clucks is a good resource for anyone interested in urban chickens.

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