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By Jocelyn Anderson on August 2, 2016

Starting your own flock requires more than a coop and some chicks. Still, more urban dwellers are counting their chickens. Right now, California boasts about 100,000 backyard premises, with increasing interest likely over the next five to 10 years, said Maurice Pitesky, veterinarian and assistant specialist in Cooperative Extension at UC Davis. But bringing them home to roost requires some planning. “It’s not as passive a hobby as people make it out to be,” Pitesky said.

Do your research. Identify your key resources, including a veterinarian and other experts who can help as issues arise. Here is a helpful list.

Have a plan. Inevitably, you will have an emergency. Be prepared for the day you have a sick or dead bird. The California Animal Health & Food Safety Lab has four locations that can help diagnose disease.

Maintain a clean environment. Wear dedicated shoes and overalls in the coop. Chickens can carry salmonella and other bacteria you don’t want in your house. This also will prevent rodents and other animals, which can carry diseases.

Keep on top of the eggs. Generally, you can expect to get an egg from each chicken every 25 hours. Pitesky recommends checking the coop twice a day to ensure that you get the eggs in the fridge as quickly as possible.

This article first appeared in the spring 2016 issue of UC Davis Magazine.

Jocelyn Anderson is editor of UC Davis Magazine.