Raising Chickens in Arizona

Backyard chickens are a wonderful benefit to any household. Not only are they fun pets, they provide you with delicious, fresh eggs! If you live in Arizona and are thinking about getting chickens here are some tips:

Know the Rules
Every city has their own local ordinances so please be sure it is legal for you to keep chickens on your property. We have heard of poultry owners who were forced to give up their flock because they were not aware it was illegal in their city. Here is a general listing of laws in the Phoenix-metro area but always double check the ordinance by contacting your city government. Also keep in mind that there are often specific rules for roosters as well. Even if you don’t plan on having a rooster, make sure you know the rules because sometimes what looks like a hen can later turn out to be a rooster.

Which Breed is Best?
There are approximately 60 different breeds to pick from. There are several factors to take into consideration when selecting a breed. First, do you plan to raise the chickens for meat, eggs, or both? The Cornish Cross is considered the standard meat bird in the poultry industry, and the top egg layers include Leghorns, Orpingtons, and Rhode Island Reds (RIR). Chickens that are good for both meat and eggs are referred to as “dual purpose” and include breeds like Orpingtons, Wyandottes, and Australorps. Each breed is prone to certain temperaments and known to lay different colored eggs.
In a harsh climate like Arizona, another critical aspect to consider is heat tolerance. Smaller chickens, such as banties, and those with light colored plumage tend to do better in hot climates. Some examples include: Deleware, Leghorns, Naked Necks, RIR, and Plymouth Rocks.
We picked Orpingtons and Wyandottes due to their temperaments, egg laying, and size. Because they are large birds, they are susceptible to heat, but they are able to tolerate the summer with some help (read more here).

Selecting a Brooder and Coop
For the first 6 weeks, baby chicks need to live in a controlled environment called a brooder. You can purchase one from several online retailers or build your own. We built ours using scrap plywood and chicken wire. The size you need depends on the number of chicks you have and how long you plan on keeping them in the brooder. Young chicks need at least 1 sq-ft per bird. Beyond 6 weeks of age, they should have at least 2 sq-ft per bird. Make sure you also have a reliable heat source (always remember fire safety!), check their thermometer frequently, and adjust the temperature according to their age.
Once your chicks are all grown up, they will be ready to move into the coop where they will learn to roost each night. Again, the size of the housing area depends on the number of chickens you have. The bigger the better, but at a minimum, each bird will need 4 sq-ft inside the coop and 10 sq-ft in an attached outdoors run space. You will also need 1 nest box for every 3-4 hens. Coops can also be purchased through online retailers, local feed stores, or you can build your own. We built ours from recycled materials and an old children’s playhouse.

Where Can I Purchase Chicks?
Many local feed stores will often have chicks available in the spring for purchase (we are big fans of Shoppers Supply). They will usually only carry a few breeds so if you don’t find what you are looking for, you can also purchase your chicks online. Online hatcheries will have more breeds to pick from and you can specify which sex you want. We purchased our chicks from Ideal Poultry. Consider vaccinating your flock to protect them from serious illnesses that can cause high mortality rates. Many breeders provide vaccination as an inexpensive service or you can opt to do it yourself.

For detailed information on raising chickens, we recommend reading the following books (our favorites are by Damerow):

You can also ask questions and learn a lot from these online forums:

And of course, you’re more than welcome to ask us questions here! :)

  • Vicki Silvius

    Actually there are around 200 breeds of chickens-Greenfire Farms is dedicated to breeding rare & almost extinct breeds

  • Martin Dimitrov

    Can I purchase eggs from you? (i would raise my own if I did not live in an apartment).

  • http://winwinfarm.com/ Win-Win Farm

    Hello! We currently have a waiting list, and if you’d like to be added to it, please send us an email through our contact page here:
    http://winwinfarm.com/contact/
    When we have some eggs available, we’ll send you a message. Thanks!

  • Sheena Bair Broek

    what kind of chicken does the best in the Arizona heat? I’m looking for a good egg laying hen that will hold up in the summers & keep my bunny company.

  • http://winwinfarm.com/ Win-Win Farm

    Thanks for the good question! Here are a few standard size breeds that can handle the AZ heat well:
    1. Australorp
    2. Ameraucana
    3. White Leghorn
    4. Welsummer
    5. Barred Rock
    6. Blue Andalusian

    Please read our article about keeping your chickens cool:
    http://winwinfarm.com/2012/07/keeping-chickens-cool-during-summer/

  • A. Mason

    Hi! Would Buff Orpingtons do alright in AZ, as well? Do you sell Buff Orpington or Barred Rock chicks?

  • http://winwinfarm.com/ Win-Win Farm

    Hello! I’m sorry, but we do not sell chicks. We have 4 Buff Orps at the moment, and they do fairly well here. They’re a very cold hardy English breed so they prefer winter and do tend to suffer through summer. Barred rocks do ok as well. We highly recommend Australorps. It has been our experience that they withstand Arizona temperatures the best. Plus, they’re sweethearts! ;)

  • A. Mason

    Thanks for the reply! We wanted a a breed that would be very friendly and maybe let children pet, handle and hold them, not pick at them too much but would be good egg-layers, as well. We don’t necessarily want/need chicks, but I didn’t know I could get them any other way. :) How old are the Buff Orps, Barred Rocks and Australorps you have there? I haven’t looked much into Australorps yet. We’re moving soon and we’re not sure where to yet but we’d like something that would move very well with us, too, and be cold-hardy (if it needed to be). We’d like to be able to treat them like pets and members of the family and they will be well cared for no matter where we go.

  • http://winwinfarm.com/ Win-Win Farm

    It sounds like you need a dog… Just kidding! ;) In general, chickens aren’t overly fond of being held and cuddled. They can be trained to tolerate it if they’re raised from a young age and have frequent human interaction. If you truly want a breed that is especially docile, I would recommend the Orpington. The Australorps are a bit shy and skittish, but they’re fantastic layers. Buff Orps lay a decent number of eggs.

  • A. Mason

    Haha! We have dogs but they aren’t as good with the egg thing. :P I think that’s why I thought I had to have them from a very young age (to get them used to being handled).