Chickens have become a very popular pet in recent years, whether it is just one or two, or a whole flock. If we have the outside space to care for them properly, they can make lovely pets, providing us with delicious eggs and a little taste of the good life!
It is very important to know what is involved in looking after chickens before you take the leap. We have put together an easy to follow guide that should help you to decide whether keeping chickens is for you and your family.
Where should my chickens live?
- Chickens require a secure house that is ventilated and protected from drafts, such as a Gaun Berlin Chicken House. They should be shut away in the early evenings and overnight to keep them protected from predators.
- The house should be large enough for the hens to live comfortably, with a place to perch. The perch should be made from wood as chickens are unable to grip plastic or metal.
- Your chickens will need a safe place to walk around in the daytime, be it an enclosed garden or a large chicken run. This will give them somewhere to exercise and to forage, which will come naturally to them. Be aware that predators may try to dig underneath an enclosure, so be sure to make it secure from all angles.
- Use good quality bedding, this is not only comfortable for the chickens, but will soak up any moisture, droppings and smells. For the winter months, provide a soft surface of wood shavings, straw and shredded paper.
- Ensure that there is an accessible and easy place to lay eggs, which will also be easy for you to collect without causing to much fuss. It is preferable that this place is dark and secluded.
What should I feed my chickens?
- You will need to ensure that your chickens always have fresh water. This may mean changing it several times a day, as chickens will tend to leave mess in the water bowl, as well as tipping them over. Try an upside down drinker, as this will help to keep the water available for longer and a Supa Poultry Feeder, which will be easier to eat from and will reduce waste.
- Chickens require nutritious food, which contains plenty of vitamins and minerals. They are best fed in pellet form, mixed in with grains and chicken grit which are essential for good digestion. Chickens do not have teeth, so the grit will enter their gizzards in order to break up food. Grit is also high in calcium so will help to produce stronger eggs.
- Do not feed your chickens with your own kitchen scraps, as their digestive systems are not built to process those types of food.
How do I keep my chickens healthy?
- Chickens deserve to have a good level of health, with no pain, suffering, injury or disease. Keep a close eye on how they seem and contact a vet if you are worried.
- Look out for any signs of disease. These symptoms could range from coughing, sneezing, runny eyes, ruffled feathers and eyes that remain closed. If they are losing weight and producing fewer eggs than normal, look lame, have dropped wings or loose droppings, contact your vet for advice.
- Worm your chickens regularly, as this can improve long term health.
Chickens are a very undemanding species, that are very tame and don't mind being gently handled. They like having other animals for company, so don't be afraid to introduce them to friendly pets or farm animals. Begin with 2 or 3 hens, if you find that you enjoy the experience and that the hens are happy, you can always add more. Always shut the chickens away at night and let them out again in the morning, organising someone to do this if you plan to be away.
With the right living environment, a suitable diet and a regular cleaning schedule that can help to prevent diseases, your chickens will be a pleasurable garden pet that will offer you hours of joy.