Getting chickens as pets is very popular. They’re friendly, love a cuddle, and you get eggs – that you can know for sure are from real happy hens! With it being so popular though, can bring a few problems. People buy them on a whim, and don’t think further than “I can eat eggs every day”.
Things to think about before getting chickens
Company & Space
I’ve put these two together because they go hand in hand. Chickens need to have friends. They’re not solitary animals, and I’ve even seen people on chicken keeping forums panicking because one of a pair has died – often through old age- leaving the other on her own. These hens can die if they don’t have anyone else, and it’s not just a case of going out and buying another chicken either!
Chickens can and will die of loneliness.
Bearing in mind you definitely need more than two, how much space can you give them? They need indoor and outdoor space. Indoor space doesn’t have to be huge, as they’re quite happy to cuddle up together, but they need a lot of outdoor space.
If they can free range, even better, but remember to make sure they’re safe in their area. I made the mistake of not checking just how far my birds were going, and I had a fox follow them back to the coop. They now have their own runs and outside space that is covered up.
Keeping them healthy & safe
Your chickens will need to be wormed and be powdered for lice, just like you’d do with a cat or dog. You also have the added risk of Bird Flu, which you really really do not want your birds to get. Look up the consequences at your own risk.
Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to keep them healthy and safe. Both go hand in hand really, and it’s down to good husbandry. For example:
- Regularly empty, clean out, and disinfect their coops for bacteria and mites. Don’t let it get wet inside and keep the poop to a minimum.
- Watch what you feed them and what plants they have access to. Some are poisonous to them!
- Read up on the government advice and updates on Avian Flu. It can save your birds lives.
- Chickens won’t necessarily get out of the rain and will get completely soaked. If the weather’s bad you will probably need to put them in their coop yourself.
- They need different care in the hot weather, so make sure you know how to deal with it beforehand.
Our birds were completely free range – much to the neighbors annoyance when Penny would go tap on his back door. They now have a closed outdoor space, and it has netting over the top to stop them getting out and other birds getting in. Not only do we now live somewhere that foxes and hawks would pick them off – most of them are bantams – but the risk of bird flu is too high for me to be okay with letting roam about freely.
Poo and other body fluids from infected birds can pass Bird Flu onto your birds. If there is bird flu about we cover out runs with tarps, sheets of plastic, and/ or anything else that will stop anything from dropping through. In Spring and Summer it also provides shade.
I’ve heard of loads of people getting a cockerel to protect their hens while they’re out and about. This is a good idea, if nothing else they’ll warn the flock of any dangers. One thing people seem to miss though, is that your eggs will now be fertile.
My friends dad got chickens after she came to stay with us and saw our chickens. He got his chickens, but had no experience and no idea what he was doing. He left the eggs for up to two weeks before he’d collect them. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you about the horror my friend found when she cracked an egg open to make breakfast with.
DON’T WAIT. Collect your eggs every single day. It only takes 28 days for a fully formed chick to hatch from an egg. That’s not long at all, and if you candle an egg three or four days into incubation you will see veins and things starting to grow already. I really can’t stress enough how important it is that you collect your eggs daily. I’ve also had a hen hide a clutch of eggs. Moral of the story?
Related: Late chicks
Collect the eggs and double check and triple check.
There are many other factors you should think about, but they’ve been covered more than enough times that a quick Google search will bring them up. Good luck in your chicken keeping!
If you would like to know more about keeping chickens, you can find more posts about it under the Chicken Keeping category.