Whilst most chickens are kept for their egg production, a growing number of people are keeping them as pets. There are many reasons why chickens make excellent pets and there can be the added bonus of having a supply of freshly produced eggs.
Chickens are interesting pets to keep, as they are active during the daytime and engage with their environment. Some chicken breeds are particularly docile and make ideal family pets. You can teach them to come when you call their names. They can easily be tamed with proper handling and even though cockerels can potentially become aggressive, this is often a sign of lack of proper handling.
Chickens require minimal maintenance, with water and feed being topped up each day and cleaning of their housing done once a week. To keep them in good health it is also important to carry out periodic worming and check them for signs of parasites.
On-going upkeep costs are low, making them an ideal choice for those on a budget, although there are a few initial costs and you will need some space. The housing is probably the largest cost, but you could build this yourself if you have some DIY experience. Other initial purchases should include nesting material and specialist drinkers designed to prevent chicks from falling in them.
The housing should be dry, relatively warm and predator proof. It will be necessary to install perches so the chickens can rest on these and laying hens will require individual nests lined with wood shavings or straw. An outdoor area connected to the house allows chickens to easily access the outdoors. It is important that the outdoor area is also predator proof and that the chickens cannot escape or get trapped in it. Usual precautions include partially burying mesh fencing so that foxes cannot dig under the fencing to get into the enclosure. It is also wise to include something the chickens can use as shelter, as well as adding interest into their environment.
If you choose to keep hens for their egg production, you will not save much money, but some people prefer knowing they have come from chickens that have a good quality of life and have not been fed chemicals or hormones that may be passed on into the egg.
It is usually a combination of the benefits that result in people choosing chickens as pets, including their docile disposition, low cost, low maintenance and of course, the delicious fresh eggs.
From Michele of Pet News and Views: I just came across a great book called “Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard.” The book, which retails for $19.95. was written by Jessi Bloom for Timber Press. The book offers practical advice on raising free-range chickens, using natural fertilizers and organic pest control, soil aeration, and creating beautiful gardens.