I fell in love with chickens when I was a little kid. Many years later, and I decided to have my own pet chicken. Now I have three of them as pets. It was much easier than I thought. I simply called the hatchery and placed my order for baby chicks. In the months to follow, I researched as much as I could and learnt so much about how to care for chickens. All you need are a few tips.
Chickens as Pets
There are plenty of reasons to have chickens as pets. Each chicken has its own unique and endearing personality. They are also stunningly beautiful and come in a variety of colors, shapes, patterns and sizes. You’ll definitely enjoy their company.
How Much Space Needed for Chickens
Chickens don’t need a 10 acre field of space. If you’ll have them in a coop, all you need is about 10 square feet per bird. Whether you choose to have them indoors or out, the more space the better.
Before getting a chicken as you home pet, be sure that your town allows it. My town allows chickens but there are many regulations relating to the minimum distance required from the coop to the property lines and waste disposal among others. You want to research about your authority regulations to avoid any unwanted surprises.
It’s not wrong to have one chicken as a pet but they are social birds, so you should have at least two. We have three chickens and they are very precious to my family and I.
Breeds of Chickens
When I set out to buy chickens, that’s when I learned that there are more than 400 varieties of breeds of chickens. With all those options, making a choice was tough. There are a few things you should think about.
Standard vs. bantam
Standards are normal size chickens whereas Bantams are only a fraction of the size of standards. While many breeds are available in both sizes, some breeds such as Sebrights and Silkies are only available as Bantams, others only as standards. I find Bantams to be cute and flashy, making for good pets.
Protection from Weather
If you live in a cold climate, there are certain breeds to avoid. The same applies if you live in any place that regularly gets over 100 degrees. Make sure that your chicken coop is set up for the weather conditions in your area, keeping the chickens warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
Caring for Chicks
Baby chicks are very cute, lovable and adorable. They require constant caring and monitoring so your schedule should be clear for at least 4 weeks. Don’t plan any day trips or vacations unless you have a baby chick pro on standby. You or a family member should check on them about 4 to 5 times a day.
Creating a suitable living environment is one of the most important parts of raising healthy, happy chicks. Baby chicks need protection from drafts but adequate ventilation. I used a cardboard box with holes for ventilation. The trick is to ensure the space provides 2 square feet per chick. You’ll have to provide more space as the chick gets bigger.
Baby chicks need to be kept warm. They require an air temperature of 95 degrees in the first week of their lives and then 5 degrees going down per week until they are ready to move outdoors. The best way to achieve this is to use a 250 watt infrared heat lamp, suspended off the ground in the middle of the living area. Adjust the height of the lamp to achieve the targeted temperature.
Chicken Coop Bedding
Baby chicks poop a lot so you need to line the floor of the housing unit with absorbent material. Pine shavings about 1 inch thick worked fine for my pet chicken. Paper towels can also work but you’ll have to change them often. Resist the urge to use newspaper because it’s slippery, which may lead to a permanent deformity.
You can use a rabbit drinker or a dish for a full grown chicken but small chicks have special needs. It is advisable to use a chick waterer for the babies. They come in different shapes and sizes. There are metal and plastic poultry waterers that are specifically made for chickens.
Chickens love to roost on branches and poles when they are resting. You don’t have to provide roosting poles, but am sure they will be much happier if you do. I have set up about half inch diameter wooden dowels as roosting poles.
Feeding chickens doesn’t require much thought. You can find plenty of chicken feed with everything your pet needs at the local store. Feeds come in both organic and conventional varieties. Chicks will need a complete starter feed depending on age and variety of feed chosen.
Caring for grown chickens
Caring for my pet chicken is very easy and you can do the same. Keep waterers and feeders full but make sure they are clean. Check to make sure they look healthy, bright and active. Make an appointment with your vet if anything seems out of the ordinary. Keep in mind that you can leave your chickens alone for a few days provided they have a sufficient amount of water, food and space for the duration of your trip.