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Keeping Chickens as Pets – Part Two

by Colleen P Moyne (Colmo) (follow)
I'm a freelance writer living in the beautiful river town of Mannum in SA, dreaming of the day I can retire from the 9-5 to write full time.
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In part one of this article we talked about considering chickens as family pets. They are inexpensive and provide hours of entertainment, but there are other things we need to know that will help us to make a decision one way or another.

Child Holding a Chicken
Image used with permission of Icky Chicky Farm

There are a variety of chicken breeds, but one of the best, cheapest and most commonly available is the Isa Brown. They are hardy, friendly and reliable egg-layers.

Astralorps are also a beautiful and friendly breed. If you prefer Bantams, try Silkies. The best time to buy chickens is at ‘point-of-lay.’ This means that they are young but not too young and will soon mature into egg-laying adults.

Child Holding a Chicken
image courtesy of Sgarton / Morguefile.com

Chickens are social birds and need companionship, so you will need at least two. If you have dogs or cats, you will also need to be confident that your chickens are safe around them.

Before you bring your girls home, set up a coop for them. Chickens need around two or three square feet each, so an ideal coop for two should be at least four feet by four feet.

They will need shelter from the weather, plenty of clean water and a nesting box. Chickens also like to roost off the ground, so provide them with a branch or pole at least a foot off the ground.

Child Holding a Chicken
Image courtesy of lilbet / Morguefile.com

Chickens will eat your kitchen scraps. The only things you really can’t give them are citrus fruits, onions, avocados, or potatoes. Supplement this with commercial feed. You can even feed them egg-shells for added calcium if you dry and crush them.

One of the great things about keeping chickens is that they will poke around your garden and eat bugs. I had an earwig problem before my chickens came along, but they see them as a great treat.

Child Holding a Chicken
Image courtesy of Corena / Morguefile.com

If possible, provide your chickens with a place to dust-bathe – especially in hot weather. They will scratch themselves out a nice little spot to sit in the cool earth and flick themselves with the dirt or sand. This not only cleans their feathers and skin but also helps to control mites.

Chickens will begin to moult in the autumn and look a bit scruffy but don’t panic – this is quite normal and their lovely new feathers will grow in very soon. However, if your birds moult at other times, or show other health issues such as mite infestation or lack of appetite, take them to a vet.

Child Sleeping with Chicken
Image used with permission of Icky Chicky Farm

It won’t take long for your chickens to settle into your household and become a part of your family. With some gentle coaxing and a regular daily routine, they will come to see you as a friendly face, and in exchange for your left-overs, will provide you with around eight or ten years of delightful companionship and entertainment.

#Pet Care
#Pet Ownership
#Unusual Pets
#Family Pets
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