Raising chickens can be a wonderful hobby; within one small feathery package you get
- Entertainment – just sit and watch your chickens for an hour and you will see what I mean
- Eggs – perhaps the ultimate ‘gift’ any pet can give
- Droppings – not what some would see as a bonus but if you garden, or know someone who does, these can in many ways be as vaulable as the eggs
- Bug Patrol – not many creepy crawlies are going to survive when your chickens are out and about!
- They also offer many other ‘gardening’ types of services (pecking, scratching, digging) which can be helpful in the right situation (but not so much if you have just planted some seedlings).
With all these benefits it can be tempting to just jump in and buy some chicks but there are a few things you need to know first :
- As ridiculous as it may seem, it is not a given that you can keep chickens, even when you own the property and there are no neighbours raising any concerns – red tape gets everywhere!
- If you are raising chicks in a brooder try to handle them regularly so that they will become tame and trust you. There may be times when you want to examine your chickens for health issues etc. and that is a lot easier to do if they trust you.
- They have minimum requirements of space (4 square feet each bird is a good guideline for inside space and 10 square feet for outside space, smaller birds may not need quite as much, bigger ones might like more) .
- Chickens can easily pick up parasites from wild birds and rats etc. You must always be on the look out. Chances are there will be the odd poultry louse on your chickens body and their natural way to deal with these kinds of parasites is by taking a dustbath. It helps if you can provide a dustbath for them – especially if the weather is rainy etc so they can’t make their own. If they can’t easily take a dustbath or the parasites are getting out of hand you will need to catch each hen and apply a treatment (usually a powder) under their feathers. Another reason to tame your chickens from a young age. Some parasites hide out in the dust and crevices of the coop so that would also need to be monitored and treated if necessary.
- Chickens are relatively low up keep but you do still need to have some time for them. The bear minimum is probably around 30 mins a day – you need to let them out in the mornings (and lock them in at night) which could be done by an automatic coop door but you probably will want to check on it even so as it is easy for one to get left outside because they were dilly dallying when they should have been getting ready for bed. They also need fresh food and water every day (again there can be automatic aids to that). For most coops a little bit of cleaning up each day will keep on top of things and keep the coop reasonably pleasant and sanitary for your chickens : that could include picking up droppings from the pen and especially under the roosts each day. It is also nice to just spend some time with them. You will both benefit from that.