Chickens aren’t typically first on the list when it comes to pets. You might not even consider them at all! But keeping them can be just as rewarding as having a dog or cat. Chickens are also a good way to enhance sustainable living. Plus, they’re relatively low-maintenance, once you have them set up in a coop. You feed and give them fresh water daily, and clean their bedding at least once a month.
If you’re thinking about starting a chicken coop in your yard, make sure to do your research and find an avian veterinarian near you who has experience with chickens, or at least, pet birds.
By securing their living quarters, you can protect chickens from predators, such as foxes, coyotes, feral dogs and others. Also, you’ll need to construct free-range chicken housing to keep out rodents such as rats, mice, chipmunks, and ground squirrels out of the coop. These intruders bring in ectoparasites such as lice, fleas, and mites that can cause problems in your flock. In a recent University of California-Riverside study, it was determined that 80 percent of free-range chickens in that state were contaminated with one or more of these parasites. So make sure to build your coop to keep these animals from burrowing under and getting in. It’s also important to keep migratory birds and other flying birds from the aviary group outside the coop. Viruses like bird influenza, Newcastle’s disease, and other diseases can be transmitted to your flock from birds who are simply passing through.
Here are some more reasons you may want to add a flock of chickens to your family:
Home-grown eggs from your own chickens will make you never want to eat store-bought eggs again. Organic eggs from your own hens will be safer from the risk of salmonella or other illnesses that come from commercial egg producing companies. Chickens that have produced the eggs you find in the store are generally fed pelleted food. They don’t have the free-ranging natural lifestyle that your chickens will have. A balanced diet in the bird leads to healthier egg production. Make sure your chickens’ diets are balanced to fit the age and egg production level of your birds. Because your birds are getting sunshine and exercise while snacking on grass and seeds and other healthy food, their eggs will contain omega-3 fatty acids that are important for heart health as well as essential vitamins A, D, and E. Plus, fresh eggs are not only delicious, they’ll also make you popular with your neighbors.
No More Table Scraps
Chickens thrive on people food. Your volume of trash will decrease because chickens will eat a lot of the food parts that humans consider inedible, like watermelon rind and carrot greens. Chickens also love to eat eggs, but they should only be fed cooked ones, so they don’t learn to start eating their own!
Chemical-Free Pest Control
A home with free-ranging chickens means a decrease in resident insects. They will gobble up grubs, beetles, and virtually anything that crawls. They will also kill and eat moles, voles, and other small rodents.
Chickens eat grass, so having a flock in your yard may decrease the amount of mowing you need to do. When you do mow, they will take care of the clippings. That goes for weed clippings too. If you like to garden, a compost pile mixed with chicken droppings and eggshells will provide a nitrogen-rich end product that your plants will love.
In addition to all these reasons, chickens can be fun pets too. Birds have lots of personality, and can be quite entertaining. Chickens are highly food-motivated and can be trained to do tricks. If handled enough, they will bond with you and can even be cuddly.
Having your own chickens gives you a chance to stop supporting the commercial egg production industry. If your chickens are laying enough eggs to supply a couple of households, so much the better.
Of course, if you’re thinking about putting a chicken coop in your yard, do your research! Make sure you know exactly what you’ll need to keep your chickens happy and healthy. Find a chicken veterinarian near you who has experience with chickens and other fowl to set yourself up for success.