Keeping chickens as pets is fun and useful. Chickens are easy to tame, not excessively noisy (as long as you don’t have a rooster) and if you keep their house clean they are not dirty and are usually very healthy. Forget the old-fashioned barnyard full of dust and dirt; you can have a neat, pretty hen house in your backyard. You can buy a kit or a ready-made hen house from most pet shops or hardware outlets.
Chickens are good for your garden. They scratch around, disturbing any weeds and peck up garden pests like snails. They are good for fertilizing your vegies but make sure you compost the fertiliser first. It can be too strong in its fresh state. You can compost any food scraps the chickens don’t eat, too.
Chickens love fresh fruit and vegetable scraps, crusts, and other leftovers but don’t give them orange peel, they don’t eat it. Make sure to clean up anything they don’t eat because food scraps lying around are unsightly and can attract vermin. It’s a good idea to have a quick cleanup before dark each day. A quick rake and scoop into the compost bin each day only takes a minute and you’ll have a nice clean chicken house. Generally, chickens are very healthy and live for about ten years. They lay every day except in winter. As they get older, they don’t lay as often.
Chickens can survive on garden scratchings and food scraps but they really should get some extra vitamins and minerals. The easiest way to feed them well is to buy some layers pellets. Get chicken pellets especially formulated for laying chickens because they contain all the necessary elements for healthy egg-laying chickens. You will want your chickens to be in peak condition because their eggs will be in peak condition. You will benefit from having the best quality and best tasting eggs you have ever eaten in your life. There is a difference in the taste of a happy, well-fed, backyard pet chicken and that of a cage-bred battery hen.
When you first crack open an egg from your chickens you will probably notice the yolk is a very rich golden colour. This is because of the healthy fresh greens your chickens get to eat. Battery hens only get pellets so their eggs don’t have real, natural vitamins. All their vitamins are from pellets. The eggs taste best when they are fresh and you won’t get any fresher than one from your own hens each day.
If you have no rooster, the eggs will not be fertilised. This means they will never produce a baby chicken. Some children hate the thought they are depriving a mother hen from her children. You can safely explain the eggs will never have chickens and your children can enjoy their gift from their hens.
Chickens are not clever like dogs and cats but they can be friendly. They like a daily routine, so if you feed them and clean their house at the same time every day they will come to enjoy your company, as long as you are not too loud or make sudden movements. It won’t take long for them to come running every time they see you with their food bowl. If you like gardening they will ‘help you’ by sifting through the freshly weeded or turned dirt, looking for insects and snails. Their chatter as they scratch through the dirt is quite amusing.