Chickens make great pets

We’ve celebrated our 4th anniversary of being backyard chicken owners this past month. It’s amazing how time flew since my son came home with a chirping shoe box and I had to scramble through the city to find baby chick feed, feeder, and waterer. Since then we had a rooster, which had to move to a farm nearby after he started crowing and 4 chickens, 2 of which unfortunately were lost to respiratory disease. We currently have 2 hens, Goldie and Silver, which lived through 2 very tough and 1 quite mild winter with us here in Chicago.

We see our chickens as our pets. They most probably see us as the food source. They run towards us like little dinosaurs when we get out of the house with plastics bags or containers in our hands, knowing “scrap food is coming”. Goldie doesn’t mind to be hugged and petted. Silver, on the other hand, is a free soul, whose flight wings have to be clipped every spring for her safety. They both have individual personalities. In addition to being biologically fascinating animals, watching them scratch around, run behind a fly or get scared from lawn mover sound is really fun.

Despite our love of animals we never had any pets besides beta fish before our chickens. However, I can comfortably say that chickens make really good pets both for kids and adults.

Chickens are low maintenance

Chickens – when they are grown – are relatively low maintenance animals. On a normal day, all you have to do is:
1. Let them out of their coop
2. Provide good quality feed and water.
3. Have space for them to graze, scratch and have a dust bath.
4. Clean inside the coop if necessary.
5. Secure them in their coop at bedtime, i.e. after dark to protect them from predators.

They don’t need to be taken out for a walk and they don’t require a lot of attention. Most chicken breeds are hardy and will survive winter. However, winterization of the coop and an arrangement to prevent the water from freezing is required. They will need a shady or cool spot in hot summer days as chickens are more sensitive to heat.

If you have baby chicks, they’ll need TLC and warmth for the first 6-8 weeks. Then you’ll need to gradually acclimate them to outdoors and to their coop.

No house access needed when traveling

For families who travel, care of their pets is a major issue to be handled before heading out. Either the pet is left at a daycare or house keys are given to a trustworthy person. Chickens can be cared by friends or neighbors who have access to the yard. They will provide feed and water and close the coop door when the sun goes down.

Chickens live out of the house

Chickens live out of the house. Even though coop care and cleaning is a must there are no indoor troubles such as pet hair, dust, pet pee, poo or odor.

Chickens are cute characters

You think cats are funny. You should see chickens. Every single chicken we had, had a unique personality. Our rooster, Fluffy, liked to cuddle with my son. When he grew up to be an adolescent rooster, i.e. a cockerel, he started to protect his hens. He used to fluff up and get ready to attack at my kids’ plush dogs thinking they were real threats. Goldie likes to swing in the swing chair. They are very curious. Whenever I do yard work, they run beside my feet to look at what I’m doing and whether they can find a treat such as a worm, bug or a four-leaf clover.

Chickens give eggs

Well, technically hens give eggs. Daily fresh eggs are a big benefit of having chickens as pets. I have a vegetable garden in the summer. There is nothing like cracking eggs to make an omelet with greens, peppers, and herbs you just picked from the garden. Hens start laying eggs after 20 weeks and continue laying regularly for about 3 years and then production will taper off. Their egg production depends on the length of the daylight they get. Ours give about 5-6 eggs a week in the summer and 3 a week, each, in the winter.  They don’t give eggs when it’s really really cold and when they are molting which happens at the end of the Fall to grow their winter feathers. Then one day, it completely stops.

Chickens help with sustainable gardening

Our chickens are a part of our ecosystem in our backyard. They eat grass clippings and then they poop. Their manure which is a great source of nitrogen along with their egg shells which are a great source of calcium both go into the compost bin and then back into the soil. They scratch the lawn to clean up the harmful pests and bugs. They also scratch the vegetable garden bed and help till before planting. They eat leftovers, weeds, grass and grass clippings. They are a part of the cycle of life.

You become a part of a backyard chicken owner circle

When you have chickens in your backyard in the city, you become a part of an exclusive club. You become a chicken lady or chicken dude. You stand out in the neighborhood as a chicken owner and kids love visiting your coop. Your kids’ friends want to visit you to see the chickens. You connect with other chicken owners for questions, concerns or even finding a home for a lost hen. In Chicago, there is a Chicago chicken enthusiast google group which organizes a coop tour every year.

Other Considerations

As much as it’s easy and low maintenance to take care of chickens, when there are health issues with your chickens, even if they are rare, it might not be easy to find a veterinarian who has knowledge of chicken care on the spot. When you decide to own a chicken, get in touch with your local chicken feed and equipment stores, chicken owner groups, consultants as well as specialty vets.

For all these reasons and more we love our chickens and think they make great pets.

Do you have chickens or considered to have chickens?

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