Yes, you did read that right. A chicken might seem like an unusual choice for a pet, especially for those that are not entirely comfortable being around feathered creatures, but they honestly make such wonderful pets.
I grew up with chickens, but they were not pets. We had a large flock and each chicken had a job to do. If an egg every few days was no longer being produced, the bird in question soon found its way into the freezer. As a child, I didn’t like the chickens. They smelled bad, there was poop everywhere in their pen and we also had a nasty rooster that was prone to attack as we carefully snuck into the chook house to retrieve the daily eggs, nervously avoiding that rooster’s beady gaze. These were not fun memories, however as I grew older I felt there was something organic and healthy about keeping chickens so decided to give it another go.
My husband and I don’t live on a farm. In fact we have a home within the city limits of Mount Gambier. We are certainly not farmers but we had a little space where we thought a small chicken coop would fit nicely. Our four children were extremely excited about our home chicken project and when the coop was assembled, they enthusiastically awaited the arrival of our four Isa Brown pullets.
When we brought them home, we were surprised at how friendly these animals were. We could let them out the coop and they would happily follow us around the garden. The children could pick them up and carry them around and pretty soon the dog was feeling a little left out as the children wanted to spend so much time playing with the chickens instead. I am seriously not kidding. My kids cart them around the yard like babies.
So the best thing about these animals for us has turned out to be their company. The kids are gentle with them and the research is clear about the benefits of children having pets. Yes, we get a regular supply of delicious home-grown organic eggs, but these girls won’t be headed for the freezer when their laying days are over.
Here are my top tips for keeping chickens:
1. Feed them well — whilst having somewhere to throw those kitchen scraps is a bonus, make sure you give your chickens adequate nutrition in the form of proper chicken pellets.
2. Keep their nesting boxes clean — replacing the straw in nesting boxes regularly will keep your chickens happy and will prevent chicken poo from coating your eggs.
3. Let them free range — your chickens will love exploring your back yard — just be careful of pets that might not be so friendly with them.
4. Keep their water clean — chickens can be messy so water and food containers need to be cleaned regularly.
5. The term ‘pecking order’ is a real thing — it is preferable to not add new chickens to an existing flock as you might find your winged friends being very nasty to the new additions.
So that’s about it. Yes, chickens do make egg-cellent pets and I hope you consider them as a potential option for yourself!