You’ve just become the proud new owner of a pet chicken. Congratulations, you did good. Now keep it in mind that every animal needs to be cared for — even chickens! It’s also important to know that each chicken has different diet requirements and they all aren’t the same. That’s why we put together this detailed how-to guide on basic pet chicken care, so you can provide all the right tools your pet chicken needs, in our experience and in others. We’re sure you’ll find this guide to be more than helpful, and we think once you do, you’ll agree: Pet chickens are about as “chicken” as it gets!
Chicken Behavior and Temperament
Chicken behavior and temperament are complex and affected by multiple factors. Because of the variation in domesticated chickens and their close relatives, wildfowl, it is difficult to make generalizations about the species overall.
Chickens are gregarious birds and live together as flocks. They have a communal approach to the incubation of eggs and raising of young. Social interactions among chickens provide benefits such as protection from predators, discovery of food and water sources, establishment of social hierarchies within the flock, and facilitation of pair-bonding.
Chickens can be social and curious, but also skittish and easily stressed. They are intelligent, inquisitive pets that bond with their keepers and like to spend time with them. However, they will only tolerate so much from strangers before their natural defenses take over.
Some pets can be difficult to handle, require a lot of training, or regular veterinary care. Chickens are not like that; they are low-maintenance pets (once you have them set up in the coop), don ’t need much attention, and can even be fairly self-sufficient if you don ’t interact with them much. But buyer beware: there are negatives! You should expect to spend at least a couple of hours per day with your chickens on feeding, cleaning, and interaction.
Housing For Chicken
Caring for a pet best begins with proper housing, maintaining hygiene and watching out for predators. Housing is where your chicken will sleep and store food at night.
In order to properly house a chicken, you’ll need to start with a good coop that has an attached run. Chicken coops are mainly used for housing chickens. It is a space that is constructed by the chicken owner to satisfy the needs of the chickens. Provide 3 to 5 square feet of space per chicken.
Chickens also need to roost at night and can be placed on branches or a high perch in the coop. You should position the roosting place a few inches off the floor where they can hardly touch the ground while sleeping. To prevent injury, this place should not have sharp edges or exposed wires.
Although it’s important to secure a good sized yard for your chickens, you’ll still want to make this area as safe as possible for the birds and other small animals such as cats and dogs.
Specific Substrate Needs For a Pet Chicken
Your coop should have a concrete floor for the chickens to walk on. This helps prevent eggs from breaking when the chickens move around. However, in an area where there’s snow and ice, this will make it difficult for the chickens to move around and could cause them to slip and fall. To prevent this from happening, cover the floor with a thick layer of straw. The straw will help cushion their feet and make it easier for them to walk around on any surface they may encounter while outside.
On top of the straw-covered concrete floor, add 2 inches of sawdust or sand (anything similar). This layer serves multiple purposes: it keeps moisture away from the floor and it insulates against cold temperatures. It also acts as bedding for your chickens so they can lay down instead of standing all day long. If you use sand as bedding, make sure there aren’t any sharp pieces of metal or glass in the sand. These could harm your chickens and cause serious injury.
If you want to create an even more comfortable environment for your chickens, consider adding a layer of wood shavings. You can purchase it at most pet stores or big box stores. It’s usually sold with a moisture-absorbing agent (such as sawdust), so make sure you take advantage of this if you decide to use it.
What Do Chickens Eat & Drink?
Offer a balanced commercial chicken feed to meet your chickens’ nutritional needs. Consult your veterinarian for the proper amount, as this can vary based on age and other factors. Chickens graze throughout the day, so most owners add a daily serving each morning to a specialized hopper feeder that goes in the enclosure. Feed should always be available.
When it comes to chicken nutrition, there are three key factors to consider: water, protein, and carbohydrates. Water is the most vital nutrient for your chickens. They can live up to a week without food, but only a few days without water. If you’re raising chickens on pasture and in an enclosure, their water needs will be significantly less than confined birds.
Chickens also need protein to grow and lay eggs. Eggs are high in protein, so laying hens should get the bulk of their protein from this source. Protein sources for non-laying chickens include insects and worms, chopped chicken or turkey parts, and cooked beans (not dry beans). Non-animal protein sources can be added to the diet as long as they are ground or soaked first so that they don’t cause bloat.
Carbohydrates found in grains provide energy for egg production and muscle development in both hens and roosters. Corn, wheat, oats and barley are all good options. It’s important not to overdo it with grains, though; too much can cause obesity and other health issues.
When raising chickens in an urban environment where they may have limited access to a range of foods that they would normally eat in their natural habitat (such as insects), providing a wide range of feed is imperative to ensure their health.
To keep your chickens healthy and happy, it’s important to vary what you offer them as much as possible–after all, no one wants to eat the same thing every day! You also can offer a variety of fruits and vegetables–as well as a limited amount of grains such as cracked corn and oats–each day.
Common Health Problems Of Chicken
The common health problems of chickens are:
Bacterial and viral infections
A wide range of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens can affect chickens, some of which cause disease in humans. They can spread from poultry to other animals and to humans, causing food poisoning. One example of this is the bacterium Salmonella. Some strains of avian flu can also be transmitted from poultry to humans. Other diseases include fowl cholera, infectious coryza, infectious bronchitis and chickenpox.
A variety of worms can infect chickens. The most common is roundworm (Ascaridia galli). Other parasites that may affect chickens include tapeworms and flukes. There are several species of tapeworm that may infect chickens: Taenia serialis, Echinococcus granulosus and Diphyllobothrium spp., among others.
Fungal infections in poultry are reported in many parts of the world, and all feed ingredients are potential sources of fungal contamination. Fungal infections of the skin, eyes and digestive tract occur, resulting in problems such as scaly leg or breast, conjunctivitis and diarrhea. Feed ingredients such as cereals and oilseed meals are a common source of fungal contamination. Inclusion of high moisture levels in the finished feed is also likely to increase the risk of fungal growth.
The incidence of fungal infection is increased by unclean water before and during feeds preparation, poor hygiene practices such as sweeping floors with feed materials on them, use of raw materials which have become contaminated with fungi (e.g. dirt on farms), and use of wet or poorly dried ingredients in feed formulas.
Injury from predators
Injury from predators is another major cause of death in chickens. Predators include cats, dogs, foxes, hawks and owls. The best way to prevent death from predators is to keep your birds in predator-proof housing at all times, but this isn’t always practical for backyard flocks. In addition, predators will strike when you’re not at home, so taking measures such as placing reflective tape on your birds’ legs isn’t effective.
Give Them Room to Roam
As long as your chickens have enough room to roam, they should be able to exercise on their own. Chickens are very active birds, and they need plenty of space to scratch, run and hop around. A minimum of four square feet per bird is recommended.
If you keep your chickens in a cage or coop, make sure there is plenty of room for them to move around at will; otherwise, they can develop a host of problems, including obesity and stress that can cause egg-laying problems.
Grooming Your Chicken
When it comes to grooming, most chickens can keep themselves looking clean with the aid of a dust bath. A dust bath is generally made by sprinkling some loose, dry dirt or sand into an empty container.
However, give your chicken a bath in warm water to get rid of any parasites or fungus that have grown on the skin. It’s possible your chicken will do this naturally if they live outside, but if they don’t then you’ll need to help them out.
When you’re trimming your pet chicken’s nails, use a pair of sharp scissors instead of nail clippers since they’re more precise and less likely to accidentally clip the quick.
If your chicken spends a lot of time outdoors, it may have picked up some dead bugs or other debris in its feathers. If this happens, you can help to relieve some of the itching by giving your pet a good preening session using your fingers or an instrument such as a toothbrush.
Costs For A Pet Chicken
Here are some of the basic expenses you can expect when raising chickens:
Initial purchase cost- Expect to pay $10 to $20 each for baby chicks. For adult hens, expect to pay around $7 to $20 each depending on their age, sex and breed. The more exotic the breed, the higher the price will be. You’ll also spend an average of $20 on supplies like waterers, feeders and feed, leaving an initial investment of between $50 (if you get day-old chicks) and $100 (if you get adults).
Below are the upkeep costs for raising a pet chicken:
Food– Your initial cost for food will depend on how many chicks you buy and how much they eat, but it is often less than $30 per month per chicken as they grow and require more food. Buying in bulk will save money in the long run, as will using butcher scraps and home-grown vegetables.
Bedding- This is one of your biggest expenses while raising chickens — expect to spend between $5 and $10 each month on straw or wood shavings for bedding.
Litter cost– $8 per month for shavings or straw bedding.
Vet bills– Expect at least one annual visit for a checkup and vaccination ($45 for a checkup alone), and add an extra $20 if your chicken needs any vaccinations or antibiotics. Plus, you might need other emergency care for injured birds, which can cost up to $200 per bird.
Purchasing Vs Adopting Your Chicken
For many, the decision to buy a chicken or adopt one from a shelter is difficult. Both options can be equally rewarding; however, decisions about purchasing animals and adopting them are likely to be different for each person.
There are several differences between purchasing a chicken and adopting. If you are interested in getting a chicken as a pet, it doesn’t mean that you need to pick up a chick from a breeder or pet store. Many people choose to adopt chickens from local animal shelters or even traditional shelters that have chickens available for adoption.
If you’re considering becoming an “urban farmer” and raising your own flock of chickens at home, then there’s no need to purchase chicks from a breeder. Adopting chickens is also a great idea if you want to save some money by not purchasing chicks. Some people also like the idea of rescuing animals in shelters instead of supporting breeding programs that promote the production of animals just so they can be sold.
Pros Of Keeping a Chicken as a Pet
Chickens have many benefits. They are easy to care for, make great pets, and are pleasant companions, especially when you are alone at home or if you live in a rural area. They lay eggs and can help you save on groceries. You can keep them as a pet or get their eggs for consumption.
The advantages of keeping chicken as pets include:
1- They are calm and entertaining
2- They lay eggs regularly
3- They require little care
4- They do not require any special training to be tame
5- They do not need a lot of space to live
6- You will always have fresh eggs in the house
Cons Of Keeping a Chicken as a Pet
Keeping pet chickens is a rewarding experience, but it is not without its challenges. These animals require specialized housing and care, and you should know what you are getting into before you bring home your first bird.