With our interests to live a more sustainable life growing, keeping pet chickens in our back gardens is becoming more and more popular. There really is no better tasting egg for your breakfast, then an egg laid fresh that morning by your beloved chicken! However, ensuring your chickens live a long, happy and healthy life cannot be overlooked.
There have been recent changes toThe Animal Welfare Act (2006) ensuring that a “duty of care” is adhered to by anyone owning an animal. Simply ensuring your chickens are protected from a life of suffering is no longer enough, you must also, by law, ensure you do all you can to ensure your chickens live a happy and healthy life.
However, adhering to these new requirements is not difficult and owning and caring for chickens can be, as with any pet, a beneficial addition to your lifestyle and wellbeing. The Animal Welfare Foundation have devised 5 welfare need points you MUST consider before buying any pet, so for chickens this equates to:
- Suitable Environment
- Correct Diet
- Ability to Behave Naturally
- Living in the Company of other Chickens
- Health and Protection Against Suffering
We here at Preloved have put together some points for you to follow and consider to ensure your chickens are they happiest they could possibly be.
Getting the right chicken coop
First things first, make sure you have enough space in your back garden to house at least a couple of chickens. Your chickens will need a secure place to sleep and lay that will keep them safe from predators and the British elements, as well as some addtional outside space.
Or if you are looking to grow your chicken family then how about upgrading to a coop of this size? This coop ad also comes with a run so you can ensure chickens can enjoy the outside. (click on the image to view the ad). You can find other ads for chicken coops for sale in our Poultry section.
What should I be feeding my chickens?
Like with any pet, in order to help keep your chickens healthy, you should be feeding them a nutritious well-balanced diet with plenty of minerals and vitamins. Your chickens can get all they need from high quality chicken feed pellets, so this should be the bulk of your chickens’ diet and should be available all day long. This will ensure your hens have all the nutrients they need to create and lay eggs continually. Pellets come specifically designed for different aged chickens, so make sure you pick the right pellets for your chickens. You can also mix in some additional grains to further supplement your chickens’ diet, and your chickens should also have a constant supply of fresh water, and mixed grit to help with their digestion.
If you have a grassed area that your chickens can use to scratch and forage in, then grass and any little bugs they come across will also help supplement their diet. Be warned though, they won’t hesitate to mess up a neatly mowed lawn, so pick an area of your back garden you don’t mind getting a little scruffy. There are plenty of secondhand chicken pens available in our poultry section, like this great all in one house and pen (click on the image to view the ad).
However, if grass is limited in your backyard or during the winter months, you can supplement your chickens’ diet with fresh greens like cabbage, nettles and brussel sprouts, tasty!
Encourage natural behaviour
A big part of ensuring you have happy chickens is providing them with an environment to…be chickens! Chickens are a lot more interesting to spend time with than you might first think. They have complex “pecking orders”, individual personalities and a very inquisitive nature.
As well as ensuring they have the correct diet and a secure place to sleep and lay, chickens also require space to explore, play and forage. Why not consider encouraging your hens to stretch their wings by placing their feeders a little higher up so they have to hop/fly onto a bench? Or if you regularly clear leaves from your garden, why not let your chickens have a scrap and play around in leaf pile before clearing them completely? You can even pick up some chicken toys specifically designed to keep your hens occupied! Drop by your local pet store to seek further advice.
How many chickens should you get?
It is a common misconception that you will need to get a rooster in order for your chickens to lay eggs…you don’t. However, chickens are very sociable animals and do not tend to do well when they are on their own. You should have a minimum of two chickens, and then depending on how much space you have, you can have a flock as large as you need…bear in mind that some chicken breeds will be larger than others and may need more space.
Healthy, happy chickens should lay an egg a day so two chickens will give you two eggs a day, that’s 14 eggs a week. If you have a family of four, four chickens should be enough to keep you supplied with eggs for the whole family, with some left over to use for baking or give away to friends.
A healthy chicken, is a happy chicken
The bedding in your chicken coop should be kept fresh and clean to ensure your chickens stay comfortable and clean. Spend time watching your chickens, not only will you gain pleasure from watching them forage around and interact with each other, but it will also be easier for you to spot changes in their behaviour that could indicate there is a potential health issue. Decreased egg production can also be a good indicator that something is wrong.
Spending time with your chickens will also give you chance to check them over and ensure there are no physical signs of illness like a runny nose, closed eyes or ruffled/dull feathers. If you are ever concerned your chicken may be ill, consult your vet as soon as possible. Like with most pets, you must ensure your chickens are suitably wormed, please consult your vet for further advice.