Here at Tom and Toto we look after lots of pets, but one growing in popularity are keeping chickens! Chicken owners and keepers will you that chickens are a constant source of amusement with their funny antics. Some keepers make pets out of them, give them names and form that special bond as with a cat or a dog. For some, keeping chickens is mainly practical since they provided the family with a constant supply of fresh eggs… and believe me, noting is better than a freshly laid egg!
Chickens are a great way of teaching children the responsibility of good pet ownership, how pets can be a source of food, and how to keep pets happy, and as chickens are a pretty easy pet to keep, they are a great choice to get your family involved in pet care that is not a traditional dog, cat or hamster. As long as you start off correctly, owning chickens is very rewarding.
If you are thinking about keeping chickens and including them into your daily life, here is a few things to consider;
Space – Have I got enough outdoor space for my chickens to live happily and have space to roam? The guidelines for appropriate space needed per chicken is always under debate and is a constant hot topic between DEFRA, the RSPCA and The Poultry Club of GB. Do your research, look at examples of different enclosures and hutches to the number of chickens you would like to have or the appropriate number of chickens that can live happily in the space you have available.
Safety – Have you thought about the local predators? Where I live I have lots of Foxes and Rats as I have open fields to one side and in the winter the marshes flood brining large rats to ground. Make sure your hutch is fully safe and secure from external digging, as an example foxes will take the chickens as a source of food and rats will enter brining diseases and take what they can of the grains and feed so make sure the vermin control is kept to a high standard.
Welfare – do I have time and can you fit chickens into your busy lifestyle? To be honest chickens are a rather straight forward pet to look after but you still need to consider the time first thing in the morning to let the chickens out of their hutch, feeding, watering, cleaning, checking for any enclosure breeches, removing eggs, checking over chickens for any health concerns, checking if any of your hens are broody and as sunset by putting then chickens to bed and closing up the hutch, removing the remaining food sources as not to encourage vermin, bugs and mites.
Budget – Do I have the sufficient funds? The set up cost can be as much or as little as you would like to spend, You can buy a swish new setups, a DIY job where you build your own or you can buy hutches, runs and chicken wire second hand from local selling pages. Don’t forget to add regular feed, corn, veg, hay, straw, soft sand, cleaning products, vet and health checks and enrichment cost to the regular upkeep.
Choosing a breed – Do your research! There are different types of chickens and hens out there for you to consider depending on what you have in mind about keeping chickens as pets or as a source of food. A great starting point for reference is The Poultry Club of Great Britain which have lots of information that is reputable.
Enrichment – Chickens are often wrongly assumed to be a little dim! They are intelligent and need mental stimulation as all animals do. Below are some ideas for enrichment to entertain your chickens…
If you have any ideas of enclosures, hutches, runs, or enrichments you would like to share then please do so on the Tom and Toto Facebook page as we would love to see them and I’m sure our current and future chicken keepers would love to see them too.
Some key website to look at as a starting point: