Chickens: Pets, food or both?

Chickens: Pets, food or both?

chicken C 82770181By Dr. Florian Ledermann

One interesting phenomena in American society is the explosion of the backyard chicken industry. This “Back to the Farm” movement is probably a reflection of our desire to reconnect to our basic roots of rural living from centuries past?
Are there chickens in your future? Here are some important considerations:

Source – Baby chicks are readily available in spring from feed and fleet stores or catalogs. You may need to order weeks or months in advance.
Reasons – To produce eggs, to eat or just for pets. This helps determine which breeds and how many. For pets only, maybe fewer than 10 is in order and select breeds that make good pets.

Longevity – Chickens can live several years if they are kept for laying but broilers (for eating) typically are harvested at 6-8 weeks of age.

Housing – Free ranging chickens can be a nuisance unless you have lots of space and neighbors are tolerant. Most are kept in coops and runs (which can be moved) in backyards in confined spaces.
Predators – There are many animals and birds of prey that like to eat chickens and eggs – not just humans. Skunks, raccoons, fox, coyotes, mink, hawks and eagles just to name a few. So coop design is very important for protecting chickens.

Health – Most hatchery chicks have minimal problems if they are raised in isolation where other chickens have not been. Coccidiosis, lice or mites, salmonella and viruses will become more common without good preventive sanitation and medication.

Chicken feed – Chickens need balanced diets and their requirements change as they grow. Good commercial diets are available at feed stores and fleets. Egg layers especially need good diets to produce plentiful nutritious eggs. Free range chickens can exist on bugs and plants but also need grains.

Environmental – You need to think about effects of your birds on neighbors and visitors and even your own family. Roosters can be noisy and very early alarm clocks – some will attack people and can be scary for children.

Regulations – Not all cities and rural townships allow chickens. Always check with your local government ordinances first.

Commitment – Like having a child, animals and birds need care. Most children leave home when becoming adults. How long to you want your chickens or do you have your own hatchet?

Dr. Florian Ledermann retired after 43 years of veterinary practice. He enjoys innkeeping, grape growing/wine making and spending time with his 13 grandchildren.


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