- Feeder & Drinker
- Layers’ Pellets
- Poultry Grit
- Mixed Corn
- Sand & Tray
- Poultry Disinfectant
- Diatomaceous Powder (For mite protection)
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Keeping chickens as pets has recently become more popular as people have discovered the comical nature of chickens with the added benefits of fresh eggs! As with all animals, chickens have specific requirements to keep them happy and healthy in their habitat.
The average life span of a chicken is 8 years
Choosing and buying your chicken
There are many different breeds of chicken, the warren being the most common, but all chickens naturally live in flocks. This means they need to be kept in a minimum of a trio as they are very social animals. Chickens will also need an area to exercise, scratch and graze. You can let them free range in your garden, but your garden will never be the same! Another option is to give them a run. Whichever breed you choose, make sure you check for these signs of a healthy chicken:
v Bright and alert.
v No signs of discharge from eyes, ears and beak.
v A clean anal area.
v Glossy feathers with no bald patches and not have sores on the skin. Check for mites.
v The ability to move around the coop easily.
v Feel well covered and not overly bony.
Chickens should be provided with a chicken coop / hutch in a sheltered area. This will protect them from the weather. Ensure that the hutch is either hard standing or has a mesh skirt on it to protect your chickens from predators. You should allow 1ft squared of floor space per bird. The nest box needs to be placed lower than the perches otherwise the chickens will sleep and roost in them. The perches need to be around 2” round and for every chicken, allow 8” of perch. A run should also be provided. The size of this should be a minimum of one square metre per chicken, allowing space for them to be able to move and jump, but the bigger the better. A moveable run also allows you to rotate the areas where they graze. The run must be secure whilst you’re not there to protect your chickens from predators. Prepare the hutch in advance by placing the substrate and straw on the floor, setting up the perches and placing a sand bath in their run area. The feeder and drinking containers should be set up and a container of poultry grit should also be available to them; this is essential to the chickens as it helps them to digest their food and provides extra calcium. A fruit holder or mesh bag can be hung in the run and filled with fresh greens to help break any boredom.
v Outdoor runs should be moved regularly.
v Water must be accessible and it is advisable to use apple cider vinegar for one week of every month.
v Poultry grit should be provided to allow food digestion.
Feeding and Water
Your chickens need to be fed layers’ pellet, which is a complete diet for your laying chickens. Also, supplement with fresh greens. Mixed corn and fruit can be used in small quantities for treats; however, it is best to give these in the afternoon to ensure your chicken has eaten a good amount of their pellets first. Fresh water should always be available and apple cider vinegar is recommended for use one week of every month to keep the chickens in good health.
It is advisable to let your new chickens settle in for a few days before you start handling.
Check regularly that the hay has not gone mouldy, as this can cause respiratory problems. Be careful to check regularly for overgrown claws.
The hen house should be cleaned out completely at least once a week using poultry specific disinfectant, as well as spot cleaning when necessary. It’s also worth using Diatom powder to help keep red mites at bay, this is not a chemical treatment so is safe to use, sprinkle it onto the bedding and rub it onto the perches. Diatom works by piercing the outer layer of the mites’ body and causing them to dehydrate.
As it ages, a chicken’s clutch size will reduce. Being outside, they will come into contact with parasites so it is recommendable to worm your chickens regularly, as well as checking them for mites.
Should your chicken show signs of ill health contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.
Your pet shop will give you advice.