As we have all spent more time at home this year, chickens have raced up the popularity charts!
More and more UK families have decided to add some clucks to their coops, but how easy is it to keep a chicken as pets, and what do you need to know before you start building your new chicken run?
Keeping Pet Chickens - the AllPetSolutions Guide
First up, let's talk about commitment. The idea of friendly hens roaming your garden and free fresh eggs every day is great - but you need to know what you're letting yourself in for.
Chickens live on average anywhere from five to ten years; so chicken pets are a long-term commitment, just as if you decided to get a new puppy or kitten.
They need regular cleaning, safe spaces to peck and walk, a secure nighttime sleeping coop or run, and of course attention, food and time.
While chickens do forage for insects and grass, they can also use up kitchen scraps such as leftover pasta or rice, as well as vegetables and fruits.
You should avoid anything too sugary, fatty or salty, or citrus fruits that don't agree with pet chickens. They also require complete chicken food - usually either pellets or a meal - and won't keep laying on a poor diet, so it is vital to make sure they receive all the nutrients they need.
A typical 20kg bag of chicken food will last about 40 days for three chickens, so make sure to do your budgeting before you invite them home, and ensure you can keep them well fed for the years to come.
Other Essentials for Buying a Chicken as Pets
Every chicken needs fresh water, with a raised dish or feeder at an accessible height. These will need cleaning, as chickens tend to rub the water from their beaks in the dirt before having another drink!
You also need grit, which chickens peck at to help them digest their food. This is best left in a dish next to their food so they can reach it easily during meal times.
The most popular pet chicken bedding is usually straw or wood shavings, with shredded paper another option. You need to change it when it gets dirty or wet, and should always choose a dust-free version that is suitable for pet chickens.
Buying a Coop for Pet Chickens
Coops are essential for pet chickens; they need somewhere warm, safe and secure where they can bed down for the night and lay their eggs on a roost.
Chicken coops need to be very secure (especially if you have neighbourhood foxes, cats or your own dogs!) and also need to be suitable for the number of chickens you wish to keep as pets.
Remember that chickens like to spend a good proportion of their day outdoors scratching for food, so they need plenty of space, a safe area where they can roam around, and grass, weeds and shrubs to peck about in.