Keeping chickens can be both enjoyable and rewarding. Not only are they beautiful, characterful birds; they can also be providers of your very own supply of fresh eggs.
If you like the idea of having a micro-flock in your back yard, but are unsure as to how to go about it; have a read of this for things you should consider beforehand.
As with any pets, looking after them properly requires commitment, time being a big one. Chickens need to be shut safely in a hutch at night, as they like to roost and are vulnerable to prey, and then letting out again in the morning.
You will also need to make time for feeding, pen cleaning and egg picking, among other things. All of this requires a daily time allowance and must not be undertaken lightly.
Chickens are happiest when left to roam freely; scratching this and pecking that. Obviously, free reign of a place isn't always feasible, as chickens can be pretty destructive.
However, they should be given ample outside space, preferably with access to grass and mud, so that they can live as naturally as possible. Chucks that are cooped up for too long get bored, which can cause them to start pecking each other resulting in feather loss and injury.
While chickens are prey to all manner of predators, foxes tend to be the most prevalent and so pose the greatest risk. These wily hunters will kill an entire flock of chickens in one fell swoop if they manage to gain access to a chicken roost.
Make sure that the pen is completely secure and check it on a regular basis for holes or weak spots. Rats are another pest that you want to keep away from your hens, so be vigilant for any signs of unwanted visitors to the hutch.
You may think that hens are fine on a diet of kitchen scraps, however, not only is this technically against the law, it also doesn't ensure that they are receiving adequate protein and nutrients.
Choose a specially formulated chicken feed that is suited to the breed, age and whether or not they are laying. Chickens should also be fed extra greens, cabbage leaves or kale for example, which supplements their mineral intake.
Make sure to do your research on the various breeds of chicken available before you get any. If you want eggs, then ensure to buy "layers" and know what kind of egg they produce. They come in all sorts of colours and sizes, depending on the breed, so make sure you know exactly what you'll be getting.
Bantums make great pets and are a popular choice with people who have less space and don't mind tiny eggs.