Chickens: the Severely Underrated Pets

Bawck bawck bawck

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Most of us have dogs and cats, maybe parakeets and lizards as pets too… but what about chickens? Imagine you’re ten, in the car, and you pass the hardware store. “Chick days are here!” the sign reads. You are so excited because there are cute, fuzzy little chicks inside that store just waiting for you to bring them home. But alas, the car zips right on by.

Many of us only consider getting chicks in that instant… but sometimes you just have to do something on impulse. That’s what my family and I did last spring. We were considering doing something new, because it was the midst of quarantine and we were going insane. The neighbors behind us had goats–but goats are big and loud and a lot of work. So we decided against goats. The neighbors across from us have a miniature horse, but that wouldn’t work because our yard is not nearly big enough for even a miniature horse. I even toyed with the idea of a cow (which would be so so so cool) but then we started researched chickens and thought, these may be a good pet for us.

I was not expecting to get them as soon as we did. It really was an impulse decision–we were just going to go to Tractor supply to look for something and then the chicks were irresistable so we got three. They were Ameraucana/Araucana mixes and they were so cute! I chose a gray one, who I called Muzzy, and my mom and sister chose two yellowy ones, called Rose (the lighter one) and Lady Elaine (the darker one).

(From left) Lady Elaine, Rose, Muzzy

We put them in a wooden crate that something had shipped in, filled it with wood chip shavings, and they were so cute and sleepy but we realized that this was not going to be a long-term place for them to live. From research, we found out that they can’t live outside in a coop until they’re adolescent–and these chicks were only about a week old. We also needed to get more supplies, so another week later we went to the hardware store and THERE WERE MORE CHICKS!!! We couldn’t just leave without getting a few more. First it was only supposed to be two more, but we ended up getting 4 that day. Three were Speckled Sussexes (Blanche, Dorothy, and Sophia), and one was a Rhode Island Blue (Peach). Obviously there is a Golden Girls theme here haha.

 

 

 

 

baby chickies! 3 Speckled Sussexes and one Rhode Island Blue.

 

 

 

 

As they got bigger, we moved them into a 4×2 foot crate that my dad built with wire sides. They also needed a heater, water and food dishes, and branches to play and roost on. Luckily we had all hens, no roosters, so that took away a lot of stress. When they finally got to be the right size to go outside, we spent a few weekends building their coop in the backyard. It was a lot of work, but there was also a lot of time on our hands. You can also buy coops to assemble if you don’t have the time to build one.

By the time they reached a few months old, they started to lay eggs! This development was super exciting because we now had fresh eggs! They lay one egg every 25 hours, with a break every 5 days. It took a little while for them to all start laying, but now, we get almost seven eggs a day- one from each chicken. Fun fact: some Australians call them “chook seeds” (chook=chicken, seed=egg). The eggs taste so much better than store bought! They are richer and fresher and, although smaller, work perfectly in recipes. Muzzy gives us green eggs; Lady Elaine and Rose give us light blue ones; Dorothy, Blanche, and Sophia give us brown ones; and Peach gives us peach colored eggs, which was a crazy coincidence.

The first egg (Muzzy’s)

There are many reasons why having chickens is great. They are super cute, first of all- who can resist a little baby chick saying peep peep! They are fuzzy and soft and so curious and social. During their adolescent phase, they, like all of us, aren’t as cute… but once they pass that, they are cute again. They love to play, run around, and explore your yard. Some might even make friends with your dog! My pup, Juno, and one of the Sussexes, Blanche, love to follow each other around the yard and sometimes they sit together too. When I sit outside and read, or do homework, and let them out of the coop, they will come up to me, curious, and make their little warbling sound.

Their awkward phase + a cabbage
Hanging in the yard with Juno

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Although the coop does need to be cleaned often (their poop makes it smelly), it is not that difficult. In ours, we lay down alfalfa grass so that it can easily be raked up and replaced. Part of their coop is plain dirt, so they can have a dust bath (they “bathe” themselves in the dirt). Inside the henhouse bit requires a bit more cleaning. But their nesting boxes (where they lay eggs) stay very clean. We make them nice for our chickies by putting in dried nesting herbs and dried flowers.

For stimulation, the chickens love treats, branches, the tire swing we made them, and I am still trying to get them to use the xylophone we put in there. They seem wary of it. You can put a squash or a cabbage in the coop and it’ll be gone in no time. They love love love treats. Fun fact: you can actually feed them scrambled eggs as a treat when they’re young because it reminds them of the inside of the shell they ate when hatching. It seems strange but they really do like them. Also, sometimes they catch lizards in the garden and it’s fun to watch them run around with it.

Chickens are great companions. They love when they see me walk outside and toward there coop, to get eggs or give them treats. They like pets and love to look up at me or peck at my shoes. Some are less social than others, of course. It is also interesting to see their social hierarchy– you can definitely tell who’s the boss and who’s not.

I love to see my chickens running to the door of their coop when I get home, they’re so excited to see me and get a treat”

— me

And if you’re asking, no, I will never eat any of them. They are my friends and I am emotionally attached. It never occurred to me at the beginning and won’t in the future. Even if I was a real chicken farmer, I would find it hard to slaughter them. I suppose you could raise chickens to eat, but that just seems sad. It’s much more humane to just eat their eggs.

If you’re thinking about getting chickens, you definitely should. Make sure, though, to do your research and check if your neighborhood would allow them or not (some don’t). Chickens are such a fun pet to have, and they even contribute back to the household with their eggs unlike dogs and cats who may only know a few tricks.