The increasing popularity of keeping chicken, ducks and geese as pets is a rewarding hobby, especially when they become friendly and provide you with fresh eggs! Here are some tips for the aspiring pet poultry-keeper.
Safe Shelters and Pens
Our feathered pets need space to forage and wander, but they must be kept in a secure pen. This is to prevent them escaping, and also to keep foxes out. Dig chicken wire into the ground and curve it outwards to prevent foxes digging beneath. Always shut poultry safely inside when they begin to roost at sundown, don’t wait until it gets dark. Ensure that the pen is kept clean and free from rotting food too, otherwise rodents will move in.
A couple of hens scratching around your garden may lead to fat yellow eggs for breakfast, but you need to put in some work first. Their main diet should consist of a good quality laying pellet, with the right minerals and vitamins. You can buy these in pet stores or farmer’s merchants. Supplement pellets with fresh greens, and let them forage as far as possible. Chickens need insoluble grit too, such as calcium rich oyster-shell; otherwise you’ll get soft eggshells that fall apart in your hands.
Wood-shavings and loose straw should be placed on their shelter’s flooring, so they can occupy themselves if it’s wet outside. Don’t forget to provide plenty of fresh water every day.
Ducks also require a good quality pellet diet as a base, but they should also be able to forage around water. A paddling pool or pond deep enough for them to swim in will make two or three ducks very happy, so make sure you can provide the right environment for them.
Bear in mind that unless you have runner ducks, they may fly off unless their wings are clipped!
Some geese are a deal bigger than chicken and ducks, so their pens should reflect their size. Again, pellets are their staple diet, alongside green vegetables and fruit supplements. Given room to graze, geese will keep your lawn short for you. They also make noisy ‘guard-dogs’ as they can show aggression towards strangers.
Three Tops Tips!
- Our feathered friends are flock animals, so it’s best to keep two or three together.
- Chickens, ducks and geese will try most foods, but keep bread to a minimum, or they will become overweight or stop laying.
- Poultry can be smelly, so keep them away from your house, and clear up mess every day.
Enjoy your new pets, but don’t forget to consider your neighbours. A cockerel crow at sunrise is only romantic in the movies!