Tails Blog

Keeping chickens for pets in NZ

Steve Coppell - Saturday, October 02, 2010



You might be surprised to find just how many homes out there in NZ keep chickens for pets.
Quite aside from the advantage of fresh layed eggs from your own free range flock, these critters will become quit tame, they eat all your scraps, and they are alot of fun to watch. 
A good friend of mine who is keen gardener, has had chickens for about seven years. The whole self sufficiency aspect really appealed to him. The vege garden and hen house in the back yard, and of course the fertilizer the chichens provide works wonders in his garden.



Getting Started

Selection

Buy your chickens no younger than six weeks of age, bearing in mind they don't start laying until about five months of age.If you want to increase your flock, buy eggs from a breeder and put them under a broody hen. One that spends alot of time on the nest. Most local councils have regulations and strict limits on the number of hens you can have, and almost all of them ban roosters. Most chickens live for about three years, but they have been known to live for ten years.



Living areas

Chickens need a clean well ventilated house where they can be kept at night and in bad weather, and from which they can access outdoor areas. Provide perches and nesting boxes, and spread wood shavings or straw on the floor to keep the area warm. Fence their outdoor area to keep out predators such as cats or dogs, and don't use pesticides or snail bait anywhere the chickens have access to.



Food
Commercial chicken feed provides a good balance of nutrients, and if you want your chickens to lay eggs, they need to be well fed, about 130gms per day per chicken of pelleted feed. You can also feed chickens household scraps, especially green leafy vegetables as they produce good quality eggs and help provide the pigments for golden yolks. Chickens also like to forage for insects, so ensure they have plenty of grass to free range on. Remember chickens are greedy so don't over feed. Overfeeding or feeding too many poor quality foods like white rice or bread is a common cause of reduced egg numbers. Hens also need a sourse of grit to produce healthy egg shells. When possible the egg shells should be fed back to them.



Water
Free range hens in lay can drink half a litre of water each a day, and more in hot weather, so they need to access fresh water at all times. Change it daily. If they don't get enough water their egg production will drop and their health will suffer. Poultry waterers are available from most pet shops or rural supply stores. A good sized waterer can be filled with ample water for a few days, but only release as needed. They also stop the birds from getting inthe water and contaminating it with droppings.