Chickens for the Soul

… No Soup Necessary!

Studies have shown that pets relieve stress and relieve blood pressure. Anyone who has a dog or cat can tell you that they feel good when spending time with their pet. But have you ever considered a chicken as a pet? Try finding a cat or dog that will not only run up to you for a scratch, but will also give you fresh eggs daily!

For centuries, chickens were found on every homestead around the world. Shortly after WWII, small farms and homesteads began to disappear and folks regularly bought their meat and eggs at the market or grocery. But times are changing with higher gas prices, food prices, and the ever-increasing reality of commercial food causing widespread illnesses. More people are looking again at the lowly chicken, and are surprised at what they discover.

A small flock of chickens can be kept on relatively little land for little cost, and the reward is well worth the expense. A half dozen hens can be kept in a small coop or “chicken tractor,” which is simply a portable coop that allows chickens access to fresh grass and forage when it’s moved every few days or so. Allowed to free range around the yard, and you’ll see a significant drop in ticks, locusts and other small pests. Some chickens have even been observed catching and eating mice!

Six hens will provide an average of 4-5 eggs per day almost every day, with a drop in eggs during molting and in the winter. That amount of eggs is usually plenty for a small family. Besides getting fresh eggs delivered to you daily, you also reap the benefit of having eggs high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are very good for you and usually demand high prices at the grocery stores.

But the best reason for having chickens is they’re fun! Watching their antics as they run, scratch and explore is more entertaining than any television show. The more you observe them, the more you realize just how much is going on in those little bird brains. Chickens have a very complex social structure. One hen will be ‘top dog’ and is entitled to the best perch locations, top spot at the feeder and the best nest boxes to lay their eggs. Each hen will have her own place in the pecking order, ending with the bottom hen. Roosters also have a pecking order, and the head rooster will get the best hens and so forth. But it’s the hens who rule the roost!

For eggs and pets, no rooster is necessary. The hens will continue to lay eggs regularly, although they are not fertile and won’t hatch. A very interesting phenomenon with a rooster-less flock is that one hen may decide to fill the vacant position and begin to act like a rooster herself, even to the point of crowing!

If you are in the position that you can have a rooster with your flock, they are well worth a little extra noise. A good rooster will take care of his hens, making sure to find the best treats for them. When a rooster finds a delicious bug, seed or other morsel, he will immediately begin to call the hens over with an excited “buk buk buk!” The hens will race over and he will offer it to his favorite hens first. He will also keep an eye out for ground and air predators, and give the proper warning for each so the flock can know when and where to run for cover. Roosters will also go above and beyond to protect their flock, and there are many stories of valiant roos who have driven off raccoons and hawks, and even gave their lives for their ladies.

With treats and frequent handling, most chickens make excellent lap pets, and some will jump right up into your arms to be snuggled. Roosters seem to be the more people-oriented and loveable of the sexes, but both hens and roosters make excellent pets. Do some research on which breeds are best for you for not only eggs and climate, but for personality, too. Some of the breeds that are noted to be the friendliest are Buff Orpingtons, Cochins, Silkies, Jersey Giants, Brahmas, Americaunas, Plymouth Rocks, and Dominiques. Silkies or Bantam Cochins are a great choice if your main purpose is a pet. They will be content to sit in your lap for hours, and one or two can easily be kept in the house just like rabbits if you are so inclined. Be forewarned, however, Silkies are notorious for being highly addicting and are oftentimes compared to potato chips by Silkie owners.

Those trying to decide on the perfect small pet should consider chickens. They offer everything traditional pets do in terms of love, entertainment and companionship, plus much more.

Originally Published 2011 © Associated Content, All rights reserved.

Published by Lily M. Plasse

Virtual Assisting, Small Business Services, Pet Sitting and Dog Walking, Writing, Editing and Proofreading.

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