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Tips for Raising Chickens: The Pet That Pays for Itself

We have had up to four roosters and fifteen hens. We have downsized since moving to town but still have a few chickens.

The newest additions to the family. Chickens make great pets.

The newest additions to the family. Chickens make great pets.

The Joy of Chickens as Pets

Pets are great and most of us have grown up with cats, dogs, guinea pigs/hamsters, maybe some fish—or, if you live in the country, even a horse. They offer companionship, entertainment, and unconditional love, and they help teach responsibility.

I have had pets in one form or the other as long as I can remember. The first pets my family had were a dog named Skipper and a Galah parrot named Cocky. Pets come and go but there isn’t a part of my childhood where we didn’t have at least one animal as part of the household.

Chickens Are Comparatively Inexpensive

Owning pets, although very satisfying, can also be expensive. The initial purchase of dogs and cats (especially if they are purebred) can be quite prohibitive, particularly if this includes their immunization shots etc. On top of that, there may be other veterinarian bills such as spaying and neutering (especially important for cats if you don’t want to quickly attain a houseful), health problems, injuries, etc.

One pet that is comparatively inexpensive to purchase, as well as its ongoing care, is the humble chicken (fowl, poultry, chook—depending where you come from). Prices can vary depending on whether you purchase day-old chicks, point of lay pullets, or roosters, and whether you buy them from a produce store or breeder. The particular breed itself can also be a determining factor.

Eight Essential Tips for Buying and Raising Chickens

  1. Consider Ex-Battery Hens: Keep your eye out for advertisements for “Ex-Battery Hens for Sale.” These hens may be past their ultimate egg-laying stage (which is two years old), but you can be assured they are still reliable layers of at least three or four eggs per week, and they will be worth the price. Besides, you will be giving them the best home they ever had and a happy retirement.
  2. Monitor Swap Groups and Classifieds: Join local “Buy, Swap and Sell” groups on Facebook and monitor those and also newspaper classifieds for “Poultry for Sale or Giveaway.” I managed to purchase ten x four-day-old chickens for $2.00 each, and a month later saw an advertisement for “Assorted Poultry to Giveaway."
  3. Get a Rooster: If you wish to breed more chickens, the easiest way is with a rooster. Most poultry farmers find they have an excess of roosters from a batch of chickens and sell them off cheaply. If you live in a town or city you may not be allowed to keep a rooster (check your local council regulations). If you can have a rooster, make sure to ask the seller about its temperament. You don’t want the trouble of having one that is aggressive and attacks you every time you approach the hens.
  4. Buy Fertilized Eggs: If you can’t keep a rooster you can still breed and raise chickens by purchasing fertilized eggs and placing them under one of your hens or incubating them yourself. You can purchase an incubator if you have the funds or make sure you keep the eggs at a constant temperature and turn them twice a day. However, I feel this is a lot of trouble to go to. (See next tip).
  5. Get a Bantam or Silkie: Acquire at least one or two bantam or Silkie hens as they just love sitting on eggs and are great mothers. You will need these if you wish to breed more chickens, especially if you have purchased ex battery hens (bred to be laying machines, not mothers) which will lay but not go “broody” or sit on eggs until they hatch.
  6. Set Up the Housing First: Have a cage, coop, or run set up before you take possession of the chickens. You need to have somewhere to put them, even if you intend for them to free-range most of the time. They take time to settle into a new home, and they'll need somewhere to be housed at night and lay their eggs. It is too much trouble trying to do it afterwards.
  7. Situate the Coop Near the Water Supply: Make sure the chicken coop (if fixed/permanent) is close to an adequate water supply so the chickens have clean water every day. We have a rain water tank that is filled by the runoff from a nearby shed and a hose running from that to the chicken coop. Here in Queensland, Australia, cane toads are a problem as they get into the water at night and poison it. It is therefore essential that you change the water each morning or your chickens will die.
  8. Get the Right Food: Buy a bag of “layer pellets’ or “mixed grain” if your poultry are full grown, or “chicken mash” if chickens are less than a month old. I have 15 chickens of various sizes and a 20 kilogram bag usually lasts about six weeks and costs around $15.00 (that’s $1.00 per bird—not bad). *For newly hatched chickens up to four weeks of age, I make up my own mash by boiling rice and rolled oats into a porridge and then mixing in “mixed grain with sunflower seeds.”

Becoming a Chicken Farmer

After this initial set-up, you are ready to go as a chicken farmer or, as I call myself, a “cackleberry farmer.” It may take the chickens a week or two to settle in, and I recommend keeping them caged for this period. After that you can start letting them out to free range during the day, or if you have a portable coop, just move it around.

Enjoy the Fresh Eggs

Soon you will be pleasantly rewarded when the hens commence laying for you, and you will find that the value you get in eggs will soon pay for and exceed your initial setup costs and also more than cover the ongoing price of chicken food. We are currently getting on average six eggs a day from six hen's of laying age so every one is paying its way. This is more eggs than we can eat so when we accumulate more than three dozen we start giving them away or selling some cheaply to friends.

Check Local Regulations Before Selling Eggs

Before you do this, however, I advise to check your state or country regulations regarding the sale of homegrown eggs. In some places it is now illegal to sell "back yard" eggs due to health concerns. Though you are allowed personal consumption of the eggs your hens produce, and I have heard of more people suffering food poisoning from eggs and chickens served at restaurants, fast food outlets and the like than from backyard farmers.

Toss Food Scraps to Your Chickens

No longer will you have to throw food scraps in the trash as chickens will eat almost anything (apart from onion and citrus fruit skins). Basically whatever your dogs and cats won't eat, and you don't recycle into compost, will be eagerly devoured.

When Chickens Hatch

If you do have a rooster and some bantam hens, you will find that you regularly have a hen going broody (clucky) and sitting on a nest of eggs. In around 21 days (a typical incubation period), you should be the proud owner of a new batch of chicks.

Bear in mind it is unlikely that all eggs will hatch (usually between 50-75% success rate). Sometimes the hens will try to sit on more eggs than they can accommodate.

When the chickens finally hatch, I usually leave them in the cage for at least five weeks, until they are big enough to risk releasing to face the big bad world and hopefully fend for themselves. By this time, the mother hen may also have lost interest in caring for them.

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Figuring Out If the Chicks Are Hens or Roosters

It will probably take at least this long for you to find out if they are hens or roosters. Ideally it is recommended you have no more than one rooster per 10 hens, but we have four roosters and only fifteen hens at the moment and they are all happy. Our roosters have grown up together and have never fought yet.

If you do find yourself with too many roosters, you have a couple of choices. Turn the odd one into the Sunday roast (if you have the stomach for killing, plucking and gutting), or try to sell or give them away.

This rooster is King of the Roost

This rooster is King of the Roost

Chickens Can Be Pets

Although chickens are often thought of as just a farm animal and may not be considered the conventional pet, I find they can be exactly that. If you feed and interact with them from the time they hatch they can become very tame. They are more intelligent than many people give them credit for; they have individual personalities and are good entertainment value. Give them each names to suit their personality (as long as you don’t intend to eat them, never name your food!). We have one hen that is so tame, it regularly comes inside the house to lay an egg, so we don’t even have to go hunting for it.

One particular aspect I love about raising chickens and having them as pets is the variety you can create by breeding your very own unique poultry. You could call them "designer pets."

So, if you want a pet that is not much trouble, is faithful and doesn't stray, helps keep bugs under control, weeds gardens, consumes food scraps, and even pays for its own feed keep by providing food for you, then consider raising chickens - the pet that pays for itself!

Variety and creating your own unique breeds is half the fun

Variety and creating your own unique breeds is half the fun

This is not an exhaustive list, but includes some of the most common and popular breeds.

Ancona

Hamburg

Plymouth Rock

Andalusian

Indian Game

Polish

Araucana

Langshan

Rhode Island

Australorp

Leghorn

Rose Comb

Barnevelder

Minorca

Sebright

Belgian

Modern Game

Silkie

Brahma

New Hampshire

Sussex

Campine

Old English Game

Welsummer

Faverolle

Orpington

Wyandotte

Frizzle

Pekin

 

raising-chickens-the-pet-that-pays-for-itself

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2016 John Hansen

Comments

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on January 24, 2020:

Yes, Peg, most urban areas have rules regarding the keeping of poultry. When we moved to town we had to give away all the roosters but were allowed to keep up to ten hens. We had eight until stray dogs got in and killed all bar one. We made more secure housing and now have three hens that keep us in enough eggs. In the bush the biggest predator of both chickens and the eggs was the carpet python. Thanks for reading.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 24, 2020:

We have strict subdivision rules that outlaw raising chickens in our yards. If we lived in the country, I would be tempted to do this. It was interesting reading all the tips you gave on how to successfully accomplish this. Having daily fresh eggs at your disposal would be wonderful!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on May 18, 2017:

Thank you for your generous comment Deonne. Yes, roosters/hen's and dogs and cats soon get used to each other's presence and seem to actually welcome the interaction.

I am glad you, your dogs, and the caged roosters you came across feel that. They certainly all Do have unique personalities. Take care.

Deonne Anderson from Florence, SC on May 18, 2017:

I love this hub! I too am an animal lover. I have two dogs that are my whole world! I found your hub on chickens especially interesting because my dogs and I often visit a band of roosters that are cooped on a large field in the woods where we go to run and play. These roosters actually have personalities! They get excited when we show up. I even have dialogue with and sing to them. At first they were fearful of my dogs and would run inside their coop and hide. Eventually, they warmed up to my dogs who

have fallen in love with them. Congrats on having the best animal hub!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on March 04, 2017:

Thanks Anita. It is a shame you had to get rid of your poultry. We are moving to town so have to get rid of all the roosters, but will be taking the hens with us. Hope it all goes well. Yes, hens seem to lay before 11am as a general rule.

Anita Hasch from Port Elizabeth on March 04, 2017:

Very interesting and helpful hub, Jodah. I had to get rid of my chickens when they kept on flying into the next door's yard, and then killed by my daughters dogs.

My mother had a very successful poultry backyard business. She always kept 200 Rhode Island Red hens and a few cocks. They were kept in two large runs, and kept inside until 1pm. Then she would let them run around outside, at 5 'o clock she just threw mielies in the run, and they all came in without being chased. She said that most of the hens laid their eggs in the morning.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 15, 2016:

Cheers, Paula.

paula on September 15, 2016:

Jodah......Congratulations!! Good for you! Bravo!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 15, 2016:

Chitrangada, I greatly appreciate your kind congratulations.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 15, 2016:

Thank you, Jennifer. I hope you do manage to get chickens next year. maybe then this information will be helpful to you. Thanks for the congrats too.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 15, 2016:

Congratulations Jodah for this well presented and detailed hub about raising chickens. I appreciated it earlier and I appreciate it again for the well deserved Hubbie award.

Thanks and enjoy the win! Have a blessed day!

Jennifer Mugrage from Columbus, Ohio on September 14, 2016:

Jodah, congrats on getting best Hub! I will keep your Hub in mind as a reference. Would like to raise chickens some day, but we have a very small yard currently. (sigh) Maybe next year ... maybe not ...

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 14, 2016:

Thanks for the congratulation and for checking out this article, Martie. Glad you enjoyed "In the Mood" too :)

Maria Jordan from Jeffersonville PA on September 13, 2016:

Congratulations, John - still smiling from the "In the Mood" video - what a detailed post!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 12, 2016:

Thank you Savvy. It was a surprise but greatly appreciated.

Yves on September 12, 2016:

This comprehensive hub most definitely deserves the Hubbie award. Congratulations, Jodah!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 12, 2016:

Hi Theresa. I wasn't expecting this one, but thank you heaps.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 12, 2016:

Thank you MsDora. Much appreciated.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 12, 2016:

I know, Mike. Who would have thought? Certainly not me. I am happy though.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 12, 2016:

Thank you, Shauna. Much appreciated.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on September 12, 2016:

Thank you, Chris. It was quite a surprise to see so many emails of comments for this article this morning and then I see one from Christy Kirwan saying it won a hubby award for PetHelpful... I am surprised, but over the moon. Thanks for your kind comment.

Faith Reaper on September 12, 2016:

Congratulations, John, on winning a Hubbie Award for this awesome hub! Well-deserved.

Woo hoo!!!

Blessings

MsDora on September 12, 2016:

Congratulations on your well-deserved Best Hub on PetHelpful Award!

mckbirdbks from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas on September 12, 2016:

Best Hub on Pethelpful - Congratulations John. I could not agree more with the outcome of this vote. Well deserved.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on September 12, 2016:

Congratulations on your 2016 Hubbie Award, my friend. Whoo hoo!

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on September 12, 2016:

John, You are a prolific writer in poetry, fiction and non fiction. I am so happy to see that you have one a Hubbie Award. This article is very practical these days when so many are taking up the task of raising chickens, many in cities. The information here is comprehensive, yet concise. Congratulations for being recognized as one of the premier writers on HubPages.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on May 11, 2016:

Having bred poultry in cages and deep litter for years this hub was like fresh breeze caressing my face. Very interesting and useful info for anyone wishing to start raising chickens. Well done John!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on April 05, 2016:

Hi RT, yes that is exactly where "broody" came from. I hope your husband relents one day and agrees to let you raise chickens. Glad you found this article a fun and interesting read. Have a great week.

RTalloni on April 05, 2016:

Interesting and a fun read. And now I know why the term broody is used when a person just sits around lost in their thoughts for long periods of time! I keep trying to find ways to convince my husband that we should raise some chickens but for now it's on the eventually list. Enjoyed the pics of chickies!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on April 04, 2016:

Hi Linda, chickens are really great to keep as both pets and for the eggs as they are quite easy to care for. Glad you enjoyed this. Thanks for reading.

Linda Robinson on April 04, 2016:

Good morning John this article was fantastic, so much interesting, helpful information, you covered so much detail. A great read for any one that is interested in raising chickens for profit or just to have for pets. Terrific hub.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on March 19, 2016:

Thank you Rajan, I appreciate that comment especially coming from a former poultry breeder. Cheers.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 19, 2016:

Excellent pictures and well presented information for those who wish to start raising chickens. As a former poultry breeder I appreciate the way you have laid out this info in layman terms. Well done John!

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on March 18, 2016:

Thank you Shauna. I admit that I did write this as an experiment to see if I could get a hub selected for the new niche site, and surprisingly it worked. Glad you enjoyed the read.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on March 18, 2016:

Wow. I didn't realize until I had to sign in, that this hub is on one of the new niche sites. Hmmm.

Your chickens are beautiful, John. I think it's cool that one of them comes in the house to lay her eggs. You can add free delivery service to the many benefits of owning chickens. :-)

This hub is not only informative, but fun to read, John.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on March 14, 2016:

Hi lollyj. Yes, we have a retirement home for chickens...too squeamish to kill our pets. My parents told me you should never name your food..makes it too hard to kill them.

Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on March 14, 2016:

Wonderful hub!! Lots of good info too. My mom and aunt raised chickens when I was a youngster and every one had a name. They were definitely pets. They were excellent layers and when it came time to thin out the flock, Grandma and Grandpa had to do that cause mom and auntie didn't have the heart to kill or dress the chickens. Thanks for the memory, too.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on March 11, 2016:

Wow, I hadn't heard of chickens as therapy pets but that is a great idea Shyron. Thanks for sharing that. I have four chickens that follow me around.

Shyron E Shenko on March 11, 2016:

This is great John, I just saw a story about an autistic child who is learning to talk because of his pet chickens in Texas. Now chickens are called therapy pets.

When were small, my brother had a pet rooster who use to follow him all over the farm.

Blessings my friend.

John Hansen (author) from Gondwana Land on March 11, 2016:

Lawrence we used to have geese, and people were more frightened of them than our dogs. One used to sneak up behind people and pick their pockets if they were sitting down. True!

Lawrence Hebb on March 11, 2016:

John

Don't remember having chickens but we did have a goose at one stage,, and he was better than a guard