Chickens are great companions but they get outshined by the more popular pets like cats and dogs. Surprisingly, chicken keeping is fairly easy and cost-effective. On top of that, it's rewarding to have access to fresh eggs every day. But caring for a pet comes with its challenges and chickens are no different from that.
Last year, my dad decided to bring in company for the pigeons he raises on our rooftop. We brought in four chicks but, unfortunately, with chicken keeping, one must come to terms with the untimely death of the birds. Out of the two pairs, only one survived and grew up to be big, feisty chickens within three to four months. Hens are great for the daily supply of eggs. While some breeds lay eggs every other day, most do it daily. The eggs you get are free-range, organic, and richer in colour than the commercial ones.
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of rooftop chicken farming you must take into consideration the following factors. For starters, chickens are birds of flock meaning they get lonely without a mate. A flock of three is a good number to start with for beginners. One needs to decide what they want the chicken for – eggs, meat, or just for amusement? If you plan on rearing the chickens for meat, you're encouraged to add a rooster to the mix.
Before commencing, select a place to set your chicken coop. Chicken coops are easy to make with upcycled materials. Many pre-made ones are readily available in the market. It must be made sure that each chicken has at least 4 square feet to move around in the coop. Avoid raising chickens inside the house since they tend to kick up a lot of dust which can be uncomfortable for people with allergies and asthma. Then comes whether you want a natural alarm clock for your neighbourhood or not. Buff Orpingtons are known to be one of the quietest breeds of chickens. Friendly and docile to their owners, they make great pets.
Like any other pets, chickens need care and protection. Making the coops predator-proof is incumbent. Many such backyard chickens have fallen prey to stray dogs and lost their lives. Conveniently, chickens don't need to be bathed since they take care of their hygiene themselves but it is necessary to keep the brooders clean to prevent diseases. Chickens eat just about anything, from food scraps to twigs and leaves. They can jump and fly a little so there's not much fear of them falling from heights and dying yet proper security is necessary.
Interestingly, chickens are very clever animals. They can remember faces, think about the future, are self-aware, and even do basic arithmetic! Studies say that these feathery friends are cognitively smarter than toddlers. Not only do they save you a trip to the supermarket for your daily protein intake, but they are also great playmates. Perhaps if people knew how goofy and intelligent these birds are, they would be more than just dinner to us.
Farnaz Fawad Hasan is a disintegrating pool noodle wanting to stay afloat. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org