They may not be the cuddliest of pets, but when it comes to maintenance the humble chook deserves a little credit. If you choose the right breed they can provide you with daily eggs and a whole lot of entertainment. Yep, chickens have personalities and can actually be quite intelligent!
Of course, chickens and cities don’t necessarily go hand in hand. That’s why as a city slicker, it’s your responsibility to choose a breed that suits your urban environment. Want to know more? Read on for our guide to keeping pet chickens in the big smoke.
First things first, you need to establish if you have enough space to keep urban chickens. Chickens don’t need a lot of room, but you will need enough land to house a coop and a spacious run. Make sure your chooks have access to dark nest boxes, roosting perches and shelter from the sun, rain and wind. They’ll also need an outdoor run to roam, forage, scratch, take dust baths and go about their broody business. As chickens like to sleep close together you’ll only need around 20 centimetres of perch space per bird. One nest box can support up to six hens, and needs to measure around 30 x 30 centimetres.
Pick up supplies at your local pet or farm store. Or, buy your supplies online and have them delivered to your door. Another option is searching on Trademe or in your local classifieds for pre-loved chicken coops and runs. You can even buy chickens this way, or sometimes snap them up for free!
Keeping chooks cosy
Nests should be lined with cosy filling like wood shavings, shredded newspaper, dried leaves or soft straw. Keep cleaning easy by laying out sheets of newspaper under the roosting area, then whipping them out every week or so and throwing them in the compost.
Keeping noise levels in check
If you live in the city, chances are you have neighbours close by. And you can bet that they don’t want to be woken up by crowing roosters at dawn. That’s why backyard chicken owners should always opt for hens. Some of the quietest breeds include Buff Orpingtons, Australorps and Wyandottes. Other chickens that lend themselves to urban settings are Brahmas, Cochins, Barred Rock, Mottled Java, Ameraucanas, and Rhode Island Red. It really depends on what’s available in your local area, so do a bit of research and try to track down one of the listed breeds. Remember, even the quietest of hen breeds will often cackle loudly before or after laying an egg. This is normal, so don’t worry if you hear the occasional hoot!
Fluffy, friendly and docile, Buff Orpingtons rate high on the backyard breeds scale. In fact, they love to be picked up. Owners often testify that their Buff Orpingtons will take to the floor in a submissive squat that signifies they’re keen for a cuddle. Don’t be shy about chatting to your chickens as you go about the gardening, or giving them a pat or stroke. With a healthy amount of bondin,g your chickens may be able to recognise the sound of your voice! It’s also important to note that chickens are highly social animals, which means that it’s best to buy at least two or three.
Know the rules
Like any pet, you need to abide by the rules. Regulations vary from city to city, so be sure to check out your local guidelines before committing to becoming a chicken owner. For example, Auckland has its own set of regulations regarding birds and poultry in urban environments. You can have up to six hens, but no roosters. Wellington has similar guidelines, while Christchurch and Dunedin simply specify that chooks should be well cared for, and not an annoyance. Check in advance, and don’t forget to inform your neighbours!
If you want to join a network of fellow chicken lovers why not consider getting involved on platforms like Poultry Central NZ? They’re a great way to source advice, read up on information and connect with other chicken owners.
Save a chook
If you’re feeling altruistic why not consider adopting via platforms like Animal Sanctuary? Battery farms normally get rid of their chooks when they’re around 18 months old, which is when organisations like Animal Sanctuary save them and put them up for adoption.
When it comes to eggs, you get out what you put in. Hens need a myriad of nutrients to produce tip top eggs, and it’s your responsibility to keep them nourished. Buy commercial pellet feed, or use recipes like this and make your own.
Ready to start your own garden flock? Get excited, follow these simple steps and in no time you’ll be supporting your very own brood of happy hens!
Do you have any chicken tips, or experience as an urban hen owner? Share them in the comments section below!