Pet Talk
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Pet Talk

June 2, 2021

In this week’s Pet Talk, Maneka gives tips on how to set up a chicken house for pet chickens

By Maneka Gandhi

How will I know if my chicken is ill?

Keep an eye out for signs of illness, such as a pale comb (the top of their head), heavy breathing, coughing, wheezing and a runny nose.

How to pet a chicken?

As you get more comfortable with your chicken, it will allow you to pet it. Call it by its name and when it approaches, gently pet it. The sweet spot is the back of its neck underneath the fluff of its feathers — gently rub it here to calm it. Over time, your chicken might be comfortable sitting in your lap and letting you pet it. Try carrying your chicken around while you pet it to make it feel more comfortable around you. Do not make much sound while approaching it. It should never be sudden or too quiet as it might run away. Try scattering some oats or other treats along the ground and move around while doing so. Play hide-and-seek by hiding while your chicken forages, and clucking to it. You can also dig a small hole, hide a red bell pepper or red fruit (without seeds) and fill it loosely with dirt — chickens are drawn to the colour red.

Do chickens like to be scratched?

It depends on the relationship the chicken has with the person who is scratching it. If he likes it, it will let you do it. Else it will jump off and move away.

Why do chickens squat down their bodies?

The most common reason for hens / chicken to squat down is when they want to express their unwillingness to do something. Another reason she squats down is to allow the rooster to mate with her.

Are chickens scared of loud noises?

Yes, generally chickens get startled when they hear a sudden noise, and start flapping around.

What do chickens eat?

Fresh feed is important for a healthy chicken and they should be allowed to eat as much food as they want. Provide baby chickens with a grower/ starter diet (20 percent protein and 4 percent fat) until 20 weeks of age. Give laying hens a laying diet, which is usually 16 percent protein and 3.5 to 5 percent calcium. Finally, give your roosters and non-laying hens a maintenance diet. If you can’t find one, dilute laying ration with 20 percent fresh fruits and vegetables. 

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Supplement your chicken’s diet with grit, probiotics, dried herbs, food-grade dichotomous earth, flower petals, leftovers (oatmeal, pasta, rice, fresh greens), fresh produce and protein-rich foods.

Add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of apple cider vinegar per 1 gallon (3.8 L) of water, 3 to 4 times a week, to prevent disease, boost immunity, and discourage parasites. Just make sure to only add it to plastic water drinkers.

Mix in 1 crushed clove of garlic into your chicken’s water daily to boost its immune system and prevent worms.

Can I lift the chicken by its wings or feet?

Do not grab a chicken by the wings or legs. In order to keep the chicken calm and content, you should hold it in a comfortable way. Grabbing it by its appendages will only make the animal struggle to get free, and possibly get injured, instead of making it comfortable enough to be petted.

How to set up a chicken house for pet chickens?

Your chicken needs enough space to exercise and move freely. Take a look at your garden before buying your chicken house and make sure you have enough room. Or, a fenced-in yard to let your chicken loose is ideal. Make sure the chicken house is covered overhead and surrounded by a fence, so predators can’t get inside. Align the perches so that there’s enough space for your chickens to get on and off them without hurting themselves. Create your own perch by running a piece of wood, or a tree branch, horizontally across the chicken house.

Do chickens need a bedding area to sit?

Yes, hens need a bedding area. Straw is the most common choice for bedding due to its residual warmth, cushioning, and a fun environment for your chicken to pick through. Wood shavings are also good. Regardless of what you use, purchase enough to cover the floor of the house in a 2 inch (5.1 cm) thick layer. Purchase chicken house bedding from pet stores. Don’t use sawdust.

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Do we need to clean a chicken’s house regularly?

Chickens need a clean environment to thrive. Scoop droppings, refill water, and feed them daily. Once a week you should wash feeders and waterers and air dry them. Every month, rake out all your chicken bedding, sweep the floor, scrub the floors, walls, and roosts, scrape off waste, and put in clean bedding.

Is it safe to play music for chickens?

Chickens have a great sense of hearing and respond not just to various sounds but also pleasant-sounding music. Try playing some classical music in front of your chicken. You can also hum, whistle, and sing to get its attention. Try playing a flute or guitar for your chicken.

Can we talk to chickens?

Chickens are very chatty little creatures. They have a proper language and they talk to you and each other. Communicating with them is easier than you think. Listen closely to the different sounds the chicks, hens, and rooster make. Then, try speaking back to them. Communicating with your chickens can help you train them to obey simple commands and will strengthen your bond with them.

What kind of weather do chickens need to survive?

Although chickens are very adaptable to weather changes, they usually perform their best around 23 degree C. Consistently high summer temperatures can cause your chickens to suffer from heat stress, overheating. For heavier breeds, extreme heat can even cause death. If chickens are a hardy breed and their coop is properly prepared, most chickens will not need heat in winter. If your temperatures are extremely low for long periods of time, your birds may need some extra warmth to survive.

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