Chooks make great pets

When you think of pets, chickens probably aren’t among the first animals that spring to mind.

But these curious, friendly creatures are full of personality, make great pets, and might even be a source of regular, fresh, cage-free eggs.

Chickens are enjoying increasing popularity in backyards all over Australia - chances are, you probably know someone who has some.

You might be surprised to learn they are quite intelligent, socially complex and have a good memory.

They certainly deserve your consideration, as they are fairly easy to keep and can be delightful pets.

There are a few basic rules you should follow before you go ahead and get some chooks of your own.

Chickens are best kept at least two together as they thrive on social interaction.

Letting them roam around the garden freely during the day is ideal, as they love foraging, scratching and pecking all day.

Make sure any other pets you have get along with your new feathered friends by supervising interaction and separating them if you are out during the day.

An alternative to letting the chickens roam completely unrestricted is to use a moveable pen that can be transported to new areas of your garden every few days, so both the chickens and the garden benefit.

Chicken should have a coop, and these should contain a layer of litter such as rice hulls, sawdust or wood shavings. The litter should be cleaned out regularly and can be added to the compost.

Chickens will usually happily tuck themselves into bed when it starts to get dark, and making sure the door to the coop is closed at night to keep them safe from predators is very important.

A roosting perch or two in a section of the coop free from draughts will ensure the chickens are nice and cosy.

Pop a box into the coop – one per four to five hens is enough – and you might find some nice egg surprises to add to your breakfast.

Making sure your chickens always have clean, fresh water and a good quality poultry pellet is essential, and can be supplemented with grains and fresh fruits and vegetables, as long as they are not types that might cause allergies.

So, if you are after a clever and curious pet, chickens might be the perfect new addition to your family.

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This story Chooks make great pets first appeared on Newcastle Herald.