With this years National Pet Week, 7th April-7th May, fast approaching it is high time we started celebrating the animals who share our lives.
It isn’t just dogs and cats that are getting all the attention either, as the animal feed specialists Dodson & Horrell have revealed that more than ever people are looking for alternatives to the normal 4 legged friends.
Hens and chickens are wowing animal lovers right across the UK, with these feathery friends ever increasing their credentials to make great family pets. In the run up to National Pet Month, Dodson & Horrell, the animal feed specialists, have recorded a 25% increase in chicken feed across the country in the past 2 years, and have also seen a huge demand for chicken feeders and accessories.
The popularity of chickens has been backed up by the NFU Poultry board, with an estimated three million hens now being kept in people’s back yards.1
Chris Gordon, Technical Director and Dodson & Horrell’s resident chicken enthusiast says: “As well as demand for chicken feed and accessories increasing, we also hear lots of anecdotal evidence to suggest that chickens are fast becoming a viable option when people are choosing pets along with traditional choices like dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs.
“We used to find that chickens were limited to farms or smallholdings and in the gardens of those living in the country but now it’s increasingly common for chickens to reside in backyards in our towns and cities.”
To help chicken lovers bringing these clucking friends into their lives, Dodson & Horrell has these top ten tips and facts.
Dodson & Horrell’s Top Tips
1. Scrupulous cleanliness is the key. Birds need regular worming and the house needs spraying against red mite.
2. Be sure to feed your chickens an appropriate food for laying hens but do not over feed. More feed does not equal more eggs and a fat bird readily succumbs to liver disease and can become too fat to lay.
3. Birds are thirsty animals so clean water must be continually available.
4. Shut your chickens in at night so they don’t get attacked by foxes.
5. To achieve good laying buy a ‘pullet’, a young domestic hen.
6. Birds should have good housing, one to four square feet per bird, and a fresh run area where they can peck and forage. Include a dust bath, sand, ash box or a half square foot pit per bird.
7. A good, well kept chicken will produce between 150 and 250 eggs per year.
8. Bantams are essentially scaled down versions of the hybrid hen, lay smaller eggs and can be a sound option if space is limited.
9. Egg laying takes place when there is no cock bird (a male over 12 months old) present. Traditional breeds lay in spasms, basically enough to sit on at any one time.
10. Modern, developed (hybrid) birds are bred to lay almost continuously.
For Vanessa Kimbell, who has one of the top UK food and lifestyle blogs (Goddess on a Budget), life without chickens would just be unthinkable. The mother of three, who lives in a village in Northamptonshire, considers her eight chickens an integral part of the family.
“Not only are they fabulous in terms of teaching the kids where food comes from,” said Vanessa, “but they are also much loved pets, each with their own personality and traits. We first got the chickens for their fresh eggs, but now they are about far more than that. The children play with them, they are gentle and fun, and get along with our dog and three cats.
“As well as providing us all with hours of entertainment, they are hilarious with their antics, we also eat our own free range fresh eggs with pride – we just love them!”