Dear Porky and Buddy,
I was just in my local farm store and the baby chicks were in. They were so adorable, I am thinking about getting some for the kids for Easter. What do you think? Would they make good pets for us?
We think “Whoa!” Do you have any idea what you are getting involved with? Have you considered that those cute baby chicks soon turn into hens and roosters needing equipment, shelter, vet care, and specialized food? Do your kids have the slightest interest in taking care of them for years? Do you?
Don’t get us wrong. Chickens can be wonderful and interesting pets and companions, and every family that gets their eggs from backyard hens is probably going to reduce or eliminate their purchase of eggs laid by hens who were confined to crowded cages on factory farms. And that’s a good thing!
But chickens require knowledgeable and consistent care and there are important issues to consider before acquiring a backyard flock. First, have you checked your zoning and animal ordinances where you live? What will your neighbors think?
Chicks purchased at farm supply outlets may be sold in groups separated by sex, but since gender determination is inexact, as the birds grow, families often find they have one or more roosters when they were expecting to have only hens? So what if you end up with roosters? They are noisy and don’t lay eggs. What then?
How about, instead, adopting adult chickens, whose gender is already known, from a local animal rescue group or sanctuary. Chickens end up in traditional shelters more often than you might think, (unfortunately, some of them surrendered by families who just wanted “Easter” chicks), and adopting from a shelter is a great way to save a life. You can find a list of organizations near you that might have hens by visiting www.sanctuaries.org or www.petfinder.org.
Alternatively, you may want to look at flyers posted in your local farm/feed stores, check your newspaper’s classified ads, or even scan websites like craigslist.org to find chickens who need good homes.
Once hens have been adopted, proper care is essential. Like all pets they need the right shelter, food, protection from predators, and sometimes veterinary care. You are not going to be “making a profit” with the eggs that they produce. (Although the eggs will be spectacular!) So if you go ahead with this plan, make sure you check out the many books and online resources about how to properly care for your new friends.
If you and the kids spend time watching and interacting with your chickens, you will find that each one has a unique personality, and they are friendly and curious when treated kindly. Enjoy watching their fascinating behavior and remember that they depend on your family for care for their entire lives.
The Oswego County Humane Society provides spay/neuter services and assistance, fostering and adoption of animals in urgent need, humane education programs, and information and referrals to animal lovers throughout Oswego County. Our office is located at 265 West First Street, Oswego, New York. Phone (315) 207-1070. Email:[email protected] Website: www.oswegohumane.org. Because people and pets are good for each other!