Chickens are a great low maintenance easy pet to have in your
garden. They will supply you with eggs that are lovely and fresh
and taste great. All they need is fresh clean water and food.
Feed them with a constant supply of pellets to ensure a balanced
diet and give the occasional treat of pasta, cake and rice. Do
not however give them meat. If they do not like something that
you have given them they will leave it, you will soon get to
know what they fancy and if they are not hungry they will not
love slugs so preparing a slug salad for them is a wonderful
treat. Add the slugs to a handful of lettuce leaves and
sweetcorn. Too many slugs though may cause a spot of diarrhoea
so keep an eye on their intake.
There are a wide range of breeds
available all with different egg laying capacities. Keeping more
than one chicken can create a bit of animosity which the
chickens tend to sort out themselves. Once the pecking order is
decided they should live together peacefully although the ruckus
may return if a new bird is introduced. Do not interfere in the
scuffles as they will settle down in time. If you see a bird being edged
out and denied food or water place another supply for it away
from the other birds.
| A broody chicken will try to hatch her
eggs sometimes which will obviously not happen if she has not
been near a rooster in the previous 7 days. Keep removing the
eggs and her urges will go.
Use their droppings in your compost
or on your vegetable patch for a fantastic and inexpensive way
of getting some nutrients back into your garden. Clipping their
wings will also prevent them from flying away. Research this or
simply take to the vet to have it done. Collect your eggs daily
to ensure freshness, allow your chickens to roam in safety as
much as possible and maintain their runs with fresh hay or straw
and your relationship with your bird will blossom.
The life span of a
chicken depends entirely on how they are being kept and for what
purpose. A chicken left to live a natural life can survive up to
11 years depending on their breed. Chickens that are bred
intensively for their meat can only live a maximum of 6 weeks. A
chicken that is bred to be free range or organic will live up to
14 weeks. Hens bred especially to be good egg layers will churn
out anything up to 300 eggs a year. This number starts to
decrease after about a year and that is when the hens are used
for meat. This meat is used in processed meals, pet and baby
food etc. A free range chicken and an intensively farmed chicken
will start their lives out the same way. They will both be moved
by conveyor belts and packed into crates where someone will have
the job of deciding which farms the chicks will go to. Its the
luck of the draw as a chicken as to whether it will be free
range or intensively reared. Any chicks found on the conveyor
belt to be in a less than perfect standard are sent to sleep on
site as they are not viable produce.
variations of chicken products that we buy are, Standard,
Cornfed, Organic and Free range. These chickens are reared in
different ways and produce different tasting meats. Standard
birds are intensively reared, cornfed birds are predominantly
fed on corn which gives them a yellow appearance when bought as
meat. The corn provides the bird with essential nutrients it
needs to provide a tastier meat. Organic and free range birds
have the ability to roam free for half of their lives which
provides them with stimulation. Choosing which meat to buy can
be a daunting task not simply because of the degree of choice
but the fact that we are not informed fully on the label what it
is we are eating. The general rule is the cheaper the product,
the more things have been compromised to make it that
of the chickens bought are reared this way. They are the
cheapest birds, always on offer in supermarkets. To the majority
of the public when a chicken is seen on a shelf at such a low
price it never crosses the mind as to how that chicken lived or
in what conditions. These birds are crammed into tight spaces at
a density of 38kg/m2. This is approx 19 birds per metre. They
spend their short lives eating constantly to get up to the
weight they are desired to be. Faeces and ammonia from the urine
that they are subjected to stand in all the time causes blisters
to their breasts and feet. Health problems occur and if a bird
is found to be lame they are culled immediately. After six weeks
of constantly eating, lack of natural sunlight and nothing of
interest to stimulate their senses they are collected into
crates to be slaughtered.
birds have more freedom to move around at a density of
27.5kg/m2, this equates to approx 13 birds per metre. When they
are 2 weeks old they are allowed to venture outside for air and
sunlight. Chickens bred to be free range or organic have more in
common with their jungle fowl ancestors in that they are allowed
freedom and are able to perch and be surrounded by their natural
habitat. Intensively farmed birds get none of this.
decision to go organic or free range obviously depends on a lot
of factors. It is not just simply about wanting to do what is
best for the birds. A lot of the general public are on extremely
tight budgets and may feel their only option is to choose the
cheapest meat to eat. A free range bird will cost more to buy
than an intensively reared one but for the sake of a few pounds
extra we can all feel that we are doing our bit for animal
welfare. Free range meat tastes better because the bird gets all
the added benefits of natural food and sunlight. Try to buy the
best welfare bird with your budget and make sure it is local. If
a chicken in the shop has the RSPCA freedom food (see below), Assured Food
Standards or the Soil Association logo on it then
you can be sure that that bird was looked after.
Cut down on the
amount of chicken you eat a week and research new recipes that
will make your chicken go further. Steer clear of packaged
chicken breasts as this is an expensive way to buy the meat,
instead buy a decent whole chicken that could last for two
meals. Also think about what eggs you buy. Instead of
buying eggs from caged hens go for free range as the price
difference is barely noticeable. Eggs from caged hens are also
used in other products such as mayonnaise etc.
With our consumer
power we can try to get our supermarkets to label these products
appropriately so that we know exactly what we are buying.
Certain supermarkets have already realised that their chicken
and egg products needed a rethink. There are supermarkets out
there that will only sell free range eggs, or ensure that their
processed meals such as pies and pastries only contain free
range eggs. Others are still of the view that the consumer needs
to be given a wide range of products to choose from, this would
be okay if the products were clearly labelled. Certain packaging
can be misleading and it is not always easy to ascertain exactly
what you are reading. The answer is to ask. The more questions
we ask about the food we are buying and eating the more they
will sit up and listen. Making informed choices about our food
is our right and to make these choices we must have all the
information. Animal welfare is an extremely important subject
and something must be done to ensure government guidelines are
being set to maintain good welfare. The standards in which
intensively reared birds are kept is simply not good enough and
to make any changes we ad consumers must argue this. By
supporting the RSPCA Freedom Food and buying food with the label
on and signing their petition we as consumers can really make a
difference. Lets support our local farmers and aid them in
providing better welfare for the animals that we are eating.
The chicken (gallus gallus) is a
domesticated fowl kept predominantly for its food source ie meat
There are more chickens in the world than any other
The adult male is called a cock or rooster, cockerels are
males under the age of one.
A female adult is called a hen and
infant females pullets.
The babies are known as chicks and it is
the meat that we call chicken.
Roosters are usually identified
by their different colourings and plumage.
- Give your chickens a luxurious
and secure start with this fine range of chicken coops from
Chicken Welfare -
The RSPCA has publicly challenged all British Supermarkets to
pledge to only sell 100% welfare-friendly chicken by 2010.
Hen Welfare Trust
- The aim of this site is to inspire as many of you as possible
to do all you can to help them achieve a better future for the
20 million battery hens currently in their cages.
Poultry Club - A
registered charity which exists to safeguard the interests of
all pure and traditional breeds, both in Great Britain and
throughout the world.