SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

How to keep healthy and happy hens in your backyard

Chickens can be wonderful companions and are energetic, inquisitive, and friendly animals.

Keeping backyard chickens is also becoming increasingly popular as part of local, sustainable and organic food movements. Chickens are a lot of fun to have, but the decision to keep them should not be made lightly.

Company

Chickens need company, so you should have a minimum of three chickens in your flock. Consider carefully what kind of chicken will be best for your circumstances, as there are many different breeds of different shapes and sizes, and some may suit your circumstances better than others.

Care

Chickens need dedicated and consistent care, and, just like when considering adding a cat or dog to your family, there are important points you should consider before making the decision to start your own chicken flock. It is not enough to simply provide resources to enable the chickens to survive. An animal’s welfare refers to what it experiences, and like all animals, chickens need positive experiences too!

Breeding your own chickens and roosters

Be aware that if you are hatching eggs, generally half will be male and the other half female chicks. If you choose not to keep your roosters, it may be difficult to find homes for them. However, roosters deserve homes too and should never be dumped. Roosters can also crow loudly, so be aware, and ensure that your local Council allows for keeping chickens and check regarding noise control. Roosters can be very loud at all times of the day or night. Rooster collars should not be used, as they prevent the rooster from crowing by constricting their throats, and are therefore cruel. Getting pullets (young female hens) or hens that have already started laying (~21 weeks) is a good way to avoid having to worry about hatching roosters. Another option is to consider adopting chickens from your local SPCA or rescue group.

It can be very rewarding to have chickens and they can be excellent companions for adults and children alike.

However, in order to keep the chickens as happy and healthy as they deserve, they need a lot of dedicated care. There is a lot to consider before making the decision to start your own backyard flock. Remember if you go away on holiday, your chickens will need daily care still.

Use the links below to learn more about how to make sure you keep your chickens happy and healthy:

  • Good environment and natural behaviour.
  • Good nutrition.
  • Good health.
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