Dr Platzhund answers a question from a reader who’s interested in chickens as pets but wonders how to keep them quiet in the neighbourhood.
Q: I’m interested in keeping chickens as pets and as a source of eggs. I know I’ll need a rooster, but how do I keep them breeding without disturbing the neighbourhood with the crowing?
A: Roosters crow at the first sign of light, and sometimes crow all day. It’s the early morning crow you want to avoid, so at night you could try putting him in a crate that he can’t raise his head in to crow. In the morning you can let him loose when everyone is awake. Remember, the bigger the rooster, the louder his crow. For breeding and egg-laying, you’ll need a large flock of hens to be kept separate in secure and escape-proof cages. Hens don’t need roosters to lay eggs, but need privacy, comfort, nesting material, nesting boxes, roosting poles, a balanced diet, greens, vitamin and mineral supplements, and good daylight. If the hens start pecking one another or plucking their feathers because of overpopulation, they’ll have to be separated into other henhouses. The coops need to be well ventilated; temperature controlled, and must offer protection against adverse weather conditions. They’ll also need an open space to eat and have a dust bath. They’re a pleasure to observe with their social behaviour patterns. They’re also good ‘watchdogs’ as they make noise when strangers appear!