Domestic fowl offer more than eggs! Anyone who keeps them will tell you that they quickly learn to recognise you and make engaging and entertaining pets. They can also be trained with food as a reward.

There are three main areas for consideration before acquiring fowl friends. These are:

Housing
 

The housing of your chickens/geese/ducks is particularly important. First and foremost, it should protect against harsh weather and predators. It should also be well-ventilated and large enough to accommodate the number and type you intend on keeping. You should also provide suitably sized nesting boxes. These need to be emptied of eggs on a daily basis and cleaned regularly, at least once a week, to prevent the risk of external parasites.

Ducks and geese should be provided with a paddling pool if you cannot offer access to a pond, river or stream.

If you will not be able to let your fowl roam freely in your garden (under supervision, and not the supervision of a fox!) make sure that the housing you choose has a suitable run attached to it.

Food
 
Special feeds are readily available at most farm shops and will provide the required nutrients that your birds need. You can, however, add a few complimentary foods such as sunflower seeds, which provide a good source of calcium for the formation of the eggshell. Provide food using special poultry feeders as these ensure food is not spilt on the floor or contaminated by dirt and faeces. Also supply a separate bowl of grit, which birds require to aid digestion.

You can also feed your birds fresh food such as sweetcorn, lettuce and parsley and cabbage. You’ll also be a much-loved owner if you occasionally hand out table scraps, but always do this in moderation and after they have filled up on their proper chicken feed. Chickens, ducks and geese will go mad for pasta, rice, cake and cooked vegetables but do not give them anything with a high salt content.

Fresh, clean water should be provided at all times, ideally in water feeders, which prevent the water from being spilt. Keep an eye on the water to make sure it is not dirty from soil or faeces, and change it regularly during extremely hot and cold weather. Feeders and water containers should be cleaned thoroughly on a regular basis.

Regular care

To carry out regular health checks on your fowl, you will need to handle them once every so often. Individual health checks should be performed thoroughly and you should always check your birds over by eye daily. This will help you to spot anything unusual about your birds as early as possible.

To handle your chickens, make sure you have cornered the birds into a smaller area so that you do not end up chasing them around the garden causing unnecessary distress to both you and them! Place one hand firmly on their back and your other hand on their chest. Quickly, slide both hands over the wings and lift the bird.

 
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