Chickens: An Alternative Pet for Owners and Carers
Thu, September 29, 2022

Chickens: An Alternative Pet for Owners and Carers


Most chicken owners decide to start up their own coop because they want eggs, according to Green America, a non-profit membership organization. Egg-producing hens on factory farms are usually kept in close, inhumane quarters, which hinders them from stretching their legs or wings, walking, or engaging in normal social behaviors.

Moreover, eggs from your own chickens is tastier and fresher than store-bought eggs, as noted by the editors of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, a reference book and North America’s oldest continuously published periodical. The shells and chicken droppings can be used for compost for kitchen scraps. Those droppings make excellent fertilizers too. As curious animals, your chickens will happily devour insects and pests in your yard, including stems and stalks of weeds.

Number of Chickens Worldwide and Leading Egg Producers

As of 2018, China boasted the highest number of chickens worldwide, with 5.27 billion chickens living in the country, said M. Shahbandeh of German statistics platform Statista. China is followed by Indonesia with 2.34 billion chickens. The US came in third with 1.97 billion chickens. Brazil had 1.46 billion chickens while the Islamic Republic of Iran had 1.07 billion chickens.

China produced 458 billion eggs in 2018, followed by the US at 109 billion, India at 95 billion, Mexico at 57.4 billion, and Brazil at 53 billion, stated Shahbandeh. The lowest producers were Russia (44 billion), Japan (43.8 billion), Indonesia (38 billion), Turkey (19.6 billion), and Pakistan (18 billion).



2018 Summary of Poultry Production and Value

In 2018, the combined value of production from broilers, eggs, turkeys, and the value of sales from chickens was $46.3 billion, up 8% from 2017’s $42.7 billion, according to a May 2019 report by federal executive department the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the USDA’s statistical branch. Breaking down the combined total, 69% was from broilers, 23% from eggs, 8% from turkeys, and less than 1% from chickens.

The value of broilers produced in 2018 was $31.7 billion showing an 8% increase from $30.2 billion in 2017. In 2018, the total number of broilers produced was 9.47 billion up from 2017’s 8.9 billion (1%). The total amount of live broilers produced in 2018 was 56.7 billion pounds, a 2% increase from a year prior (55.5 billion pounds).  

The value of turkeys produced in 2018 was $3.88 billion, a dip from 2017’s $4.87 billion (20%). The total number of turkeys raised in 2018 was 244 million, a slight decrease from 2017’s 245 million. Turkey production in 2018 amounted to 7.60 billion pounds, an increase from 7.54 billion pounds produced in 2017 (2%).

Excluding broilers, the value of sales from chickens in 2018 was $49.4 million, an increase of 5% from $47 million the past year. In 2018, the total number of chickens sold amounted to 189.6 million, down from 189.7 million in 2017. Egg production was valued at $10.6 billion in 2018, up 39% from $7.60 billion a year prior. Production totaled to 109 billion eggs, showing a 2% increase from 107 billion eggs produced the past year.



What Do I Need to Consider Before Getting Chickens?

Check your local town ordinances to ensure that you are permitted to keep chickens in your neighborhood or if there is a limit to the number of chickens you need to own. You also need to have ample space for a henhouse or a full-size chicken coop. The coop or henhouse should have a feeder and water containers, a roosting area, and a nest for every three hens you own.

The coop should be large enough for you to stand and gather eggs and shovel manure properly. In the coop, each chicken needs three to four square feet of space, suggested Andrew Malone, who runs Funky Chicken Farm.  

Ensure that your chickens’ housing is sturdy enough to protect them from predators. Hens lay their eggs through spring, summer, and fall as long as they get 12 to 14 hours of daylight. During this period you need to collect eggs every day or twice a day. Chicken feed costs about $20 per 50-pound bag, though prices may vary depending on the quality and your location. As for the cost, the materials to construct and furnish a coop and a 20 x 5-foot run—where your chickens can roam and peck—will cost at least $300.

If you can’t build a coop yourself, you will also need to consider the cost of hiring skilled labor. Depending on the size of your flock, coop, and run, expect the cost to set you back between $500 and $700.



What Do I Need to Do When Raising Chickens?

1.      Daily

Your hens should have a clean source of fresh water, reminded Lauren Arcuri of The Spruce, a website that offers practical tips to help people make their best home. Waterers should be cleaned and rinsed well with dish soap and water if they are slimy. 

Sanitize the waterers with chlorine bleach or oxygen bleach. This chore is important as chickens hate drinking dirty water. You can either free-feed your chicken with a large feeding hanger or feed them a set amount per day. 

Observe your flock to monitor their health: bright eyes, smooth feathers, active, and alert chickens are a sign of good health.  

2.      Monthly

Change the bedding in the coop every month if you raise city and suburban flocks. Rural and larger flocks can use the deep litter method, where you begin with three to four inches of bedding. Every month—or when chicken waste builds up—you add more until you have six inches or more of bedding.

Beddings in nest boxes can be dotted with poop or broken eggs. To freshen up the nest boxes, pull out the wet and soiled parts and put in the new bedding material.

3.      Semi-Yearly Tasks

Remove everything from the coop and wash all surfaces with one part bleach to 10 parts water. You can do this once or twice a year. Some owners sprinkle diatomaceous earth (DE) in the coop to reduce mites and ensure the health of the hens. Invest in food-grade DE; it’s safe for your hens to consume it.

Your flock should be able to thrive during the winter season. If necessary, get heaters for your waterers. You might need to consider using a light to keep your hens laying during this season. Your coop should have a roosting space for your hens to stay warm. Avoid heating your chicken coop in winter.

Chickens are excellent gardening companions and suppliers of fresh eggs. Newbies may struggle in getting into the rhythm of the above-mentioned routines. But think of it this way: you will have a supply of fresh eggs from healthy, happy chickens.