A new type of pet

ORONO%2C+Maine+--+12%2F15%2F2016+--+Goldie%2C+a+backyard+chicken+and+family+pet+who+lives+in+Orono%2C+was+brought+inside+her+owners%27+house+to+stay+warm+during+last+week%27s+bitterly+cold+weather.

Lynn Curtis King

ORONO, Maine -- 12/15/2016 -- Goldie, a backyard chicken and family pet who lives in Orono, was brought inside her owners' house to stay warm during last week's bitterly cold weather.

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Upon hearing the word ‘chicken,’ the first thing I think of is a farm. This is common for many others; however, farms are not the only places chickens can be found. Chickens weren’t originally domesticated, rather found outside in the wild. People first domesticated chickens around 7000 BC in China and Asia. Thus began the act of keeping chickens for their eggs. 

Today, a lot of chickens can be found at farms and in people’s backyards, typically kept for either their eggs or their meat. This isn’t always the case. Under some circumstances, chickens are kept as pets. 

Keeping chickens as pets is similar to having a cat or dog. They’re great companions and each individual has their own personality. They’re a lot easier to take care of than commonly believed. Ultimately, you only need a type of commercial feed, a clean, dry living space, and clean water for chickens to thrive.

To this day, I have 25 chickens that are kept as pets. They’re all hens, but only 15 of the 25 lay eggs. The remaining 10 are only about three months old and won’t start laying eggs until this coming spring or summer. 

I first started keeping chickens in the spring of 2018. A woman my grandma works with was giving away her four hens because she could no longer care for them, so my grandparents decided to take them. We didn’t get them to be pets; however, their previous owner had raised them to be pets. This made it a little bit difficult to just have the hens for eggs. The birds wanted to be pet, squatting down whenever one of us would come near them. They also wanted to be picked up and held, squawking at us when we would feed them. As time went on, I started spending more time with the birds and growing used to how they behaved. Each bird had its own personality. One of them appreciated the time I spent with her and grew to be my favorite of the four. Another one was a little mean towards other hens and would peck at them but was a sweetheart to my grandma. One of the remaining two was shy and didn’t like being around the other birds. The last hen of the four liked playing in her water and would often spill it. 

Around the start of fall that same year, we purchased eight baby chicks to add to our flock. We knew that it would be difficult to teach our first four chickens to accept the new chicks, so we ended up building a whole new chicken house for the babies. Today we have three different chicken houses, all adjoined with a yard for the chickens to play outside. 

Nine of my chickens all share a house and don’t like getting their feet cold. During the most recent light snow, all nine of the chickens jumped from their door, over the snow, and into a section of their yard that was covered from the snow. Consequently, I ended up having to shovel a small path through the snow before the birds would walk back into their house. 

On multiple occasions, I have gone outside to find chickens sitting in the windows of their houses. I have also gone outside to find an egg that had been laid in the middle of the yard rather than inside of the chicken houses. 

Throughout the last two years, I have grown accustomed to chickens and how to take care of them. Feeding, watering and spending time with the birds is now part of my daily routine, and cleaning out their houses is part of my weekly routine. At times they can be challenging to care for, playing with and spilling their food and water while always wanting attention, but they are very rewarding to have around. Chickens lay eggs, are great pets, eat leftover kitchen scraps, produce fertilizer, and help control bugs and weeds. 

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