Keeping chickens as pets has become an attractive and interesting new hobby for many people. The added benefit of having fresh free-range eggs just outside your back door cannot be overlooked. In this article, we explain the advantages of keeping your own chickens. We also look at what you need to do before you buy your own hens.
‘Free Range’ eggs
Most of the eggs that you buy in shops are not free-range, not even close. Hens are kept in chicken houses with 8 hens per square meter. They are fed with premixed feed, and many producers do not really know what is in the feed. Even if you buy ‘free range’ eggs from the shops, the hens may be kept in small spaces. For an egg to be classified as free-range in South Africa the hens need to be 10 per square meter sleep space and 4 per square meter outside.
So the reality is, many producers don’t have the patience, time or space to raise free-range chickens, especially the small scale producers who are fighting to keep up with demand. We believe that the advantages of keeping your own chickens outweigh the disadvantages.
If you really want to farm-fresh, free-range eggs you need to either produce them yourself or buy from a reliable supplier – which can be difficult to find. The easiest option is to produce eggs in your own backyard.
Advantages of Producing your own Eggs
- Eggs will be cheaper, it costs about 70 cents to produce eggs in your backyard, while eggs in the shops cost around R2 each.
- It is good for your garden. Not only do chickens produce manure that is extremely good for your plants, and especially for the fruit trees, but they also eat bugs that are harmful to your garden.
- You will have lovely pets in your garden. Chickens are cute and fluffy. Sometimes chickens will also get used to you and become friends, possibly even tame when you spend enough time interacting with them.
- You will soon get addicted to having chickens – the gentle background noise, the cost-effective eggs, the manure for your garden, they truly can be a real blessing.
- If your coop and everything has been set up it will only take about 5 minutes of your time each day to feed them and collect your eggs.
Now that you know what the advantages of keeping your own chickens are, let’s look at what you need to get before buying any hens. Here are a few things to do:
What to do before buying your own chickens
Look at the laws in your area.
What does the law in your area state? Are you even allowed to keep chickens?
Mostly, on any plot or farm in South Africa, you are allowed to have as many hens as you want and even adult roosters. We have a smallholding just outside of Pretoria and we have over 150 adult chickens, including roosters. We also have a lot of younger chickens.
In urban areas, in the city and surrounds, you are usually allowed to have 5 hens. No roosters are allowed as they will wake up your neighbours very early! In most estates and flats you are not allowed to have any hens, but find out from your estate manager/landlord if you may keep a few.
Do some research on what type of hens you want to have
Contrary to popular thought, not all chickens are the same. Broiler chickens are raised for meat, and will not lay any eggs but they grow to maturity within 6 weeks. Other chickens, the layers, take 4-6 months to start laying but will lay 5-6 eggs per week from then on for at least a year or longer.
Build the chicken coop
You need to be ready to receive the chickens before you buy them. The most important thing to do is to build or buy a chicken coop.
You can read this article to know how to build one.
Water, feed and equipment
All the above tips are helpful and beneficial when it comes to keeping your own chickens, but water, feed and equipment are very important! Having good quality water, feed and equipment will make sure your chickens are as happy as can be.
In Pretoria, like most of South Africa, it gets extremely hot during the summer. During these times it is very important to ensure that your hens have enough water to be able to cool down and stay hydrated. The best way to ensure that they have enough cool water is to buy waterers. (You can look at a range of water systems to buy here).
The feed has a big effect on how well your hens lay eggs. If you buy bad quality feed, your chickens will lay poorly. Make sure that you buy the best feed, and that there is a supplier near to you. Use the acronym GIGO ( Garbage in garbage out) because what you put into the chicken is what you get out as an egg. If you feed your chicken healthy feed, you will have healthy eggs.
Other equipment that you might need includes egg trays, laying spaces and automatic feeders. When your chickens have unlimited access to feed through an automatic feeder they will lay more often and larger eggs. You can also get to our online store.
You can buy chickens as soon as your coop is ready and you have all your equipment in place. We recommend that you buy point of lay chickens. These are hens that are about to lay their first egg. This is a much easier way to start off than to buy small chicks or hatching eggs. It will also ensure that you get only hens, as it is difficult to sex chickens at a young age. However, if you want to start off with day-old chicks, read this article first.
Thank you for reading about the advantages of keeping your own chickens. There are various other articles that you might be interested in on our blog page.