Hi my name is Walton.
I lived in Zambia for a time where we kept a few chickens. Originally we bought 2 chickens from our neighbours’, eventually those 2 were 30; no idea as to their breed, but my brother calls them “compost eagles”.
A few months ago at the Rand Easter show, they had a whole lot of day old chicks that were there for the kids to feed. Annie (my girlfriend) and I liberated 2 of them. I’ve since got a few more from Tembisa, Annie’s stables and Airport Pets.
I free range the chickens as far as possible, but am wary of cats and my vegetable garden.
Where in the world are you?
Edenvale, Johannesburg (suburbia)
How many chickens do you have?
They have food names, but there is no intention to eat them at all.
Lunch (deceased – gleet), Dinner (deceased – cat), Mash, Kilo (RIR sibling, 1/3) the “KFC” siblings, Foxtrot (RIR sibling, 2/3), Charlie (RIR sibling, 3/3), Henny, Penny
How do you spend quality time with your chicken/ chickens?
I usually eat breakfast and dinner with them. When Lunch and Dinner were small, they used to perch on me at the office. They lived in the office for 2 months. The domestic lady loved me for it 😉
What has surprised you most about your chicken/ chickens?
How incredibly territorial they are. Introducing new birds into a flock isn’t fun.
What do you want to tell people out there (who don’t know chickens as a species) about chickens?
As far as pets go, in my opinion, they have more personality than dogs, are better behaved and are very interactive. Also, they are fun to watch as they are always running around, scratching, or doing something of interest. Dogs lay around and sleep, maybe dig up your garden.
How do you know that your chickens recognize you over and above other people in their lives?
Whenever I get home they run towards me to see if I have brought a treat or a left over lunch home. They’re very food orientated, and particularly enjoy meat.
In your experience of keeping chickens as pets, what 10 non-negotiable factors do you believe need to be in place to give chickens a life that is physically, emotionally and mentally healthy?
They’re flock animals and need a friend. Have at least 2 birds, even 2 roosters if they’ve grown up together.
They enjoy roosting. Something to perch in is a must, be it a broom, a knee or a branch.
If you intend to get eggs, a cool safe place for laying is a must. They’ll lay anywhere if they must, but you can see they don’t enjoy it.
Space is important. The more the better, but if they must be enclosed, work on 1 square meter per bird.
Chickens, like humans enjoy a varied diet. Always have fresh water and grits available, but my chickens particularly enjoy greens and table scraps like left over rice, braai meat and mielies. Just be wary of excessive sodium and yeast intake.
Protect them from predators. Watch for dogs, cats and rats.
If you could say one thing, on behalf of chickens in the world, to the decision makers in your country, what would that one thing be?
I understand that chicken and egg farming is a commercial endeavour, but at least allow the chickens to run outside for their short lives before packaging them…