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POULTRY AS PETS


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POULTRY NEED FOOD, WATER, SHELTER, SPACE, COMPANY, . . 

    Hens are generally easier to look after than ducks.
    Hens live about 9 years and ducks about 20 years.
    If you want birds for pets then you could get yourself a couple of hens or bantams, and let them loose in your back yard, rather than lock some poor canary or budgerigar up in some little cage.

EGGS

    If you want pure bred birds for eggs then buy top quality White Leghorn, Black Australorpe, Rhode Island Red hens or Khaki Campbell ducks. Or, provide a good home for rescued battery hens.
    They can lay 300 eggs per year when they are young. And, fewer but larger eggs as they get older.

NOISE

    Roosters do not lay eggs. Just make a lot of noise.
    Enough to wake you, and your neighbours, at dawn.

SPACE

    At least 100 m² per hen or duck. Bantams at least 25 m².
    In addition to this, ducks need a pond, with at least 2 m² of surface area of water per duck, some of which needs to be at least 50 cm feet deep, so that they can swim underwater and so wash themselves.

SHADE

    Shrubs and trees can provide cool shade. Make sure that there is shade all day. Shady shrubs on both the east and west sides of your yard. And, some areas of sunshine.

SLEEPING

    Hens and bantams sleep at night. They like to perch in a tree or a shrub or in a shed.
    Hens and bantams do not mind being locked up all night, in a shed, since all that they do is sleep.
    So if you have to lock your poultry up at night, to protect them from foxes or other predators, then have hens or bantams.
    Ducks feed at night, as well as in the daytime, and so they do not like to be locked up at night.

    Hens and bantams like to perch. Ducks will either sleep on the ground or floating on the water.
    In my suburban backyard my ducks slept under shrubs during the day and on their pond at night.
    My hens slept in a fig tree in summer; a camellia bush in  winter.
    My bantams on a windowsill.
    They were never locked up.

SHELTER

    Shrubs, trees and fences can provide sufficient shelter from wind and sun and rain for ducks.
    Ducks do not mind being out in a normal amount of rain but hens and bantams need a shed, or large, very dense shrubs, for shelter from heavy rains that last all day.

COMPANY

    Birds naturally live in flocks.
    Except when they were sitting on nests of eggs my ducks and hens and bantams were always together.
    They slept together; they ate together; walked around together; and, the ducks bathed together.
    And, whenever one of them got separated she called out to the others and they called back to her so they could get back together.
    Always have at least 2 hens or 2 bantams or 2 ducks for company.
    Preferably get them together, or at the same time, to prevent possible fights over territory.

WATER

    Hens and bantams are descended from jungle fowl and only need water to drink.
    To bathe, hens and bantams have dust baths in dry garden soil.
    However, ducks are water fowl.
    Ducks need water to eat with and swim and wash themselves in.
    Ducks naturally live in lakes and rivers and are adapted to those conditions. So ducks need shade and water, as well as sunshine, but not an overstocked, muddy yard that will ruin their feathers.

DUCK PONDS

    Ducks need a pond to wash themselves in – but not a muddy, overstocked area that will eventually lead to the ruining of the water proofing of their feathers.    You can dig a hole in clay and it can be waterproof without lining it.     Ponds in sandy soil need lining.

FOOD

    Poultry eat green leaves, fruit, seeds, flowers, insects, . . .
    Indeed, anything that they can get down. I saw one of my hens catch and eat a mouse.
    You can also give them anything that you eat and leftover food. You can feed eggs and egg shells to ducks but do not feed eggs, or egg shells, to hens as they might learn to become egg eaters.
    Hens have sharper beaks than ducks and so can break up and eat harder food than ducks.
    In a large grassed garden, or yard, of at least 100 square metres per bird, poultry will eat plants and insects in the yard and all that you will need to give them is some seed. About 50 to 100 grams per hen or duck every day.
    Adult hens and ducks will eat wheat, rice, oats, rye, . . . but, chickens and ducklings find these seeds too big to get down.
    I raised my ducklings on mixed canary and mixed budgerigar seed, in a saucer of water to make it easier for the ducklings to suck up the seeds, plus whatever else they ate in the large, grassed garden.
    As well as rice I fed my ducks bread and lettuce leaves and, when available, tomatoes, watermelon, figs and other soft fruits. Ducklings particularly like to suck up the seeds from broken up tomatoes.

FEEDING

    If you have allowed 100 square metres per hen, or duck, they can get all of the green food and insects that they need. Otherwise, they will need extra green food.
    In addition to this all poultry need concentrated foods like oats,  wheat, rice, rye or other seeds.
    Rice can be left out for ducks, all of the time, by putting it in a stainless steel or ceramic bowl of water. The ducks can eat the rice under water but other birds, rats and mice will not be able to.
    For hens and bantams, eating a lot of green food and insects in a large, grassed garden, hand feed as much wheat, or other seed, as they will eat twice per day. About 50 to 100 grams per bird per day.
    Ducks will share one pile of food.
    But, scatter the food that you give to hens, and bantams, so the bossy ones cannot stop the others from eating.



FRIENDSHIPS WITH ANIMALS

    Friendships are based on kindness and consideration; and not cages and subjugation.

BIRDS

    Rather than keeping birds, as prisoners, in cages, you can make a virtual aviary with real birds.

VIRTUAL AVIARIES

    The simplest way to have lots of different birds, in your garden, is to put birdbaths, or ponds, outside your windows. And, then watch the free birds through your windows.
    Put some dirt and water plants in the ponds. And, prickly shrubs nearby for the birds to groom and dry themselves. Safe from cats.
    Then, through your windows, you can watch and hear a variety of birds singing, drinking, bathing, splashing, drying and grooming, feeding and perhaps nesting.
    Through my lounge and kitchen windows I often see rosellas, honey eaters, wrens, doves, blackbirds, . .
    Sometimes thrushes, cockatoos, kookaburras, ravens, . . .
    When the grass has gone to seed I see finches eating the grass seeds and drinking the water.
    And, I hear the free birds singing happily all day long.

FOOD

    You can also plant some nectar producing plants, fruit or nut trees, seed producing grasses and dandelion near the pond or birdbath. These can attract nectar, fruit and seed eating birds.
    Pineapple sage, fuchsias and rosemary flower and produce nectar throughout the winter.
    Peach trees have beautiful pink blossom during the winter.
    Most grasses produce seed.
    And, if you do not use insecticides in your garden, you can also attract insect eating birds.

MAKING A BIRDBATH

    Almost anything, that is not toxic and holds water, can be turned into a birdbath.
    I used 30 cm  plastic garden planters, a 75 cm square enamel baby bath and an adult bath.
    I filled them with soil, to make them shallow, and plants so the birds can climb out and not drown.

SAFETY
DO NOT LET BIRDS AND MOTHS DROWN IN YOUR BIRDBATHS

    Birds only need shallow water to drink and bathe in.
    Birds can bathe in a puddle.
    But, if your birdbath has steep sides, birds and moths can drown.
    Unless, you fill the birdbath up with soil and plants, so the birds and moths can climb out.

BEES

    If you have some very shallow water then bees can have a drink as well as fertilize your plants. A flat rock, gently sloping into the water, can be a good ramp for bees.

FROGS

    If you do not have fish in your ponds frogs can breed in them.

KEEPING THE WATER CLEAN

    Plants, like water grasses and mints, can keep water clean by using up excess nutrients.
    If the water is becoming stagnant change it for fresh water.
    Smaller birdbaths can dry up, in hot weather, so I add water to them. However, I have had some of my bird baths for years without changing or adding any water.
    I have used a human bath, filled with dirt and plants, as a birdbath in my garden for 12 years.
    The plants keep the water clean. The rain keeps filling the bath. The frogs keep breeding.

EXTRA FEEDING FOR BIRDS

    I do not feed the birds regularly.
    I throw leftover food outside my kitchen window in the morning, for birds, or evening for possums.
    But, water alone will attract most birds since most birds need water to bathe in as well as to drink. And, in the summer birds need extra water more than food.

SIMPLICITY

    Having a pond and birdbaths, to look at through your windows, is better for you as well as the birds.    No cage means that you will not have to clean the cage.
    And, you can go on holidays and the pond and birds and plants can look after themselves.

FISH HAVE FEELINGS TOO!

    Do fish have brains and central nervous systems so as not to feel?

A VIRTUAL AQUARIUM

    I walked into a computer shop and noticed what I thought was an aquarium with fish and plants in it.
    It looked so realistic that if I had been in an aquarium shop I could have thought that it really was a real aquarium.

SETTING UP
A VIRTUAL AQUARIUM

    A virtual aquarium, with virtual fish and plants, can be even easier to setup and maintain than a virtual aviary with real birds.
    Rather than keeping fish as prisoners in aquariums one can have a fish screen saver.
    The computer screen can be mounted on a wall, or in a cabinet, to make it look like an aquarium.

A VIRTUAL AVIARY
WITH VIRTUAL BIRDS

    Similarly, one could have a bird screen saver with the birds singing.
    Or, if you have an old cage, you could put lifelike ceramic or resin birds in it. And, add other things like a nest with ceramic eggs.
    And, since you do not have to feed and water artificial birds, you can go on holidays and the artificial birds can look after themselves.

IF YOU ALREADY HAVE
BIRDS OR FISH

    You could make a bigger aviary or pond for them. And, your fish pond can double as a birdbath.

MAKING A POND

    If you live in an area with heavy clay you can dig a little dam.
    When I had ducks I dug a pond, in clay, about 5 metres by 5 metres and about 50 cm deep, for them.
    In heavy clay it was waterproof.
    If you have sandy or rocky soil, and not clay, you will need to line the pond to make it waterproof.
    Or, buy a prefabricated pond.

MOSQUITOES

    Fish eat mosquito larvae and so can stop mosquitoes breeding.
    Unfortunately, fish eat tadpoles.

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