Chickens have experienced a wave of popularity over the past few years – and with good reason.
They make delightful pets and fit beautifully into a more sustainable lifestyle. You can adopt ex-battery chickens and give them a new home, or choose from a variety of chicken breeds.
Emma McClutchie from Titahi Bay, north of Wellington, keeps chickens in her back garden and she loves them. The first chickens she owned were rescued battery farm chickens, and McClutchie says it was heart-warming to see them take their first steps on grass and watch as their beaks and feathers grew back.
They were wonderfully friendly and quickly became part of the family. The family currently has four chickens and they’re full of charm and character.
“Whenever someone comes home or pulls up in the car they come running over to say hi,” says McClutchie. “One of them will actually curl up on your lap if you’re sitting outside and go to sleep.
"They’ll all sunbathe and one of the cats will join in. And you can watch them for hours, it’s kind of relaxing.”
She says the upsides more than outweigh the relatively small investment of time and effort involved in looking after the chickens. The kids feed the chickens and collect two or three eggs each day.
The chooks eat some of the food scraps and every other day the coop gets cleaned and the waste goes to fertilise the garden.
“They’ve only got a small space for them up the top of our garden, which isn’t huge – they don’t need a lot of room,” says McClutchie.
“We started with a coop from a friend and recently upgraded to a new Eglu, which they love.”
Chickens need company, so ideally you need to own at least three. The number you can keep in your urban back garden depends on where you live.
In Auckland City, you can keep up to six chickens (no roosters) in your garden without applying for permission, or 12 if your section is larger than 2000m2.
In Wellington, you can keep up to eight chickens. Other cities, like Christchurch, Dunedin and Hamilton, don’t limit the number of chickens specifically but discourage owning roosters.
Check with your local council to find out what’s permitted, bearing in mind that all councils want your pets to be well cared for and not disturb those around. It’s important to talk to your neighbours and make sure you’re prepared to be an excellent owner before you adopt any chickens.