If you’ve been anywhere online in the past five years, you’ve probably heard about the chicken rearing craze that has been taking the world by storm. Championed by everyone from global supermodels like Gisele Bündchen to local YouTubers like Jianhao Tan, chickens everywhere were suddenly finding themselves trending animals of the decade.
Raising chickens is not easy, despite what the internet tells you about them being “low-maintenance”. However, if you do want to try your hand at raising these birds yourself, here is a guide to rearing chickens from your home.
Is it even legal?
First of all, check that you aren’t breaking any laws.
Owning chickens is only allowed if you live on private property, so this might be the one time you wished you didn’t successfully ballot for a BTO. The Housing Development Board has outlawed these feathery friends on their property as of November 2019, citing public health reasons.
You also cannot own more than ten chickens per house, so those dreams of raising a chicken army for world domination might have to be put on hold. The chickens also have to be caged or kept within a fence.
Last but very definitely not least, do check that your neighbours are okay with having a few new chicks on the block. Chickens are known to be rather noisy creatures, so you want to minimise your chances of getting a noise complaint and having to rehome your pets.
Where to get chickens in Singapore
Now that you are sure that you can in fact keep chickens in your home without any legal repercussions, here comes the question of where to procure these creatures. Many will tell you “adopt, don’t shop”, so rehoming groups like Chicken Adoption Rescue SG are a good place to start.
Image credit: Chicken Adoption Rescue SG
If you’re wondering why you can’t buy them directly from a pet store: they don’t sell chickens as they are not legally considered pets in Singapore.
Which breed to choose?
If you’re still contemplating what breed of chicken to get, experts say it depends on what you want the chicken for. Chickens are usually raised for two things – for eggs, or to just sit there and look pretty.
Common pet breeds are Brahmas, Silkies and Cochins, while egg-producing breeds include but are not limited to Golden Comets and Rhode Island Reds. Here are some basic facts about the different breeds to help you make your choice:
Brahma chickens are typically found in four colours: black, buff, dark and white (light). Brahmas are known for their large builds, sometimes growing to twice the size of other popular breeds. They were primarily used as meat chickens in the 19th and 20th centuries, and thus do not lay eggs on a consistent basis.
Image credit: The Livestock Conservancy
If you are considering a Brahma chicken, do ensure that your coop is big enough to accommodate their large sizes. Brahmas also have feathered feet, which can collect mud and other impurities during rainy seasons, so checking their feet often for comfort and hygiene is necessary.
Silkies are known for their friendliness and typically chill attitudes, as well as their soft feathers that look like fur from afar. They are also the main characters in the ancient Chinese myth of these birds having medicinal properties. Unfortunately, they tend to lay only 100-120 eggs per year, a far cry from the species-wide average of 250.
Image credit: @sillysweetsilkies
Experts highly recommend Silkies if you have no prior experience in raising chickens. Highly adaptable to various environments and very gentle, it is easy to see why Silkies make great first pets. There’s also the added benefit of being able to raise them in an apartment, since they don’t need that big a space to grow up in.
Like the Silkies, Cochins are calm and friendly, making them excellent pets. Their hens, in particular, are among the most nurturing breeds across the entire species, serving as exceptionally good mothers, even in a mixed flock. Their tame, almost introverted nature also helps them thrive in smaller spaces, so there’s no need for a giant backyard.
Image credit: @backyardpoultry2022
Unfortunately, like the Silkies, their eggs are laid on a seasonal basis, so there are certain months where you may get little to no eggs at all. However, this should not be too much of a problem – unless you aren’t a fan of Hup Seng eggs.
Golden Comets are a more active bunch, so a large space for them to run about is ideal. Despite this, they are generally pretty docile, albeit a little curious, and don’t mind being carried around and cuddled. They are also one of the most silent breeds of chicken, which definitely helps if you have one or two grumpy neighbours.
Golden Comet chickens.
Image credit: Know Your Chickens
Golden Comet hens generally lay about 5-6 eggs per week, so you know where to get those fresh omelettes for breakfast. However, these numbers are typically only seen in their first two years, after which production drops to only 3-4 per week.
Rhode Island Reds
Rhode Island Reds also have the approval from experts as a good first chicken for beginners. Robust and with a lifespan that outlasts a lot of their peers – 8 to the average 5 – Rhode Island Reds are quite literally the closest you can get to “low maintenance” in terms of domesticated chickens. They are also a dual-purpose breed, meaning they can provide both eggs and meat.
Rhode Island Red roosters.
Image credit: Chickens and More
While their hens are more composed, their roosters are known to be pretty aggressive creatures. So try to pick ones with a calmer disposition while procuring them.
Setting up a coop at home
So you have procured your chicken, it’s time to house it. While their habitats mostly depend on the breed as well as their size when you first get them, there are a few standard coops that more experienced chicken rearers would recommend.
Image credit: @jakodog92
For those chickens that are still at the chick stage of life, a simple clear 152L tub like those from Toyogo or IKEA should suffice. However, if you’re determined to give your chicken the best of the best, take your pick from the extensive coop catalogues on Alibaba and Carousell – a lot of them are pretty affordable too.
Image credit: @loveinabottlesg
If you prefer to dabble in construction though, good options for a coop include kapur, keuring and pine wood. Kapur wood is light and durable, while keuring wood is typically used for heavy construction.
Image credit: @jellymo
However, if you dislike the idea of caged birds, keeping your chickens free-range is also an option. Just make sure they are kept within wire or mesh fencing so they don’t escape and run amok around your estate in the middle of the night.
For linings, wood shavings, pee pads or newspapers are some tried and tested materials that are recommended for most breeds of chickens.
Where to set the coops up
The locations of the coops are also dependent on the breed of chicken. If they are more delicate and need a controlled environment to thrive in, then consider keeping them indoors in a spacious living room. Otherwise, outdoor environments like a backyard are ideal for the hardy ones.
How to feed your chickens
You can also make your very own meals for your beloved chicken. Instagram pages like @sgpolishchicken have good recipes that make use of leftovers and other high-quality ingredients to make healthy, homemade chicken feed.
Homemade chicken feed.
Image credit: @sgpolishchicken
Caring for your chickens
While most chickens can “sand bathe” – which is when a chicken uses fine sand or dirt to keep their feathers clean and get rid of mites, lice and other parasites – they cannot be litter trained. Owners are thus recommended to shower them to keep their feathers in top condition and to minimise the spread of diseases.
According to Clucking Good’s bathing guide, the best way to bathe your chicken is a là bubble bath – rinse it with warm water and add shampoo into the bathing tub. Clucking Good recommends F10 shampoo for your chicken, which is available on their website. Alternatively, any pet or baby shampoo should be fine.
Image credit: Pinterest
After bathing, rinse off the excess soap and towel dry your chicken. Experts also recommend drying your chickens in the sun, so choose a sunny day for bathing. Your chickens can also be dried using a hairdryer, but do keep an eye on the heat.
Not unlike us, chickens do require housekeeping services too. Deep cleaning, sanitation and disinfection is recommended once or twice every year, depending on the coop size and the amount of time your chickens spend in it. In case you’re a little confused on when and where to start, let us break down the recommended steps for you:
- Clean everything out – yes, this includes poop, shavings, lining, dirt, feathers and whatever ends up in the coop.
- Hose the coop down, preferably with strong water pressure.
- Spray the coop with pet-friendly disinfectant or detergent. These are usually available online or in pet stores.
- Let the coop air for a few hours, you can use this time to bathe your chicken or let it run around – watch out for potential escapees, though.
- Refill the coop with fresh lining and/or bedding.
Image credit: @jamies.secretgarden
Other than this (bi)annual event, regular care is also important in ensuring your chickens’ health and happiness. Remember to remove wet and soiled bedding daily, and replace all bedding entirely weekly.
When cleaning the coop’s bedding, do remember to check your chickens’ droppings for any irregularities like discolourations or strange odours. This helps in early detection of diseases and various other health issues.
General supplements and antibiotics
If you constantly find yourself complaining about the heat and humidity synonymous with our sunny island, chances are your chicken shares your sentiments. Hotter days can even result in dehydration and lethargy, so ensure that your chicken has enough fresh water and food to get through the day.
What if your chicken falls sick?
In the unlikely but no less worrying event that you suspect that your chicken requires medical attention, take the advice of Michael Scott and stay calm.
First things first, ensure that it is actually an emergency before seeing a vet. Most of the time, your chicken’s health scares can be fixed or treated using a simple first aid guide and some animal-friendly multivitamins or medicine.
Common health issues and how to treat them
No, we aren’t talking about myopia.
An inflamed chicken eye.
Image credit: Backyard Poultry
Chickens tend to get irritated or inflamed eyes pretty often, whether it’s from the dirt in their coops or getting pecked by other more aggressive chickens in the flock. Either way, treating irritated eyes is a pretty easy task: saline eye drops should do the trick. These saline eye drops are readily available at a nearby Guardian or Watsons too, in case you might need them urgently.
These usually occur for various reasons, from run-ins with aggressive chickens to plain clumsiness. Thankfully though, they are very easily treated.
Like how you treat most of the papercuts you get, wash your chicken’s wounds under running water, then use F10 Disinfectant to clean it. Said disinfectant is used by vets during surgeries and wound cleansing, so you definitely know it’s safe enough for your beloved chicken. Aside from this, gentle hand sanitizer should suffice, although you need to be sure it is the alcohol-free kind.
After this, use F10 Antiseptic Cream to dress the wound before bandaging. This is so that the chances of worsening of the wound are minimised. The cream also helps with getting rid of germs and other bacteria that could infect the wound.
For first-time chicken owners who are terribly confused as to what this is, Clucking Good defines it as “an internal parasite usually affecting chicks, commonly present in faeces”. So this is where observing your chicken’s droppings comes in handy. Common symptoms include runny and bloody droppings, dehydration, lethargy and ruffled feathers. Chicks can also experience stunted growth in extreme cases.
Luckily, coccidiosis is easily treated with Amprolium, which is available online. In this case, it is advisable to see a vet if the symptoms persist after treatment, as well as for a proper diagnosis.
Seeing a vet
If these issues still persist, please seek professional help for your chicken. Clucking Good comes in clutch once again and has provided a list of local avian/poultry vets. Do take note that most of them require booking in advance for appointments, so try and detect your chicken’s health issues early.
Image credit: My Pet Chicken
The benefits of raising chickens
There’s so much effort involved, you might complain, why not just get a succulent or a pet rock and call it a day? Well, most chicken owners would tell you that the benefits outweigh the doubts by miles.
For instance, if you prefer the convenience of deliveries to actually leaving the house to get essentials, then you will definitely appreciate fresh eggs right from your backyard. According to chicken owners, they taste exactly like the ones you would find from Fairprice or Sheng Siong, and they’re free too.
Image credit: @theangelhomestead
For those with an affinity for gardening and nurturing flora, you would be glad to know that chicken poop makes great fertiliser. Healthy for your plants, and best of all, you don’t even need to shell out money for premium fertiliser or manure.
Of course, raising chickens also comes with the added benefit of companionship, similar to what one might enjoy with a puppy or a kitten. As brought up in previous points on the common breeds you can find locally, most chickens do enjoy interacting with humans, and are pretty cuddly as well.
Image credit: @jamies.secretgarden
Raising chickens in Singapore
It is also worth noting that while there exists a ton of resources out there for chicken care, the most crucial factor to consider when getting a chicken is whether or not you are ready for it.
Many chickens are abandoned because their owners aren’t ready for the commitment, or simply weren’t expecting the amount of work it takes to care for a chicken. Ultimately, there is a lot more to chicken rearing than people tend to expect, so doing the relevant research and education is very important.
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