Thinking Beyond the Chicken
Most backyard flock keepers are introduced to the world of domesticated poultry by the chicken. There is plenty of easily accessible information about chickens, chickens lay the eggs that Americans are most familiar with eating, and chickens make great pets. We certainly don’t discourage raising chickens.
However, today, we’d like to introduce you to a few other types of domesticated poultry, along with some of the reasons you might want to consider raising them. Some of them require more space than chickens, and some require water, but they are worth considering if you think you might be ready to expand.
Quail are easy to raise. They can happily thrive in a cage in a garage or basement with proper care. They produce lots of eggs and they don’t make much noise. There are lots of reasons to raise quail! Many people who live in urban areas where it is still illegal to have chickens find that quail are a good choice because there are not usually specific ordinances against them and they are quiet so don’t disturb neighbors.
You don’t necessarily have to have a pond to have ducks, depending on the breed you choose. If you don’t have a pond, ducks can be happy with a small swimming pool or large wash tub to splash in. Duck eggs are excellent for baking and many people find they enjoy the flavor as well. Some types of ducks are more vocal than others; some are better fliers or foragers. If you are thinking about getting a few ducks, do a little research and choose the breed best suited for your situation.
It is entirely possible to raise your own turkey for Thanksgiving. In fact, there are lots of advantages to doing so. Turkeys need a fairly large amount of area to forage. There are good instructions for building moveable turkey pens available. Most people don’t know that turkeys are friendly, and like being around people. Some folks start out raising poults, planning to have them for dinner, but end up keeping them as pets.
Have ticks? Get guineas! Guinea fowl are great at pest control, and they make fantastic “watch dogs.” They will happily share a residence with your chickens. Guineas are excellent birds for gardeners to keep because they pluck bugs right off of plants, without harming the plant. Most folks find they can let their guineas roam around in the garden without worrying at all.
Peacocks are beautiful, but besides looking like living sculpture, they offer another advantage. They run snakes away. In Indian, people kept peafowl to keep cobras away. Since we don’t really have a cobra problem in the US, you can feel pretty certain that a peafowl is capable of keeping whatever snakes you worry about out of your yard. Peafowl are large birds, though, and do require at least 200 square feet per mature couple. You should also research the pros and cons of letting peafowl free range.
Although it is not exactly a fashionable food, “roast goose” is considered a tasty food by many. As far as caring for poultry goes, geese may be the easiest. They don’t require anything more than a three-sided shelter for housing, they love to forage and a simple, 3-foot-high fence will contain them. Geese are also useful for insect control and as “watch dogs.”
Whether you decide to diversify when it comes to poultry or not, it is fun to learn about domesticated species. There are many others besides those listed here, and people all over the world raise a huge variety of poultry.
Do you raise birds other than chickens? If so, why? As pets? As a food source? For pest control? We’d love to hear about your flock!