Hello! I'm new here and currently in the process of trying to decide whether or not to adopt some chickens that I've become quite attached to at the animal shelter I work with. Short blip of background about me and my situation:
I'm a young, single gal who works at an animal shelter and subsequently ends up taking home many pets. I think it's important to note that I live alone so all care for all the animals is totally my responsibility. I own my home, but I do live in a suburb so I have neighbors on all 3 sides I will need to be mindful/courteous. I currently have 2 small dogs (only outside for sunbathing and potty breaks), 3 indoor cats (only outside on harness/leash occasionally), and 5 reptiles (4 are exclusively indoors, 1 lives outside but more on that later). Daily animal care is already a lot, but I do feel I could manage the care a small number of chickens would need (since I'm doing it at work anyway!).
Okay so more about why I'm even thinking about chickens in the first place...at my job we mostly see cats, dogs, rabbits, sometimes the small bird or reptile come in. However a few weeks ago our officers confiscated 150+ birds from a property where they were not being cared for. Among those birds there are chickens (both hens and roosters of several breeds/breed mixes), pigeons, ducks, guinea fowl, parakeets, and a single canadian goose. A real menagerie! Previous to this group of birds, I rarely worked with chickens except to take photos of the occasional rooster that needed assistance being placed. But because these birds have been with us for so long and part of my job is on hold (due to COVID), I had some spare time and decided to dedicate it to offering enrichment to the group of birds we have housed in a large makeshift outdoor run. I decided to do this through clicker training. When I started, I was extremely skeptical that they would be willing to do much but BOY did they prove me wrong. Not all the birds have responded to the training. They all like my snacks (dried mealworms, shrimp, and black soldier fly larva!) but many are unwilling to approach me even after several weeks. I can't blame them, they came from a pretty bad situation where most of them weren't being fed enough and had very little human interaction. But the birds who have taken well to training have wowed me with their intelligence and I've found myself really attached to them. I'm technically not supposed to post pictures and all the videos I have of our training yet because they are part of an ongoing investigation. But I'm going to sneak a few photos in here. Don't tell
The first chicken to make herself known as a smart, hard working student was Opal. I guess she might have some Austrolorp in her, but I could be totally wrong because that's just based on googling. She is so food motivated and has a really hilarious personality. I've managed to teach her to come when called, step onto my foot, walk up a set of steps and we're now working on perching on my arm (she's a big girl so this is a little hard for her). She's also completed a mini agility course (including a tunnel, weave poles, and a small jump).
Then I fell in love with Duke! He's a gorgeous rooster with a huge personality and loves to "target" a ball on a stick. He's also nailed the stairs and coming when called, plus he gets rewarded for letting me love on him. Unfortunately I could not adopt him even if I decide to adopt some of the birds because I can't have roosters within city limits (where I live). But here he is anyway and I'm going to work my hardest to find him a place with someone I know so I can keep tabs on him.
And then there's Gladys...she's a little thing who stole my heart pretty easily when she first decided to just fly up and perch on my shoulder randomly. Her absolute favorite trick to perform is perch (she'll perch on my arm, shoulder, or hand) but she will also climb steps, hop from one spot to another, and target. We're still working on come and plan to break out the agility course this week! I have no idea how old she is or what her breed might be, but I do think she'll grow at least a little bit bigger, but maybe some of you more experienced folks could weigh in on that.
And last but not least we have Small Fry. She's young (still peeps like a chick!) but unfortunately special needs. Mites ate her feet to the point of pretty severe damage and she gets easily picked on by all the other birds (we tried housing her with the pigeons and they picked on her too) so if I were to adopt her, she would need to be an indoor house pet. I've definitely considered it! She loves pecking a specific pink ball for treats, but we haven't made too much more progress outside of that. Still she has a lot of potential as an educational ambassador. Part of my job is doing educational tours and presentations for kids at our shelter so I like having some of my own personal animals I know can come in and help kids learn without having to rely on what animals may or may not be at the shelter at that time.
Anyway I am tempted to build something outside in a 12.5 foot (L) x 7.5 foot (W) space of my yard that's currently set up as a dog run (short chain link fence). I don't use it and don't intend to, but thought it might be able to be converted to a chicken run for 2-3 hens fairly easily and then I'd build a coop structure. I'm just torn on whether or not that's really enough space to spoil these birds. They can't free range all day (city ordinance), but could free range for small amounts of time when I'm out there watching. I also have a large turtle pen on the opposite side of my yard and intend to convert my patio into a catio eventually so there will be lots happening back there. I'm not looking to start keeping chickens just because and while of course their eggs or compost material would be a bonus, I'm really only considering having chickens for these specific ladies that I've grown so fond of. What would you do in my situation? Also, if you have any idea of what any of their breeds could be go ahead and shout it out! None of us on staff are chicken experts so we've had fun guessing but we really don't know.