For the past two weeks, we’ve been running a “chicken urgent-care clinic” in our backyard.
Well, sort of. We have three backyard chickens. Urban chickens are a huge deal here in Portland, Oregon. To our family, Lily, Ernestine and Cocoa are pets–just as if they were cats or dogs. We pet them. We carry them around. We occasionally bring them in the house for visits and snacks. (We make them stand on newspaper. They poop a lot.)
And when our pets are sick, we fuss over them. So when Ernestine, our lovely black and white Barred Rock hen, started acting under the weather a few weeks ago, we sprang into action. Visits to bird vets are expensive, so we usually get great advice from our local farm stores. (Thanks, Urban Farm Store and Linnton Feed.) We’ve tried a de-worming remedy, and are on to a broad-spectrum antibiotic. We’re just not sure what’s ailing sweet Ernestine.
We’re not alone in our zeal to both take good care of our pets’ health—and to try to save money on it. According to a survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), dog owners spend an average of $655 a year on veterinary care, while cat owners spend $644. (I’m not sure how much chicken owners spend, but I’m guessing it’s nowhere near that much.) If your pet gets really sick, blood work and other tests just to figure out what’s wrong can easily run you thousands of dollars.
Do you have health insurance for your pet? While it might have seemed like expensive silliness a few years ago (I poo-poo’ed it myself), it could actually be a viable option today. I interviewed financial expert Liz Pulliam Weston a while back, and she says insurance makes good sense for pet owners who don’t want their pets to die of treatable conditions—but aren’t willing to shell out thousands of dollars out-of-pocket to pay for medicine and surgeries.
Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) tells me that a typical policy runs about $30 for a puppy, and about $25 for cats. Ask your vet which insurance policies he or she likes. Vets often know which are most generous or cover common conditions.
Don’t forget to check whether your employer offers pet insurance as a perk. Some big companies like McDonalds and Hewlett-Packard apparently do. Somehow, though, I don’t think chickens are covered.