Given the amount of people in Victoria using their time in lockdown to invest in a poultry set up, we thought it was the perfect time to chat about all things chickens!
Chickens can make excellent pets, and if you haven’t already, are well worth looking into if you are considering adding a few new additions to your family. Not only will chooks earn their keep by offering you regular, organic eggs, they’ll also help to keep your kitchen scrap waste to a minimum and their droppings make for excellent garden and compost fertiliser. Keeping chickens can be a relatively inexpensive and easy way to dip your toe into the poultry world, however as always, knowing what to expect and being prepared will always pay off in the long run.
Rules and Regulations
First things first – before you decide to invest any time or money into your chook set up, make sure you check with your local council about the regulations on keeping chooks in your area. Most will limit the number of birds you can keep and have strict rules about resident roosters. As always, do your homework first!
Selecting the breed that is right for your lifestyle certainly sets you up for success as a new chook owner. The problem is though, that there are so many on the market, it really is best to do your research BEFORE you head out to your suppliers and fall in love with every little, yellow fluffball in sight. Really consider what you want to gain from your chooks – do you want prolific layers? Cuddly breeds for kids? Smaller breeds for a little nook in your backyard?
From Isa Browns to Silkies and Australorps, there is a wonderful array of chooks up for grabs, all with their own little quirks and perks. Still undecided? Perhaps consider a mixed brood of breeds to tick all of your boxes? Just take care to be educated on all of their different needs, growth rates, housing requirements and expected lifespan of your breed (the highly productive breeds tend to have shorter lifespans) and you’ll find yourself with a bunch of new besties, waiting for treats at your backdoor 😉
Chickens are generally quiet pets, and are kept contained outdoors in coops that you can pick up at your local pet store. You could also consider converting an old shed, cubby house or if you are really keen, building your own! Coops should be secured on all sides, including the flooring, to ensure predators and pests can’t get in and pets can’t get out. Housing should be well ventilated and provide several perches and a nesting box, where chooks are safe and protected from the elements. You should also provide a run for exercise or allow your chickens to free range throughout the garden every day, though don’t expect your thriving vegetable patch to last long if you aren’t supervising these scratchy, nosey little feathered friends. Be sure to purchase a coop big enough for the number of chooks you want to keep and remember to check the recommended space allowance for the breed you decide on.
What you feed your chooks is incredibly important and will directly affect their egg production. A basic daily diet should include a high-quality chook feed, shell grit (which can be as simple as returning after-breakfast egg shells to their original owners) and healthy kitchen scraps like leafy greens. These are best fed through hanging feeders to avoid rodents breaking in to feast on your offerings or your girls knocking over their grub and making an alrighty mess. Fresh water should always be abundantly supplied, as chooks can drink up to a litre of water each, every day. They can be fussy about drink dirty water so be sure to check and refresh water feeders each morning when you check for eggs.
If you’ve noticed your girls are not laying regularly, are losing weight or are laying soft-shelled eggs, examining their diet is definitely a great starting point at determining the problem.
Healthy chooks are a joy to watch and make a welcomed addition to any sized home and family. Your chook should grow consistently from infancy, and her feathers should be full and her cone should be red. Your chook’s eyes should be alert, and she should be curious and interactive, though very gentle and peaceful. If you notice your chook is pulling her own feathers or those of her pen-pals, try letting her out for exercise more often or feeding her through enrichment toys to combat boredom.
If you take the time to really invest in your chook’s health through diet, safe housing and top-notch health care, you’ll find that she lives a long and healthy life, and lays those gorgeous eggs ready for adding to crispy bacon and hollandaise sauce, with regularity and longevity.