Owning Chickens in an Urban Setting
Why own chooks?
Chickens or chooks as some Aussies like to call them, make great family pets. Not only do the hens give you eggs, they’ll eat your food scraps, help to control insect pests in your garden, are inexpensive, and they have great personalities.
Which breed is for me?
If you’re wanting an easy, friendly and good egg laying breed, the following make for great backyard egg laying;
· Australorps are dual purpose chicken and produce up to 250 eggs per year. They’re large, black and very docile.
· Isa Browns produce up to 300 eggs per year.
· Sussex chickens are dual purpose and can produce 240-260 eggs per year and are docile and suited to cool climates.
· Wyandotte chickens are also dual purpose and can produce 200-240 eggs a year. They’re docile, friendly and cuddly looking!
However if you’re looking for a breed that will be a friendly family pet then one of the following would be great;
· The Silkie is quirky looking, cuddly and has a great personality.
· Brahma’s are big, calm and docile.
· Cochin’s are a fluffy chicken that is very affectionate and loves being held.
Preparing for chickens
Before purchasing chickens, make sure you check with your local council for regulations, and check the area for any predators. Purchase or adopt vaccinated chickens from a reliable source as they are easily prone to respiratory disease and viruses.
You will need a chicken coop that is secure, well ventilated, and dry. You can reinforce the coop with chicken wire that goes underground by about 30cm to deter any digging predators and to prevent pests. You can cover the floor with sawdust or another bedding material to add comfort to your chicken enclosure and encourage foraging.
You will also need to set up perches, install waterers and a feeder. Perches will need to be 30cm or more off the ground as chickens like to perch off the ground at night. The perches should also allow 30cm space per bird.
If you’re planning on having hens for eggs, you will also need to have nesting boxes that are dark and secure, with only one entrance, and line the boxes with straw or sawdust bedding.
The chickens will love roaming free out of their coop so ensure there is an area (or your whole backyard) that they can explore safely and with appropriate fencing.
What to feed your chickens
Chickens of different ages will need different feeds as they require different nutrition and protein levels.
· GVG Starter Crumble suitable for hatchling to 8 weeks old (a pullet a chick up to 12months old)
· GVG Grower Crumble suitable for 8 weeks to point of lay (a pullet that is ready to start laying eggs, 4-6 months old)
· GVG Open Range Starter/Grower mash suitable for hatchling to point of lay for ducks and chicks
· GVG Home Grown Layer Short Pellet, Open Range Poultry Mix, and Open Range Premium Layer Mix are all suitable from point of lay.
In addition to a good quality poultry pellet or grain mix, a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables can also be given daily such as dark leafy greens, vegetable peels and fruit. Kitchen scraps such as scrambled eggs, pasta, mashed potato, rice, rolled oats and legumes can also be fed occasionally.
A calcium source like shell grit will also need to be giving to your chickens, especially if you have egg laying hens. Calcium sources could include shell grit, cuttlefish, or crushed eggshells. Insects can also be fed to your chickens as they will hunt for these in the yard and provide a good protein source while they are naturally foraging.
Planting herbs and flowers for your chickens to voluntarily eat will mimic their natural environment and encourage foraging. Nasturtium; great for general health and repels insect pests. Nettles; help increase egg production and is fattening for your chickens (great winter food) Rue; good chicken medicine and insect repellent when scattered dry through the chook house to repel pests.
Do not feed your chickens rhubarb, avocado, chocolate, onion, garlic, citrus or lawn clippings.
Both worms and lice are very contagious issues that can arise with keeping chickens. Symptoms of worms include increased food consumption, weight loss, and pale egg yolks and combs. Lice are often viable on the bird, in nesting boxes, or on eggs. Dust baths are a natural method used by poultry to clean and remove lice. Chickens will often take the opportunity to have a dust bath in gardens when free ranging.
GVG Premium Layer mix and Starter/grower Mash have added ProN8ure. ProN8ure is a multi-strain probiotic that helps maintain a healthy balance of beneficial gut microbes. Trials have also shown that ProN8ure increases growth rates, improves digestive efficiency and reduces mortality.
GVG Home Grown Short Layer Pellet has Pron8ure IFS added. Pron8ure is a dual strain probiotic, and also a starch resistant prebiotic which is great for digestion and good health.
· Female chickens are called pullets for their first year or until they begin to lay eggs (point of lay)
· Hens will lay regardless of a rooster present.
· There are more chickens on earth than humans.
· Some farmers add marigolds to the feed of their chickens to make the yolks of their eggs a darker yellow.
· The most yolks found in one egg was nine.
· It takes 25 hours for en egg to be made in the hen.
· The chicken is the closest living relative to the T-Rex.