Over the years we have had a few chickens at our place. We have had all different breeds and ages, but always hens. At the moment we have two lovely hens named “Blondie” and “Nuggets”. These girls are brown or red laying hens, probably Isa Brown crosses, that we got from the local produce store when they were about four months of age. Our chickens are very much a part of our family. By day they just wander around the yard, pecking at the grass and walking through the horse paddocks. They come running when they see us and follow us around, clucking and chirping all the time. Our chickens are quite cheeky, if you leave a door open they will quickly inside and walk around from room to room checking out what is happening. At night we simply lock them up in their little pen, which has an off the ground laying box, just so that they are warm and safe from any predators. Our chooks are extremely quite, probably more so than the average chicken. They are not at all scared of dogs, cats, horses or kids, which we think is fantastic. Our chickens actually lie down next to our dog, walk over her and eat her food. Not only are the adorable to watch, and great pets for kids they supply us with beautiful fresh eggs almost every day.
Chickens are a fairly low maintenance pet and generally don’t cost a lot, in fact they almost pay for themselves by laying eggs. You will need to supply them with a warm, dry and safe fully enclosed pen or hutch that they can be locked up in, at least at night. It is also best to provide a laying box, or somewhere safe with shelter for them to lay their eggs. It is important to be careful of other pets like dogs and cats when first introducing chickens into your household, as they may scare, chase or injure the chooks. They need a constant supply of fresh, cool drinking water and they should be fed a commercial poultry feed or laying pellet and that can be supplemented with kitchen scraps. Like all animals they should be wormed on a regular basis using a Poultry Wormer like Nilverm Pig and Poultry Wormer. They can sometimes be bothered by external parasites like lice, mites and fleas. If these parasites are noticed they can be treated with an insecticide like Maldison 50 Insecticide.
There are many different breeds of chickens available. We have owned, Isa Browns, Australorps, Pekin Bantams and some beautiful cross breeds like our very cute Silky x Frizzle x Naked Necks. Generally the smaller breeds of chickens will lay smaller eggs and not as often. Some of the ornamental breeds, like Frizzle’s, may only lay a couple of eggs a week, where as some of the hybrid layers, like Isa Browns, can lay an egg almost every day of the year.
Before getting backyard chickens make sure to speak with your local council and check on any restrictions or requirements in your area for owning chickens.
Chooks really are fantastic pets. They are great fun for kids but also teach them a bit about handling animals and the responsibility and rewards of owning animals. They are also great to have around the garden as they eat the insects and grubs and you have a constant supply of chook manure for fertiliser. Most importantly though they supply you with farm fresh, healthy and tasty eggs. So why not get a couple of chooks for your backyard and enjoy the ever so cute pet that also gives back to you.
Until next time,