In our slightly mad modern life keeping backyard chickens can give us simple pleasures with the added benefits of homegrown eggs and useful manure.
For many people, the gentle clucking and scratching of chooks at home is domestic bliss.
Chooks are also a great way to teach children about caring for animals, after all, who can forget collecting warm eggs for breakfast?
Chickens are quite easy to keep naturally healthy, but an urban backyard poses a few special challenges, so here are a few tips:
A Chookie Space for Food and Shelter
A key issue for keeping backyard chooks is creating the space they actually need. If you get this right, you are well on the way to having healthy chooks and delicious eggs without much effort.
Chooks need a safe place away from dogs, cats, eagles, and foxes and they need to stay out of the veggie patch!
They do need a good shelter at night and a small, enclosed yard which offers both shade and sunshine during the day.
They don’t need a lot of room, we allow 1 sq. metre of perch space per four chooks plus (at least) an extra 2 sq. metres per four chooks for their outside day run. The day run also needs a place where they can dig and bathe in the dust.
If you build a shelter, leave enough room to get in and harvest eggs or better still be able to collect eggs from the outside.
Chooks won’t drink warm water so make sure their fresh water is in the shade all day. Drop frozen bottles of water into their drinking water on stinking hot days.
It’s also important you allow enough room in your garden to grow fresh ‘green pick’ for your chookies to have each day, for example, fresh grass, green vegetables, or even home sprouted grains.
To make sprouted grains just soak half a bucket of wheat or barley in a bucket overnight. Then drain and rinse at least once a day for three to four days until they start to sprout. Give generously.
Sprouted grains are soft, digestible and give your chookies living food to enjoy.
Chooks love protein which can include mealworms, meat scraps, garden worms, maggots and insects under logs or stones.
These basic things – good shelter with cool water, fresh pick and high protein food at the right time will provide you with a devoted flock, dedicated to giving you fresh healthy eggs almost every day of the year.
Breed of the Month – The Aussie Australorp
The Australorp was first bred in Cobargo on the Far South Coast of NSW.
They’re a strong dual purpose (meat and eggs) chicken laying 250-300 eggs a year.
Normally black in colour, placid, and very smart, they don’t go ‘broody’ as often as other breeds, but when they do sit, they’re great Mums.
They are hardy in cold and hot weather as well as being fast growers. Hens reach point-of-lay at around five months.
Next Month in Chook Chat
Mites, heat stress, Isa Brown, chook toys
Cheryl Nelson is the brains and heart behind Natural Chicken Health.