Information on how to care for backyard chooks.
Whether you already have backyard chooks or are thinking of getting some, you’ll probably know that this is a great way of getting fresh eggs, wonderful compost for the garden and some delightful feathered friends!
Providing the right environment for your backyard chooks is easy if you just think about all those things that hens like to do naturally: perch, scratch in the dirt, forage for food, dust bathe, and laying their eggs in a nest.
Where to get backyard chooks?
You can buy chooks from a reliable breeder or you could even consider getting some ‘rescue hens’ from a local cage-egg farm. Whatever the source, make sure your chooks are fully vaccinated. About four or five hens between 16-24 weeks of age is probably a good start. Rescue hens are likely to be around 74 weeks of age but given that hens can live up to 13 years, they can still lay plenty of eggs.
The chicken coop
Whether you live in the country or in the city, hens must be protected from foxes and other predators. The coop also needs to provide shelter from wind, rain, cold and heat. Make sure the chicken coop has perches and nest boxes.
The chicken run
Chooks love to scratch around in the dirt, dust bathe and forage for food (particularly insects!). If you have young plants in your garden or a vegie patch you may want to protect those areas from your chooks. Alternatively, provide your chooks with a run.
Feeding your chooks
Make sure chooks always have plenty of fresh, clean water and that you give them a commercial layer hen diet to ensure that they’re getting everything they need to keep fit and healthy. Add to that your kitchen scraps and some coarse shell grit and your chooks will be quite happy.
Owning backyard chooks means that you’re responsible for their health and welfare. Make sure your chooks are alert and active, have smooth feathers, and clean eyes and nostrils. Some obvious signs of possible illness include discharge from eyes or nostrils, drooping wings, diarrhoea, or laboured breathing. Consult a vet or poultry expert immediately if you think there’s something wrong with your chooks.
Never attempt to kill a chook if you don’t know how. Get your vet or local poultry expert to do it for you. Cervical dislocation is the preferred method if done swiftly and competently. Decapitation is not recommended as a bird may remain conscious (and therefore in pain) for up to 30 seconds.
Check with your local council about rules for backyard chooks. Some councils don’t allow roosters in suburban areas. That’s not an issue because your hens won’t need a rooster to lay eggs. There may also be regulations about the type and size of structures (chicken coop) that you can build in your backyard.
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