Yes, you can have farm-fresh eggs even in a courtyard! Chook expert Megg Miller says there are small, docile chicken breeds perfect for very small areas.
Could you keep a couple of hens if you’ve got just a teeny backyard? Would it be fair to the birds or must they have a large area to range in? Well, the short answer is yes, it can be done, but you need to choose the right breeds and provide them with a special environment to keep them happy.
Our domestic fowl have changed dramatically since the days when their wild ancestors roamed the forests of South-East Asia. In fact many purebreds now require a safe, protected environment to thrive. Because there is not a single situation that suits all breeds, small yard-owners can embrace keeping fowls.
When space is restricted the breed you select must be content with the exercise it gets in its housing unit or with short periods pottering outside. A multi-level unit makes best use of floor space plus extra activity is offered by jumping up and down the ladder accessing the mezzanine sleeping level. Fitting some wheels onto the unit so it can be moved to sunny or shaded areas may add extra flexibility to the set-up.
An enriched environment is a priority. Pots of greens, a capacious box for dust-bathing, small granite stones and shell grit to ingest and a ladder perch to jump onto will help alleviate boredom.
The secret to happy hens is to obtain them when young and familiarise them to your set-up. Handle them lots and train them where they can and cannot go. A low fence will protect precious plants.
Suitable breeds for small areas include Polish and Silkies, their crests reducing vision and making them ideal for pottering around. Bantam Indian Game don’t wander far because of their short legs and dumpy body and like Pekins, they are poor fliers. Either of these are a good choice.
More frisky suggestions are bantam Modern Game, Sebright, Japanese and well-handled Belgian bantams. All are small-bodied, allowing you to find mini housing to complement the backyard space.
• Adequate sun and rain protection must be provided, even in small spaces.
• Clip the flight feathers on one wing to unbalance any attempts at flying.
• Keep fox protection in place, even in the city.
• Two hens provide company for each other but expect drama if one dies, the survivor may grieve and initially reject a new friend.