Chooks make wonderful pets and are great recyclers, they turn your kitchen scraps into free-range eggs for the family, consume pests in the garden and produce compost for your plants.
They’re great for kids, a few chooks can be enormous fun and the kids get to learn a bit about handling animals and responsible care.
What sort of chickens should you get for your backyard? The orange-coloured ones are Isa Browns, they’re available all over the world and good for commercial chicken establishments. They are good layers in the first 2-3 years of their lives however they’re perhaps not the best choice to have at home.
The White Leghorn (remember Foghorn Leghorn?) are a good choice but in Don’s opinion, the black ones are the best, that is the black Australorpe, an excellent cross breed or the black Orpington. Both are very placid, good with kids and they lay for a longer period. The Orpingtons and the White Leghorns will lay far more eggs over three to five years than one of the Isa Browns.
There’s also Light Sussex (with black necks and tails), they’re a pure-breed, they won’t lay anywhere near as many eggs but they’re great chickens to have.
You’ve also got the Spangled Hamburgs (the ones that look like Dalmatian dogs with black spots) and Araucanas (they lay blue eggs!) and of course, the Chinese Silkies –which are fluffy-looking, extremely placid and great for the kids.
Feeding and caring for your chooks is pretty simple. You can use pre-mixed grain diets, but it is more economical and efficient to feed layer pellets. These are available in different mixes for your adult and younger chooks. Chickens also adore kitchen scraps. You’ll also need to provide a little bit of shell grit and fresh water daily.
The chicken feeder featured on Backyard Farming is a great idea. It’s an automatic one where the chicken stands on the platform and the feeder opens up. When the chicken takes its foot off the platform, the feeder closes. It means the rats and mice don’t get any food. It’s a great idea. Feeders like this are available from various companies online –just google “chicken feeders”.
When keeping chooks, it’s really important to keep them safe. When constructing your chicken coop, make sure to buy some chain wire (it’s seriously good fox-proof wire), you bury the wire 125mm (5 inches) deep and bend it out away from the coop and cover with soil. When a fox tries to dig into the coop, it’ll strike the wire and give up. Just because you may live in the city don’t think you are free of foxes.
In urban areas, local councils regulate the keeping of poultry. Some councils discourage the keeping of backyard birds, while others don’t allow keeping of roosters. Before starting on your backyard chook plans, check regulations with your local council.