Chickens are easy to look after and make great pets. It also brings you just that bit closer to nature, and if you want to start moving towards a sustainable life, having chickens is a great way to start.
Before purchasing chickens, check with your local council about the rules and regulations they impose. Most councils allow you to keep at least five chickens without a permit. Some impose other rules, requiring the chicken coop to be far from boundary fences. It’s also common for restrictions on keeping roosters if you live in a suburban area (mainly because of the noise).
If you live in a rural area or on a larger property, there are usually less restrictive council rules around keeping chickens. Here are some tips for keeping chickens in your garden:
If you’re considering keeping chickens in your garden, consider a few things before taking the plunge. It’s best to start small, with just a few chickens in your garden first. This will allow you to get used to looking after them and develop any skills needed to care for them.
You must provide the right environment for your chickens. They need plenty of space to roam around and lots of fresh grass and vegetation to feed on other insects when they’re free-ranging.
Prepare An Appropriate Home
Chickens need somewhere safe and comfortable to nest and lay their eggs. A secure coop is essential – predators like foxes could cause serious harm. Ensure the enclosure has plenty of ventilation and protection from rain, wind, and the sun.
Generally, you should provide at least 2 to 3 square feet of space per chicken inside the coop and 8 to 10 square feet per chicken in the outdoor run area. Lean towards the larger end of the range to ensure the birds have enough room to move around comfortably.
Overcrowding your chickens can lead to stress, health issues, and increased aggressive behaviour.
Lastly, consider your area’s climate and weather conditions when designing the coop. In colder climates, you may need to insulate the enclosure and provide additional space for winter protection, while in hotter climates, ventilation becomes more critical.
Choose The Right Breed
When choosing chickens for your garden, there are many breeds to consider. Some of the most popular species include Rhode Island Reds, Leghorns, Australorps, and Sussex. Each breed has unique characteristics, so it’s essential to research before deciding which one is right for you.
Which breed will best suit your space, climate, and lifestyle? Do you want egg-laying hens or decorative chicken breeds?
Provide Nutritious Food
Chickens need a balanced diet of pellets, mash, and fresh greens like grass, silverbeet, kale, or broccoli leaves. Also, make sure to offer plenty of water throughout the day.
Keeping chickens in your garden also helps reduce household waste, as scraps from food preparation can be used to feed your flock.
Protect Your Birds from Predation
As mentioned above, foxes are a significant threat to chickens in Australia. Fortify your hen house with secure locks and wire mesh on windows to protect them from predators. Placing predator-proof fencing around your run is also good if you have multiple hens.
You also need to consider how you’ll protect your chickens from domestic cats and dogs. There are several ways you can do this, including:
* Ensure that your chicken coop and run are solid and well-built. Use sturdy materials like hardware cloth or welded wire to cover all openings, including windows and vents, to prevent predators from gaining access.
* Elevate the coop off the ground. This can make it harder for predators like cats and small dogs to reach the chickens.
* Avoid leaving food scraps or spilled chicken feed around the coop, as these can attract unwanted visitors.
* If you have dogs and cats, gradually introduce them to the chickens and under close supervision. Adequately trained and well-behaved dogs may coexist peacefully with chickens.
These tips may not be 100% foolproof. Still, by implementing these strategies, you can significantly increase the safety of your chickens and reduce the risk of predation by domestic dogs and cats.
Keep An Eye on Your Flock
Monitor your flock regularly for signs of illness, such as diarrhoea, mites, and respiratory problems – these can indicate serious health issues. In addition to regular check-ups, provide clean bedding, fresh water, and a stress-free living environment.
Ensure you keep the chickens away from your plants or veges; otherwise, you may not have any left to eat yourself!
Benefits Of Keeping Chickens In Your Garden
Perhaps the most significant benefit of chicken ownership is that you’ll enjoy the taste of fresh, organic eggs from your backyard. Not only are these eggs delicious, but you can also be sure they’re safe and free from hormones, antibiotics, and other additives.
Chicken droppings provide an excellent source of fertiliser for your garden. The nitrogen-rich droppings are great for enriching your soil and helping give your plants the nutrients they need for healthy growth.
Chickens also make for excellent pest controllers in your garden. They love to eat bugs like slugs, beetles, and caterpillars, so you won’t have to worry about these critters damaging your plants.
If you’ve ever owned a pet, you’ll know that social interaction can be gratifying. Well, chickens are no exception! They love to be around humans and interact with them, and it’s a great way to bond with your feathered friends.
Besides the above benefits, chickens are also relatively low-maintenance pets. They only need a safe place to stay (like a henhouse) and daily food and water. It doesn’t get much easier than that!
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to keeping happy and healthy chickens in the garden! Enjoy all the benefits of chicken ownership – fresh eggs every morning and natural pest control from your feathered friends! You and your feathered friends are sure to enjoy the experience! Good luck and happy chicken keeping.