WHY SHOULD YOU HAVE CHICKENS?
There’s a lot to enjoy when you have your own backyard chickens. The eggs are a real treasure—tastier and fresher than anything you can buy at a shop. The chicken manure and crushed eggshells can be thrown into the compost or worm farm. During the day, the birds entertain themselves. Scratching the ground looking for, beetles, bugs and other things that go into making delicious eggs. And with their keen eye for insect pests, chickens make for great gardening companions. Backyard chickens reduce food waste by eating kitchen scraps. Chickens do not need a lot of space and even small backyards can usually have a small flock of chickens. Even smaller spaces can have something. Quail make a great alternative and offer very similar benefits.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE GETTING CHICKENS
First, you will need to check your local council regulations to see what their legal requirements are. There could be a limit to the number of chickens you can keep etc. The last thing you want is to do is invest time, effort and money into setting up for chickens and then find out later that you can’t even keep them.
Make sure you have the space for their chicken house. It needs to hold a feeder and water, a roosting area, and a nesting box for the chickens to lay their eggs in. A proper chicken house should be large enough that you have access to gather eggs and clean out the manure. Any housing must be sturdy enough to keep your chickens safe from predators as well
Chickens need food (and water) daily. A good quality layer mash is best for them. It is best to feed the chickens this in the morning and give them access to the green pick of an afternoon. How long the bag lasts depend on the number of chickens that you have. Typically, chickens need approx. 100g to 120g of feed per day. I tend to measure this using a measuring cup rather than weight. I also like to add an equal weight of Copra to their feed as it has extra protein which is good for their health, their eggs and their feathers.
Hens will lay eggs through spring, summer, autumn and slowdown in winter periods. They need to have at least 8 to 10 hours of daylight.
Backyard chickens also need at least 1m square per chicken as a scratching space though I like to give them 3/4m square to provide them with room to move. If you give them your best, they will provide you with theirs!
If you go away on holiday, you will need to find someone reliable to make sure your chickens are safe and well while you are away.
THE CHICKEN HOUSE
Is where the chicken’s sleep, lay their eggs, and escape the weather. You can either build one, buy one, or perhaps convert an old shed or cubby house. It must be fox proof. The chicken house must be weatherproof yet well ventilated – dry and cool. Chickens like to perch off the ground at night. You need to allow about 30cm space per bird. Sturdy tree branches (if clean and crack-‐free) are the best – 40-50mm wide is ideal.
You will also need nesting boxes where the chickens can lay their eggs in. they like to do these things in private. Old lawnmower catchers are excellent or wooden crates are good too. Add straw or other bedding to their laying boxes. Allow 1 nesting box for every 3‐4 chickens, though I find that they all tend to lay in the same box.
WORMING YOUR BACKYARD CHICKENS
Regular garlic treatment is the most common method: Place 1‐2 cloves (per bird) of crushed garlic into your chickens drinking water, for several days in a row. Another technique is to add a little apple cider vinegar to the drinking water. You can also grow any of the following on the outside of their pen, so they have access to it when they need it – nasturtiums, wormwood lavender, mustard and rosemary.
WHAT ABOUT MITES?
Mites can live in the cracks of the chicken house. They march out across the perch and up the chickens legs at night to suck their blood. Check periodically at night with a torch, and if you find any treat the inside of the chicken house with boiling water or a paste made from hydrated lime. I also like to make a spray of boiled wormwood and water, strain the liquid and then spray into the corners of the chicken house.
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