Do you have or have you ever kept chickens? It is rising in popularity in our cities as people turn back to organic and home grown food, urban gardens, and wanting less reliance on the questionable chicken industry.
I remember being a little girl living in rural South Australia and my parents had a few chooks in our duplex teacher’s house. They were like my friends and were very pampered. My strongest memory is of a massive thunderstorm, of which we used to get many. The wind was all wild and the sky was full of black clouds, clashing and thundering. The Port Augusta lightening storms are something to behold. Anyway for some reason I can remember my mum and us running around and gathering the chickens and bringing them inside into the laundry and I think one was perching on the toilet. Of course as kids we must have thought that was hilarious. I don’t remember how long they survived but my next memory is having chickens in our little country town home, when we moved a few years later. I was 9 by this time. We had a huge yard, more than 5 normal blocks, and we had chickens who free ranged all day. Our cattle dog we had for a short time, the most beautiful creature you ever did see, would spend hours herding them all back into the hen house! Mum would gently tell him it was ok, the girls were allowed to roam, but he had it in his head it was his duty to make sure they were safe in their house. Sadly they were all eventually taken by foxes and a local dog, and I think it broke my mums heart because there reached a time where we just didn’t have them anymore.
I have never kept them as an adult living in the city, but we have discussed it as a family many times. We are sort of waiting until we have the time and dedication, as after all these girls are more than just birds. They are part of the family and they provide food for your table. They also provide great manure for your garden. And aren’t baby chickens just the sweetest!
I know many of you either have or want to have chooks, so today I am sharing the top 10 tips for keeping chickens, which I have gathered. But first check this chicken swing out kindly shared with me by a lovely reader! So cute!
Top 10 tips for keeping chickens
- They are happiest being able to roam in the day time but you need to keep them safely locked up at night. If you are in a suburban area, check with your council if there are any regulations around size of cage and so on, because you want to be sure they are all correct and you are doing the right thing by the chickens.
- You can go for a ready made chicken coop, or you can make one yourself. If you are going to used recycled materials, make sure that you use weather proof material and that it is secure from predators like those foxes, dogs and cats.
- They love to have a perch but make it more than 50 cm above the ground.
- You can use any type of timber or tree branch but according to River Cottage it needs to be at least 5cm wide
- As with any bird, our budgie is the same – don’t put their perch over their water source or they will pooh in there! And they need fresh water every day.
- You need to give them a nesting box. A wooden box is perfect. Just make sure it is at least 30cm squared and lined with straw.
- They need plenty of shade, so make sure they are not baking out in the sun – you don’t want to roast your chooks!
- They need love! So be sure to have more than one chook. If you get new chooks, make sure you get more than one new one at a time as the others may get a bit nasty and hen pick her!
- Chooks love to dig and scratch on the ground for grubs and worms so let them go for that! You can also feed them your left over kitchen scraps, so that is another very sustainable thing about chooks. They love raw vegies and vegie peels as well as fruit and things like wholemeal rice, rolled oats, cooked pasta & beans. Paul West from River Cottage says not to feed your chooks avocado, chocolate, green potatoes or rhubarb or you’ll end up with sick chickens. Commercial chicken feed needs to match the developmental stages of your chooks.
- Keep them clean! Keeping the coop clean will help with the health and happiness of your chooks. Take a bit of time each day to scoop up droppings and get rid of any loose feathers. If their bedding area is dirty or wet it is more likely to breed harmful disease causing organisms. Try using simple tools such as a scraper, a rake and a shovel. Also replace their bedding regularly. They love fresh sheets as much as we do!
I found a lot of tips over on the River Cottage Lifestyle Home site and they have a great video so hop over for a look.
Do you have any chook tips to add?
**updated post originally posted in 2015