Raising chickens & happy laying chooks...

With Sam Johnston

 

 

It is quite likely that at some point in your life you have had chickens, chooks or some type of poultry in your backyard. Chickens and chooks are a fantastic family pet as they teach kids to be responsible carers, encourage them to be compassionate for animals and teach them about sustainable farming practices. You can involve kids in the day-to-day care of chooks by asking them to help take out food scraps, fill up their water and collect their eggs. Most chooks also love a good cuddle as much as any other family pet!

As well as being wonderful pets, keeping chickens in your backyard is a great way to;

  • Help manage pests in the garden
  • Recycle your food scraps (one of the reasons they are a much-loved family pet!)
  • Produce ethical, nutritious and tastier food (eggs or meat) by having healthy, happy chooks at your backdoor
  • Reconnect people and children to the source of their food (eggs come from chickens!)
  • Generate manure to fertilise your gardens (once the manure is aged/composted)

 

Here are a few important elements to consider so that you can raise happy & healthy chickens, maximise your investment and save a few quid on eggs!

Caring for chooks

Food;

When feeding chooks, it is essential that a balanced diet is maintained. It is recommended that a variety of fresh fruit and vegetable scraps are provided daily, however they also benefit from other household scraps including; wholemeal rice, rolled oats, cooked pasta, beans, bread and legumes. To further assist in their healthy growth and development, it is recommended that Riverina’s Layer Pellets, Coarse Layer Mash or 17% Laying Mash is also supplied to chooks to provide essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins. Free range chooks also benefit from eating insects, grubs, snails, worms and slugs as a source of protein. A constant supply of clean, cool water is another key component to ensuring their health and wellbeing, with the amount of water they drink often doubling in hot weather.

Environment;

Whether you're renovating an old chicken coop/pen or building a new one, there are many features that must be included – after all, chickens that live in good coops lay more eggs! These features include; an adequate number of nesting boxes (1 for every 3 chooks), safety protection from extreme weather and predators (foxes, dogs, cats, hawks, snakes etc), a roost with ample room for all chooks to be elevated off the ground at night and where possible, a larger area from them to scratch around. Chooks generally lay eggs a few hours after they eat, so it is often best to feed them in the morning and let them finish laying, then collect their eggs and let them out for a scratch and run around, then put them back in their cage at night so that they are safe from predators. Their pen should be cleaned regularly, removing manure, hay, litter, bedding and uneaten food scraps - some of which can then be used to fertilise your garden.

Raising chickens

Food; 

When feeding day old chickens, like grown poultry, it is essential that a balanced diet is provided, complete with essential nutrients, minerals and vitamins to ensure a good start to life. Unlike grown chooks, day old chickens can’t handle household food scraps unless they are sliced or cut into edible sizes, so it is recommended that they are fed Riverina’s Chick Starter Crumble for the first 8 weeks, then Pullet Grower from 8-18 weeks. Like all poultry, water must always be accessible, clean and cool, and it may require cleaning several times a day if they make a mess scratching around. 

Environment;

A vital component when looking after chickens is to provide a constantly warm, draft free environment. To maintain these conditions, a heat lamp is recommended. As an overall rule, 35 degrees is recommended for the first weeks of life, gradually decreasing over roughly 6weeks or until the temperature inside is similar to the temperature outside. Once transitioned outside, chicks should be monitored for the first few days and if they are constantly huddled together, it usually means that they are too cold and that warmth should be provided. Flooring and bedding must also be maintained for chickens. Popular materials you can use for their floor and bed include paper towel, cardboard and hay which are easy to replace when needed. Whilst wood shavings are a popular alternative, they are not recommended in the first week of life, as chickens can’t distinguish between the wood shavings and food.

 

Other tips to keep in mind;

  • Chooks are social animals, so it is recommended to have 2 or more in your brood
  • When introducing new hens, add at least two at a time, otherwise the new hen will be picked on until they work out a pecking order

By considering these elements and providing ideal conditions for your poultry, you will hopefully ensure happy & healthy pets and many eggs in your fridge, a win-win!  

If you would like any further information, or if you would like to know about poultry worming, lice or mites, feel free to contact myself or one of our team by visiting our store, phoning us on (07) 46600400 or emailing; admin@dalbyruralsupplies.com.au .

Check out this great video on the ABC Gardening website as well, where Costa talks all things chooks!