Keeping Backyard Chickens in Adelaide
Keeping chickens in the backyard has lots of benefits, not only will you get lovely fresh eggs, but your chooks with help to reduce kitchen scraps going into the bin, as well as produce fertilizer for your garden. Your chickens will start laying when they are around 20 weeks old. It is at this age that they are known as point-of-lay pullets.
Housing for backyard chickens
It’s important to ensure that you have housing ready when you bring your chickens home for the first time. You can buy a ready-made chook shed and run or build your own chicken coop. There are also portable pens (known as chicken tractors) which can be moved around your yard.
When choosing a design, there are a few basics to take into consideration:
- Protect your chooks against wind, rain, heat, cold and draughts in a secure, dry, well-ventilated enclosure with a door.
- Ensure there’s an outdoor run that has enough space for the chooks to move around and exercise—the more space, the happier and healthier your chickens will be. If you let your chooks out to roam free during the day make sure they can’t get out of your yard and that predators can’t get in. Always lock them up overnight to keep them safe.
- Provide nesting boxes for egg-laying. Chickens like quiet places to lay their eggs. Line the nesting boxes with a soft, comfortable bedding such as straw or sawdust and remember to change the bedding regularly. You can recycle your old bedding by adding it to your compost.
- Install roosts as chickens don’t sleep in their nesting boxes. Instead they will perch on a roosting bar at night. Old tree branches make great perches.
- Stop predators entering your hen house by either laying a concrete floor or peg down chicken wire into the bottom of your coop to stop rats and mice digging their way in.
- If you let your chickens out during the day remember to protect your veggie garden with a fence or netting—chickens love fresh vegies!
Feed and water for backyard chickens
As with any living creature, a varied diet and good nutrition is important.
- Provide a constant supply of fresh clean water (laying hens need lots of water).
- Ensure there’s a constant supply of fresh food as chickens are designed to eat all day.
- Include shell grit to their diet. Chooks need to eat shell grit to form the shells of their eggs.
- Feed a combination of commercial poultry food supplemented with kitchen scraps. Scraps alone are not sufficient nutrition.
- Don’t feed your chooks anything that’s rancid (unpleasant, stale smell) or spoiled.
- Your chooks will love any pulled weeds from the garden. However if you do this be aware that snail bait and pesticides are harmful to chickens. Therefore ensure weeds are free of either of these.
- Store chook feed in vermin-proof containers.
General care for backyard chickens
With good care, your chooks can live a long and healthy, happy life.
- Ensure wild birds can’t access your chooks’ water or feed as they can pass on disease, mites or lice.
- Provide access to loose dirt so your chickens can take a bath—a dirt bath suffocates poultry lice.
- Keep a close eye out for any weight loss, noisy breathing, or if the comb on the top of the head loses colour. Also notice if any health issues are flock-related or in just one bird. Healthy birds are bright, active, eat often and interact with other chickens. Talk to your vet about any health concerns.
- Check for fleas and ticks. The fleas appear as small, shiny black dots on the combs and wattles. Check for ticks at night because they leave the birds during the day. The ticks look like small grey/black dots under the wings.
Where to buy chickens in Adelaide
At Kilkenny Grain and Fodder we have chickens most of the year round. Our baby chicks aged 1 -4 weeks are priced at $6.50 each, 4 – 8 week old chickens are priced at $8.00 each, and our big chooks are $17.00. Simply give us a call and we’ll let you know what we have. If we don’t have any at the time you ring we can make sure we put them on hold for you when they arrive.