The soft clucking of hens is becoming a familiar sound in the suburbs of Australian and New Zealand cities. More and more people are getting wise to the fact that owning chickens isn't just the cheapest way to get eggs, it also provides the freshest, best quality eggs in the most humane way.
Keeping chickens is easy and rewarding. It's also a fun way to bring the family together. Chickens make excellent pets, being the curious, quirky creatures that they are. So don't be surprised if you find yourself getting attached to your chooks. Or if they get attached to you.
Chickens don't just lay eggs. They do a great job of generating high-grade compost and fertiliser. They're even able to weed your lawn or your vegetable patches (just keep an eye on them to make sure they're only grazing on what you want them to).
Even though keeping chickens is a relaxing, low maintenance activity, there are a few simple things to bear in mind. This guide will cover all the basics to make sure you do right by your chooks. They'll be sure to notice, and you'll be rewarded with lots of fresh delicious eggs.
The best coops provide a good environment for chickens to sleep, lay eggs, feed, and generally feel at home in.
Trade Tested's chicken coops are made from high-grade, treated Russian fir, kiln dried for 72 hours. This sturdy wood ensures chickens are kept warm, dry, and protected from both the elements and from predators. The run areas are contained within corrosion-free mesh walls, giving extra protection from pests and hungry intruders. All our coops have elevated henhouses, which maximises the run space and offers chooks a shady outdoor area to escape the sun. Our coop designs focus on easy egg collection and hassle-free maintenance.
Having enough space is important to a chicken. The SPCA recommends that you allow for a minimum of 2ft² per chicken. But if you want to make sure that you have the healthiest and happiest chickens, we strongly suggest that you leave 3ft² for each bird.
Consider where the chickens are going to strut around. Smaller coops are not designed to be 24 hour living spaces for chickens. Trade Tested's larger coops, however, have big enough runs to keep chooks happy without feeling cooped in.
A well-planned run can reap a lot of benefits. Roaming chooks will fertilise your lawn and garden. They'll scratch and turn the soil in the garden, keeping it aerated. And they'll do an excellent job of keeping weeds under control.
There are two main choices in choosing chooks. You can either go for commercial hybrids (the brown shavers) or heritage breeds. If your main reason for getting chickens is eggs, then go for the brown shavers. These chooks are thoroughbred egg-laying machines (they'll lay an egg a day if properly cared for). They also have a gentle temperament, and make great pets for kids.
Heritage breeds are a good choice for people whose priority is more chicken than egg. They won't lay eggs year round and can be less tame than brown shavers, but they're big on personality.
It's best to feed your chooks a mix of kitchen scraps and commercial layer pellet. You should also feed them a small amount of finely crushed oyster shells, which provides calcium for strong eggshells and helps them digest their food. Chickens don't overfeed, so if you make sure there's always a ready supply of food, they'll take care of the portions themselves. As a rule of thumb, we recommend feeding chickens 200 grams of feed per day.
A Chooketeria allows the chickens to feed at any time without assistance. The feeder closes when the chicken is done, keeping the food dry from rain and safe from rodents. Remember, the more chooks you have the more competition they face when eating. Consider using the Chooketeria All Rounder or more than one feeder to make sure that they all have a reliable and healthy food source.
Chickens also drink a lot of water, so it's really important to make sure they always have a fresh supply. This should be changed daily.
Trade Tested's coops are easy to clean. Nesting areas are fitted with a removable tray that should be taken out and cleaned several times a year. The run areas can be cleaned less frequently. Sweep the coop out, wash it with a high power hose, leave it to dry, and put in some clean shavings. You should never let your coop get smelly.
Mite killing sprays such as Poultry Shield are excellent for good coop maintenance. A red mite infestation can be a real pain. It's best avoided by spraying your coop each time you clean it.
Chickens are conservative creatures of habit and live by a strict pecking order. They get stressed out when the pecking order gets disturbed, which happens when new chickens are introduced to the brood. A certain amount of conflict is necessary to establish a functioning chicken society, but you want to make sure things don't get out of hand.
When introducing new chickens, it's best to introduce more than one at a time. Introduce new chooks to the existing brood in stages. Start by putting the new hens within sight of the old ones, but keep them physically separated with a mesh fence or a different enclosure. When you first put the new hens in the coop, do it at night (they don't like to fight at night) and put them directly amongst the original hens. Don't interfere with a moderate amount of argy bargy, but if blood gets drawn then remove the injured hen and try again after the wound has healed. It's sometimes a good move to isolate the most aggressive original hen, then reintroduce her once all the other hens, old and new, have established a new pecking order.
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