Somerzby > Blog > Keeping Chickens In Your Backyard - The Ultimate Guide

Keeping Chickens In Your Backyard - The Ultimate Guide

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. ADVANTAGES FOR KEEPING CHICKENS
  2. CHICKEN BREEDS
  3. CHICKENS AS PETS
  4. KEEPING CHICKENS IN THE BACKYARD
  5. HOW MUCH SPACE PER BIRD
  6. COUNCILS, LAWS AND GUIDELINES
  7. BUYING CHICKENS
  8. RAISING CHICKENS FOR EGGS
  9. SAFE FROM PREDATORS
  10. FOX PROOFING
  11. CHICKEN COOPS FOR THE BACKYARD

A_few_good_reasons_why_you_should_get_chooks..jpg

Ever wondered about getting some chickens for your backyard.

What are you waiting for?

Here are just a few reasons why you should consider getting a few chooks your backyard

THEY LOVE TO HAVE A GOOD CHAT

Chickens can be surprisingly chatty and conversation with your girls will cover a broad range of topics from a gentle cluck, cluck, clucking over the injustices of life to an in-depth exposé of the political life and pecking order in the chook house.

And although their singing abilities are not so great and your chickens will never be another Bee Gees or Crowded House they can make a surprising range of sounds.

You can also pour your own life story out to your girls and receive sympathising clucks in response.


GREAT FOR THE BACKYARD

One of the great advantages of keeping chickens in your backyard is that they can help control pests in your garden.

Let your chooks loose in an unused area of your veggie garden and they’ll happily eat their way through large numbers of those pest insects.
Your girls will even leave behind some fantastic manure at the same time.

Chickens will do wonders for your garden!


CHICKENS ARE CHEAP TO KEEP

If you want to know how much the chickens cost, then you’d expect to pay between 5 – 10 dollars for a baby chick.

It costs very little to keep chickens fed and healthy. Chickens are great food waste disposal experts and will happily forage for insects in your garden.

You may need to buy a few additional nutritional supplements but other than that chickens don’t need much.

As excellent egg producer’s chickens are very cheap to run and will save you a bundle over supermarket eggs.


COMPANIONSHIP AND HAPPINESS

Chickens are very friendly, sociable creatures and they enjoy a good cuddle.

Chickens make great pets.

Your children will love them and your feathered girls will respond with oodles of affection.

And chickens are a great way to teach children about the need to care for other creatures.


THEY ARE GREAT EDUCATIONAL VALUE

Chickens are a great way to teach your children how to look after chickens, it also teaches them where their food comes from.

If you live in a city area, it’s likely your kids have never seen a chicken outside the supermarket shelves.

Having one living in your backyard will teach them about real food, and also instill a level of self-sufficiency into the family by providing you with fresh, organic eggs.

Using these eggs in the kitchen when cooking with your children is a particularly easy way to build an appreciation for where their food comes from.

This self-sufficiency means that you get to determine how the chicken is treated throughout the laying process and you can teach your children about nurturing animals. 

Different breeds of Australian Chickens

CHICKENS BREEDS, SO MANY TO PICK FROM

There are more than 400 different breeds of chickens and the variety of colourings and plumage is quite extraordinary.

We’ll share with you the list of chicken breeds in Australia, and how you can pick the best egg laying chook for your backyard.

Many people turn to raising their favourite breed as a hobby or even as a professional breeder.

However, you look at chickens they are great little birds deserving of love and affection and a place in your heart and backyard.

Do yourself a favour and get some chickens.

And Somerzby have a great range of chook runs and chook houses to make keeping your home range chooks so easy and so much fun.

To view our full article (snippete featured below) on all the Chicken Breeds in Australia Click Here! 

Chicken Breeds Chart - list taken from Australian Poultry Standard 2nd ed


CHICKENS AS PETS

Chickens have long been an addition to many family homes, not only do they provide eggs for their families, reduce food waste and fertilize the garden, they are the perfect pet for educating your children on nature, responsibility and health.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive and relatively low maintenance first pet for your children, then chickens are a great choice.

Their coops require cleaning just once per week (a lot less than the twice per day required for a kitty litter tray) and love to socialize with other chicken friends.

Chickens have their own personalities and will interact with children, most don’t mind being picked up and stroked and can even be taught to come when called.

They can help reduce waste by being fed food scraps from the dinner table and are great soil fertilizers. They will even take care of any pest problems you have too!


KEEPING CHICKENS IN THE BACKYARD

The reality is simple, if you want to keep chickens in the backyard, then council regulations require you to have an escape proof chicken coop.

If you do let them out during the day to range in your garden you must be absolutely certain that they cannot escape to your neighbour’s veggie garden.

Keeping your chickens safely within your well-fenced backyard is imperative for three reasons:

• To stay within the law
• To avoid upsetting your neighbours
• Protecting your chickens from predators including neighbourhood dogs

Many chicken varieties, especially heavier breeds such as Orpingtons, do not fly well at all but some can and do, so, what are your options to avoid falling fowl of the law and your neighbours?


HOW MUCH SPACE DO CHICKENS NEED IN COOP AND RUN

Space needed outside the coop per chicken

When it comes to coop and run sizings, Dr. Mikelle Roeder, nutritionist for Purina Animal Nutrition recommends the most importants pararmeters for your flock are:

Coop - In general the space requirements for the birds will vary depending on the size of the bird...

"... but generally for the best results you should allow at least 4 square feet / .37 square metres of area per bird inside the coop and about 10 square feet / .92 square metre of outdoor space per bird."

That's what they call the 4 - 10 square rule.

Allowing more space either indoors, outdoors or both significantly decreases problems with bullying, egg eating and appears to keept the flock healthier.

Space needed inside the coop per chicken

For nest boxes, the general rule is one for every four to five hens.

Nesting Boxes shouldn't be too roomy, and for sizing the nest box you should allow 1 foot / 30 cms high, by 1 foot / 30 cms wide, by 1 foot / 30 cms deep.

The nesting boxes can be made from either wood, metal or plastic, but try not to mount them on the north facing wall to help keep your hens warm in winter.

For roosting perches allow about 9 inches / 22 cms of space per bird and each perch should be seperated by about 1 foot / 30 cms. 

Avoid using metal or plasic as these can become slippery and in winter the metal can become very cold which is no good for the birds feet.


SETTING UP A CHICKEN COOP

A roof of chicken wire over the chicken run will prevent chickens escaping.

A chicken wire roof is included in all Somerzby chicken coops and some of the Somerzby range, e.g. the Homestead extra-large run, have enough space for your chickens to get in a real flap and stretch their wings.

Sometimes chickens fly simply to explore new territory and find new food supplies so keeping them well fed and entertained will help reduce your chickens’ tendency to fly the coop.

The Somerzby lodge has wheels allowing you to move it around the property to give your girls some new ground to explore.


WING CLIPPING

Wing clipping is an established practice and is less cruel than it sounds (if done correctly) but it may not always be successful.

The cut feathers will grow back and so will need re-cutting after every moult but in some cases once the chickens experience their clumsy unbalanced flight they may stop trying.

You should clip only one wing so that the chicken is unbalanced when attempting to fly. Some experts suggest that very skilful fliers may need to have both wings clipped but with one side shorter than the other.

SO HOW DO YOU CLIP THEIR WINGS?

Firstly you need some sharp scissors or wire cutters.

Next, identify the primary feathers.

These are the outer flying feathers found at the wingtip; there are usually ten of them.

It is important to avoid cutting feathers that are still growing and have a blood supply but the safe-to-cut non-growing primary quills are normally clear and white.

You'll need to reduce the length of the primary feathers by as much as 50% on one wing only. As long as you avoid cutting the growing feathers this won’t hurt the bird.

If this doesn’t stop your charming chicks from escaping into the wild blue yonder you may need to cut the secondary feathers.

These are the flying feathers found closer to the chicken’s body.

Again, only cut back to around half of the feather’s original length.

Don’t cut more than you need but if you do make a mistake the feathers will grow back.

If you feel squeamish about cutting the feathers completely you can try simply cutting off the feathery material either side of the quill.

This is a considerably longer process but it won’t damage the feather structure itself.

Somerzby making life with your chickens a breeze thanks to helpful, expert advice.


COUNCILS, LAWS AND GUIDELINES

Yes, the Australian government and your local councils all have something to say about your planned suburban backyard retirement village for happy and fulfilled chickens.

But these rules are there to protect the health of your chickens, Australia’s poultry industry and your neighbours and they should pose no real problem for you or your chickens.

The laws and guidelines may vary from State to State and Local Government Authorities may also add additional stipulations so it’s important to do your research before you buy your chickens, coops and other assorted chook paraphernalia.

The size of your section and zoning laws in your area will also affect your chicken ranch dreams so check out your local LGA website.


HOW MANY CHICKENS CAN I KEEP?

As a general rule in NSW you may keep up to 10 chickens in a residential area without a permit but it will only ever be a hen party because no roosters are allowed.

Roosters, by nature, set up an infernal racket in the early hours of the morning and your neighbours will not be happy.

Other States, such as Victoria, may limit you to as few as four chickens.


CHICKEN COOP REQUIREMENTS

Although no permit is required to build or erect a coop in a NSW residential area it must comply with the following:

• It must not be taller than 3m above the existing ground level or have a floor area of more than 15m2
• Must be located in the rear yard at least 3m from each lot boundary, and at least 4.5m from any dwelling, public hall, school or premises used for the manufacture, preparation, sale or storage of food
• Enclosed to prevent the escape of poultry
• Have adequate roof water drainage that doesn’t create a nuisance to adjoining owners
• Be constructed of non-combustible material if it is situated in a bush fire zone and is less than 5m from a dwelling
• Limited to one coop per property

Some councils may require your coop to have an impervious floor such as cement under the nesting area. If you live in a rural area the rules are more relaxed.


BUYING CHICKENS?

If you want to buy chickens, make sure it's from a reputable breeder and ask for vaccinations records.

If you buy one-day old live chicks to raise they must be vaccinated against Mareks disease.

Other recommended or required vaccinations include:

• Fowl pox
• Infectious laryngotracheitis
• Infectious bronchitis
• Newcastle disease

It is considered best practice to buy all your chickens from the one breeder to avoid transferring any existing diseases from one group of hens to the other.

Keep new chickens in isolation for at least 14 days.

Some poultry diseases have the potential to devastate other key areas of Australia’s agricultural industries so you need to ensure that your chickens are in great health.


Keeping Chickens for Eggs

RAISING CHICKENS FOR EGGS?

Look after your chickens and they will produce generous quantities of fresh protein-rich eggs.

Fresh free-range eggs are richer in those healthy omega-3 acids and vitamins than cage chook eggs.

Say a resounding ‘no’ to battery raised chickens and raise your own free-range organic chooks and eggs.

You get to control what goes into your eggs and it’s better for you and it’s better for chickens.

The best chicken for laying eggs is the Austrolorp, see our in-depth guide for more info…

And if you are using the eggs for personal consumption or to give away to family and friends you do not need to be registered as a food business.

If you intend to provide eggs for retail or catering purposes there are strict requirements around registering your business and food labelling.

Don’t forget, the rules will vary from Council to Council so do check first.

For more info on how often do chickens lay eggs, the best egg laying chickens or how many eggs will my chicken lay, click here.


KEEPING CHICKENS SAFE FROM PREDATORS?

Keeping a guard dog can be effective but it’s no use letting the dog sleep inside the house at night.

And a determined fox may still have a go at your chickens despite the presence of your dog.

Some people have had success using various types of repellents including motion triggered lights.

Foxes have learned to associate lights with being hunted by humans and will often stay away.

Motion triggered sprinkler systems may also work.

Chemical repellents (both organic and synthetic) are used overseas with varying degrees of success but be aware that the use of some of these substances may be strictly controlled by Australian law.

Keeping your compost bins covered and removing any old pet food or food scraps around the property will also help to reduce the attractive smells that draw the foxes to your backyard.

It’s also a good idea to keep the backyard clear of any rubbish or objects that might give the foxes a place to hide or allow them to approach your chickens under cover.

Don’t forget that foxes are excellent climbers and they might be able to use overhanging trees to bypass your fence.


FOX PROOFING YOUR BACKYARD

Unfortunately, foxes love your chickens as much as you do…

…but probably for very different reasons.

Foxes were introduced to Australia in the mid 19th century and have done incalculable damage since then to Australia’s native wildlife and farm stock including poultry.

Foxes have become pests even in urban areas.

Their exceptional, climbing, digging and jumping skills combined with their innate intelligence make them an adversary that needs to be taken seriously by any chicken lover.

There are a number of ways to protect your chickens from fox attack including:

• Perimeter fencing
• Coop design
• Trapping, shooting, and poison
• Repellents

Foxes are not fussy eaters and love all breeds of Australian chickens from Astrolorps to Orpingtons, Rhode Island Reds to Longhorns, and Silkies to Wyandottes so you need to be as wily as a fox to protect your flock.


FOX PROOF CHICKEN COOP

How do I make my chicken coop fox proof?

Your first line of defence in making your chicken run fox proof is fox proof fencing around the perimeter.

Fox proof fence heights need to be considerably higher than 900mm because foxes can easily jump a 900mm fence.

To be safe you probably need to make your fence 1800mm high. You should also add an outwardly curving top to the fence.

Choose your wire carefully.

Fox proof chicken wire netting needs to be 0.9mm in diameter or thicker, as foxes will chew through lightweight wire fences.

The mesh apertures sizes should be no larger than 80mm to prevent foxes climbing through the fence.

You may need to add reinforcing where wire netting panels are joined to prevent Mr (or Mrs) Fox pushing through any gaps.

Foxes are great climbers too so consider adding some protection to your fence posts to make it harder for them. Steel posts are more difficult for foxes to climb than timber.

Electric fencing can be a useful addition but electric fencing on its own will do nothing to deter a determined fox.

You can get reasonably-priced solar powered units that will easily power a few wires around the top of your fence.

See our complete guide on fox proof chicken coops and fences here.


CHICKEN COOPS FOR YOUR BACKYARD

Large chook pens or chicken runs allow your chickens to be healthy happy carefree chickens.

Our Somerzby backyard chook pens are ideal for anybody who wants the pleasure of raising contented chickens while keeping them safe from harm.

Chickens can make great family pets and keeping some chickens is a great way to teach your kids the importance of caring for animals. Other benefits include:

• Lovable companionship—especially for children
• Daily supply of fresh eggs – a great source of healthy protein
• A marvellous supply of rich manure for the garden
• They will happily eat your food scraps and turn them into rich fertilizer or eggs

Chickens, like any pets need to be comfortable and safe so that they can feed in peace.

A very important part of maintaining healthy animals is allowing them to retain their natural behaviours as much as possible.

Our large chicken coops gives your chickens the space to be right proper chooks.


BUILD YOUR OWN

Yes, you could but it will be more expensive and time-consuming than buying one of our specially designed pre-fab chook runs.

The pre-fab chook run comes as a flat-pack in two cartons with everything you need for fast straightforward assembly…

…it couldn’t be easier.

All the materials including hinges and screws are provided along with clear instructions for assembly.

Maintenance is minimal—perhaps the occasional drop of oil on the hinges is about it.

 

Toni_Benton_-_Somerzby_Pet_Enclosures.jpgToni Benton - Toni has a lot of experience with keeping pets and pet enclsoures, with her very cheeky British shorthair cat named Charlie and a rescue cat Rosie who is now nearly 17. Toni's pets also includes Dwarf Lop rabbits and Australorp cross Chickens.

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We pride ourselves on a high level of customer satisfaction.

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