Chooks are fast becoming popular backyard pets as they produce a constant supply of fresh eggs, manure for the garden as well as companionship and education about where food comes from for kids.
Keeping chickens is a fully rewarding experience, but they do need plenty of TLC.
Here’s what Kaye Browne, pet expert from vettalktv.com advises.
1. Get two or more birds to create a new flock, never just one.
2. Buy good-quality chook food and provide clean drinking water.
3. Give new chickens a week or so to learn they have a new home before allowing them to roam free.
4. Talk to your chickens when giving them food or a treat so they associate humans with good things.
5. Position branches in their run and roosting space to exercise their feet and provide a lookout so they will cluck when they see you each day.
6. Replace dirty litter from under their roosts regularly and ensure laying boxes are always clean.
7. Treat for worms every three months and ensure they have an area to dust-bathe to help smother mites.
If needed, also treat the henhouse with a permethrin insecticide.
8. Ensure a constant supply of shell grit to provide the calcium they need to make good strong eggshells.
9. Trim the feathers of one wing of flighty birds while they sleep so they won’t be able to fly off.
10. Grow an edible vine over part of your chook house to provide them with fruit and to make them feel hidden from wild birds overhead.
Choosing the right breed
Australorps have shiny black feathers, are easy to handle and lay about 250 eggs a year.
They also come in a smaller bantam type, producing smaller eggs.
Silkie Bantams have a cute, fluffy appearance and are gentle natured, which kids love. But while they make great pets, don’t expect vast quantities of eggs.
ISA Browns are crossbred, caramel-coloured birds that, like other hybrid chooks, provide about 300 large brown eggs a year. They also rarely go broody, which can halt egg production