Farmer Bev

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We promised the girls before Christmas last year that we would be getting some chickens. It’s been on my to-do list since we moved down here, what 2 and a half years ago now, and the nagging for a dog finally had to be put to bed. I am not ready for a dog, so chickens it is. It’s been there with the whole get a vegetable garden thing to, which is still sitting on the list. These things require time, of which at the moment, I have NONE.

So I purchased Roberto a drop saw for Christmas. He had talked up the fact that he was going to make a chicken coop, and I figured that if he was going to construct one, a saw would be required. Needless to say, that saw is still sitting in it’s box in the garage. My husband is many things, but builder is not one of them. I borrowed books from the library on chicken coop design, sketches were drafted, and of course the nagging from the girls continued – in fact, they had already named our chooks – Hettie and Flo to be exact – and still there’s no sign of chooks round these parts.

I got back from QLD on Saturday night only to discover that Rob had finally bitten the bullet and done the sensible thing – thrown some money at a pre-constructed flat pack coop. Yesterday afternoon he put that bad boy together in less than 15 mins (he can use a drill like the best of them, I’ll give him that) and now we have the business of purchasing our 2 chooks.

That’s where you guys come in. WE HAVE NO IDEA. Just in case you didn’t get that memo already. If you have chickens, what advice do you have for me? What type do we get? Anything you wish you knew before you started out? Generally speaking…HELP!

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In other news, my bulbs are popping up left, right and centre. Yay!

In other, other news, I am starting the Cenovis Good Stuff Challenge this week – providing nutritionally balanced meals 3 times a day, for a week. I’ll be documenting my efforts and sharing with you guys next week. SO HELP ME GOD. I’m not sure how the plain rice cakes for lunch I’ve just thrown at Daisy fits in, but at least I’ll be keeping it real right?

Now, chicken advice….go!!

Comments

  1. Try a chook auction to acquire your hens. An eye opener indeed!

  2. Chooks are EASY! Promise! In Melb they are easy to get….even Queen Vic market has them! Not sure how your area is but all you need is someone with chicks. If you 100% want hens (no roosters!) then look at purchasing some pullets…10-15 weeks old. Gumtree should set you in the right direction. Our local kinder does a hatching each year and gives them away for free….worth looking around.
    When they are still pullet age just feed them a mixture of your fruit/veg scraps and some pellets…as they get older they can generally just live off scraps. They can ruin your garden so the enclosure is the best idea…although nice to let them out for a scratch occassionally…supervised!
    Good luck…super super easy….don’t stress πŸ™‚

  3. Tahnee Parsakia says

    This isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially seeing as there would be LOADS of questions from the smalls, but have a look at Caitlin’s take on backyard chooks.. http://www.motherdownunder.com/2013/04/adopting-ex-battery-chickens.html

  4. Anna Schiopu says

    I recommend Chinese Silkies, they are super friendly, fun to play with and we love them. They also remind me a little of lady gaga hehe xx

  5. They’ll eat those bulb shoots in a second! Chooks and winter is too much commitment for me. I can almost deal with the chock feeding, coop cleaning and egg gathering in summer but not in Winter!!

    I believe a dog would be less work. Something tat likes the lounge and kids – a retired greyhound for example.

    Good luck!!

  6. We have quite a few different breeds, some black australorps, Suffolk and euro breeds. They are all beautiful but the australorp eggs are beautiful and big and if you get them at about 12 to 14 weeks and hand feed them a bit each day they will be really tame. My kids love them and the eggs are to die for. Enjoy!

  7. Alli @ ducks on the dam says

    We have 4 isa browns. They lay like anything – what they are bred for. Easiest animals ever. Full of love. The little misses love them. Vegie scraps and pellets. Im with the others though – they will scratch and dig if you free range them all the time. Either fence off or supervise. Mine love the vegie garden in down time. We have a chook tractor which is fab as it gets moved around.

  8. Jos Parkinson says

    We decided to add chooks to our family a few months back & have not regretted it! Well, apart from the fact that they like to dig in the garden! {there is now a fence seperating them from my very much loved flower gardens!} We have 3 chooks & are considering getting a fourth. We had no idea before we got them what we had to do but we are now getting more eggs than we can use & give them to neighbours. I have written a few posts about our lessons we have learnt here http://sewcooklaughlive.blogspot.com.au/search/label/chooks
    Good luck * I know you will all love them!
    Jos

  9. We’ve got 3 Chinese Silkies and the kids love them – they’re more like pets than backyard chooks. I will tag you in some Instagram pics so you can see how cute and tame they are. Only thing is they don’t lay as much as other breeds like Isa Browns but we get an egg or two most days. Definitely section off an area for them otherwise there will be chook poo all over your lawn and the kids will walk it through the house which is just plain yucky!

  10. JoCountrylifeexperiment says

    We have about 8 chooks at the moment. They are all different types, but the Isa Browns are good layers, and are calm and friendly. They happily submit to being carried around by my 5 year old. Around this time of year, they often stop laying a moult. If you look in the land newspaper, there are often adverts for people who sell chickens (or your local paper). You will need at least 4 if you want enough eggs to cook with!

  11. We love our chooks so much! Were total amateurs when we started last year too, but won’t ever live without chooks now, the eggs are amazing and it’s so nice to watch them clucking and pecking around. We have four, two of which are Araucanas, and they lay blue eggs, they’re soooo pretty. Our kids fight for who eats the blue egg πŸ˜‰ We feed them most of our scraps, and some egg-laying grain mix every day too. We have a section of the garden fenced off, including some shrubby bushes for them as they love to sit in the branches (sometimes I think we forget that they are actually birds πŸ˜‰ We are just dealing now with some broody girls who sit on the nest ALL day and don’t lay, have to do some googling to figure out what to do with that, as we want our eggs back!! I reckon you’ll need 4 if you want to provide enough eggs for real cooking – it would kill you otherwise to make a quiche and use up all your precious eggs. With 4 you will have a steady and good supply, and can use them all the time. Good luck, I can’t wait to see how you go! x Rhi

  12. MotherDownUnder says

    We just got ex-battery hens….Isa Browns.
    They are not the prettiest of birds but they are easy as they already know the whole coop deal and they are already laying eggs! And soon they will be fat and feathered and as pretty as any other bird!
    We only got two as we are novices and I didn’t want to take on more than we could handle. We have been getting about 8 eggs a week…which is plenty for us.
    In addition to having plenty of eggs we also have plenty of poo…I had no idea how much chickens pooed!

  13. Emma Steendam says

    Ok Beth, THIS is something right up my alley…I love my chooks!

    We have always had Isa Browns, sure they’re not the pretty show ponies of other breeds but they are designed for one thing – egg production, and let’s face it that’s what I’m after from my ladies. We’ve had Isa Browns producing eggs for years after they should be (up to 5-6 years old), no other breed will give you that sort of egg loving. The current crop of hens we have are from our friends free range organic poultry farm, they gifted 6 hens to us on leaving Victoria and the poor loves traveled across state borders to their new home in a cardboard box and are now quite happy in our rough and ready chook pen. Our nesting boxes are a shambles, old chemical drums sawn in half and nailed to the posts of the chook pen, the chooks hate them. They prefer to lay in one particular corner, the darkest obviously, just on the ground in a nest of hay. The dark is critical. If you want your ladies to lay where you want you need to pick the right spot, dark is best, dark in the morning that is. Some soft hay for them to make a nest and they should be happy enough. Our chooks have always had to be taught to roost at night also, my husband goes out and puts them on their perches for a few nights at dusk and bob’s your uncle they get it after about 4-5 nights of doing that. We’ve also lost chooks to foxes, bastards. We built the MOTHER of all chook houses at our old place (then promptly uprooted and traveled around Australia in a ute for a year, weirdos). It had a rope pulley hatch egg collection system and everything a chookie could ever want – the taj mahal. Your coop looks the goods for vermin proofing but we’ve done a lot of digging wires into ground by a few foot and really tight latches on gates, yes I have had foxes open closed gates. The buggers don’t even take the chooks, just kill them and leave. Hmmm what else…clean bedding is key to clean eggs. I give them some soft hay and they love to spread it around their pen, keeps the mud down a bit in winter too. Cleaning eggs covered in mud and chook poo is not much fun. We also used to let ours free range but it depends how much you love your garden, mine loved scratching through the garden beds and digging up precious bulbs like yours! Our chook pen is quite big (about 8 metres x 3 metres) so I don’t let them out really now. We feed them a layer pellet as well as some grain, just because that’s what we have access to from grain farmer friends. I give them all my kitchen scraps too, they go NUTS for meat bones, people think they are herbivores, they need meat to be healthy hens, their layer pellets will have some meat in it but they love a chop bone or three! Fresh water is really key. Without fresh clean water your hens won’t lay. Happy healthy hens means happy healthy eggs. Hot weather will knock them, they might go off the lay in Autumn like mine are now when they’re moulting.

    Enough rambling. Good luck with your chicken ownership – you will love it, and the girls especially! Great names, I am yet to name our 6 ladies but I can’t tell them apart anyway…

    • Goodness me! Feel like I’m in a little over my head here! We’ll see how we go…I’ll be asking you for tips as we go…clearly you know what you’re doing! x

      • Emma Steendam says

        Haha not at all. It’s super easy, I literally just chuck my chooks some scraps and collect their eggs, they are very self sufficient, just watch those pesky foxes…

    • And somehow I think my romantic notion of free ranging chickens isn’t going to work….I love my bulbs too much!!

  14. julie mcdonald says

    I am one step farther than you towards getting chooks – I have the pre-fabriacated chook shed waiting in its box in our shed. But like you, we are time poor and flit off to far off places at the drop of a hat so chooks are a bit hard at the moment. Likewise the vegetable garden… I have an area mapped out but we need to get a back hoe in there to level the ground ($$) and fence the area off from our 2 sheep – DJ & Rack-Of (lamb) ($$$) then buy some raised beds so it looks perty ($$$$). Basically, it will never happen until I am 65 and a stay at home lady.

  15. Thelittleredhen says

    Not sure anyone else has mentioned this yet but isa Browns, while lovely, don’t have a very long laying life (approx 3 yrs) so then you need to figure out how to retire them. “Retire” or *retire* if you get my drift. Breeds like pure Australorps have more of a tendency to go broody at times (where they stop laying as often for a period of time) but will lay for far longer, I think sometimes up to 10 yrs (?)

  16. murphycl1 says

    A chicken coop is next on my husbands to do list. Seeing the mother of all sand pits took MONTHS to complete (it has a cover that folds back into bench seats all fancy like), I will be lucky if the chooks are in residence by Christmas!

    I grew up with chooks and we would either get our hens from the local produce store as pullets (a young female chook that cannot yet lay eggs), or we would get old battery hens from a chook farm that need some TLC. I have also seen listings for chooks on Gumtree.

    Gardening Australia has released a book called ‘The Contented Chook’ which is fabulous and covers which breed to get and how to care for them. I bought it for myself as a Chrissy present. The chooks are supposed to be for the kids, but really the girls will be for me.

    Claire

  17. We have just added 4 baby chicks to our family (one husband, two daughters, two cats, two rabbits, two guinea pigs and one goat). We moved to an acre block in the Adelaide hills 2.5 years ago and finally got our chook house last week. At the moment it is home to the guineas and the boy rabbit. The chicks are inside in a brooder. We are loving them. Very cute and so much personality already. Just dont run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere like I did on the way home from collecting them!

  18. If you want a pretty chook look no further than the Wyandotte breed (the Queen is partial to a Wyandotte apparently). I’m a first timer too, we’ve only had the 3 girls (Lucille, Sylvie and Sweetie) for a couple of months, got them at 18 weeks and have watched them bloom. Very quiet, friendly chookies, even the dog doesn’t mind them. Let them get out and about an hour before dark. They’ll have a good forage and then tuck themselves up in the coop without you having to herd them in. Get a special pair of slip on ‘chicken shoes’ to wear when you go in the coop so poop isn’t trudged everywhere else. Talk to your girls, they love pomegranates and fresh corn on the cob, anything left over except citrus, onions, garlic. And if in doubt…Google.

  19. What_Sarah_Did_Next says

    I’ve always loved the idea of having chooks but as we’re still living in suburbia, it’s just not possible. I shall have to live vicariously through you! x

  20. Bek @ Just For Daisy says

    I’m trying to convince hubby to get some chooks…we benefit too greatly at the moment from neighbours with hens who produce too many eggs for them to eat for me to actually get him to commit!
    In relation to where?? There are lots of local people… There is a fellow in KV who is meant to be amazing and know everything there is to know about chooks… I can ask on Wednesday night at my Intro to Permaculture class (surely someone there knows him!) or I know a lovely couple in WM with a large brood of Isa Browns and Aracaunas… (cool blue eggs!) And she has roosters so often has chicks… would be cool for your girls to see them hatch or from chicks perhaps?!

  21. We are at the same stage as you Beth, we have the chook pen, just waiting to get the chooks! The kids are busting! good advice from fellow commenters. I too am keen to fence the chooks, not so keen on chook poo in the house. ALso torn between cute silkies or egg machine Isa browns. Ill be watching this space!

  22. Okay…hit publish on this early for you and Caitlin from Mother Down Under…the best book about having backyard chooks is the Jackie French one….can’t speak highly enough of it! http://childrensbooksdaily.com/chook-books/

  23. Gibbergunyah says

    Try Jeremy at the pet shop near Harris Farm. My neighbour (who studied ag) got her chooks from him a few weeks ago. Then there’s the Co-Op in Kirkham Rd Bowral. It depends what you’re after, egg production, pretty eggs, sociability with kids, plain old durability. Don’t worry about going away too much – I’ve looked after the neighbour’s chooks for a week – easy. And I’ve heard very good things about Jackie French’s book.

  24. Melissa Ousley says

    We HAD chooks but no more. Only advice I can give you is keep them out of your beautiful garden. You can’t even imagine the damage 2 cute little chickens can do in a very short time!!

  25. Would love to know where you bought your flat pack chook house from?

  26. We have 4 Orpington’s. They are a bit of a bigger breed but have been excellent with our kids and their larger size means I don’t have to worry that they will be dropped or injured quite so easily as a small chook. We have handled them quite a lot since they were young so they are quite happy to be patted and held, but the breed is quite docile and friendly anyway. I highly recommend them to anyone with kids πŸ™‚

  27. Australoops – they lay for heap longer (as in 7yrs) compared to isa browns (3yrs) and they’re also very kid friendly.

    Feed them all your scraps – meat ones too – because even if they don’t eat it they’ll scratch and turn it into the soil and that is a good thing for the soil.

    Create an area of the yard you’re willing for them to roam or be willing to sacrifice your garden – they will scratch and dig until something’s uprooted! Somehow I don’t think putting up a chicken-wire chicken alcatraz (which keeps them on the lawn not in the garden) is part of Beverly’s design brief.

    Keep all your garlic skins and mix it in with the sugar cane mulch you put in their breeding/brooding boxes/space – it keeps mites and other issues at bay. As does thyme.

    They LOVE porridge and they LOVE meat scraps. Weird but true.

    Um, that’s all I’ve got at this stage.

  28. Hello dear Beth, you’ve already received loads of great advice so I won’t add much. But I would like to recommend that you get more than two. Chooks are sociable but also prone to mishap. You need to be prepared to lose the odd hen. One chook is a sad chook. So start with 3 or 4 and you’ve got a little margin for mishap x

  29. Only thing I would add to all this excellent chook advice is some specifics on fox proofing; make sure the floor of your coop is fox proof. Some chook wire laid across the floor space and overlapping beyond the boundary of the cage will be fine. Just lay the wire, put your coop on top and peg or clip them to each other. You can use tent pegs/ cable ties etc. Easier than digging down and laying vertical fox proofing. Foxes will dig (so will rodents). Also, if your laying box is external to your coop – ie you can collect eggs without going inside the coop, weigh the roof of the laying box down. Foxes are clever enough to work out how to get their noses under the laying box roof and lift it up. I speak from experience…

    Oh and Silkies are highly entertaining to look at but prone to broodiness and general misbehaviour which can mean unreliability for egg laying, I can recommend one for fun mixed with other breeds for more reliable egg supply.

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