Written By Dr Megan Rowles
Backyard chooks can make great pets and come with the added bonus of providing an egg supply, so here are ten tips to keep your hens healthy and happy:
1. Vermin-proof your feed and water containers to prevent rats, mice, wild birds, possums etc. using and contaminating them
2. Keep feed and water containers off the ground so the chooks cannot poo/scratch bedding into them. This helps reduce the spread of internal parasites.
3. Laying hens suffer deficiencies if fed just household scraps so provide a good quality layer feed containing 15-18 per cent protein plus shell grit during peak laying.
4. If you have a chicken tractor keep moving it to fresh patches regularly. Give fixed chicken coops a thorough clean at least twice yearly (autumn/spring). Remove bedding and manure, treat for mites/lice if required and then spread fresh bedding.
5. Depending on your location you may need to hawk- and quoll-proof your coop.
6. Check for lice – you can see them by parting feathers. They also leave egg clumps on the front of wings and around the vent/anus.
7. Watch for heat stress particularly in fat chooks.
Make sure your coop has adequate ventilation (spend 10 minutes in it during the hottest part of the day and you will soon know if there is a problem).
Many chooks don’t like drinking warm water so place ice cubes in water containers and provide dust bathing areas.
8. Remove eggs regularly unless you want broody hens aka wannabe mums!
9. If you are planning to hatch a clutch of eggs you will need somewhere safe for the mum and chicks. Please, please, PLEASE remember some adorable fluffy chicks will grow into roosters.
Keeping roosters is not permitted by some councils and there is a limit to how many you can safely have in a flock.
You must have a plan b for these animals. Dumping on the roadside is a very cruel practice.
One alternative is Tasmania Zoo, who are happy to take healthy birds to be humanely euthanised and then provide food for other animals.
10. Remember any medications that you give laying chooks have the potential to end up in their eggs, so always check labels or talk to your vet first.