Bringing chickens to a home can be a stressful experience for them (and possibly you too, if you don’t do it right). They need to be kept secure, have enough space to roam, and feel comfortable and happy enough to lay eggs. When you provide a safe and comfortable home and a good environment for them to live in, they will be good, happy pets.
Keeping chickens in your backyard requires the right kind of chicken coop, one that keeps them from danger and has features for roosting, laying eggs, and feeding.
What do you have to do before having backyard fowl?
Having backyard fowl isn’t as easy as purchasing chickens and letting them loose in your yard. You have to follow your local authority’s regulations on raising chickens first.
While every council will let you keep backyard chickens, every town or district has different rules about how many you can have and what the maintenance regulations are. It's a good idea to pay attention to these to avoid any fines, warnings, or the removal of your chickens altogether.
Most councils will not allow roosters in townships, due to noise and disturbance to neighbours, in other cases, like farm properties or breeding yards, you can obtain special permits for them. Other councils will only allow residential areas a maximum of six hens while more rural areas can have up to 20. Some will even allow for different types of fowl, like pheasants or turkeys.
Each council also has important safety requirements for the coop and its maintenance. In general, coops have to be clean, well-kept, and away from streets and neighbours’ fences. It needs to be secure in order to keep predators away and have enough space for adequate food and water for your chickens.
Chickens can make amazing family pets. They will gobble up most kitchen scraps, you get to collect fresh eggs, and they eat pests that might otherwise get into your garden, although you will have to follow very strict rules in order to keep the peace in the neighbourhood. As long as your backyard chickens are not disturbing neighbours with their noise, you have the right permits, and a well-ventilated chicken shed, keeping them shouldn’t be a problem.
Securing your fowl and creating a good environment for your chickens
Making sure your chickens are happy isn’t enough. They also have to be safe from predators and feel comfortable in their environment in order to thrive.
You should never underestimate the possibilities of predators reaching your chickens. The neighbourhood may seem peaceful but chickens can attract foxes or even neighbourhood dogs or other pets looking for mischief. By securing the pen and keeping it a good distance away from the street or neighbours’ fences, you can keep the chickens safe.
The coop has to be built specifically for protection and comfort. You’ll need wire, cleaning trays, and walkways, just to start. There also needs to be an area for rest, for laying, and for roaming around. Every area has to be kept clean to prevent the chickens from catching a disease. Chicken sheds also have to be very sturdy to survive any harsh winds or other inclement weather conditions.
By making their environment safe and clean, you’re ensuring their happiness, and yours.
What chickens need in a chicken coop
These are the basic things to look for when choosing and designing your chicken sheds:
Layer boxes. A layer box (or nesting box) is a comfortable, enclosed area where chickens can lay their eggs. They usually prefer it to be dim and raised up. For easy egg collection, you also want to design or position your layer boxes where you have access to them.
Proper ventilation. Chickens are prone to respiratory problems and diseases so making sure that the coop is properly ventilated will save you the trouble of a veterinary visit.
Easy access to food and water. Chickens are creatures of habit so having a dedicated space and time for feeding and access to water is important so that they can grow. It’ll also be easy for you to monitor if they’re eating properly or if they seem sick.
Roaming area/s. Your chickens need areas to roam and scratch. By allowing at least one square metre of space per chicken, you can have ample space for them to walk around, stretch their legs, and interact. You can also look at letting them out at certain times to scratch and stretch in the yard, before going back into their safe enclosure.
Perches and roosts. The natural predator of the chicken is the snake. That’s why chickens love to sleep high on a roost, it’s where they feel safe. To help them out, position sleeping roosts at a height that is easy for them to jump up on (and jump down from). In a natural environment, the roost would be a tree branch, so look for something nice and thick they can grip and feel sturdy on. The roost height will also keep them up above their droppings.
Keeping backyard chickens can be easy and a great way to have fresh eggs on hand. As long as you follow your council’s regulations and maintain the coop well, your chickens will be happy and healthy.
If you want to know more about how to give your backyard chickens a great quality of life, give us a call.