Home' Smart Farmer : September 2009 Contents SEPTEMBER, 2009 smartfarmer
ANYONE who lives in the Adelaide
hills should be able to keep a few
chooks for egg production.
It is easy, it is fun, and there is nothing
like being able to eat your own home-
grown eggs -- they really are beyond
comparison with the supermarket
As with any animal, your chooks have
to be provided with the correct food,
fresh clean water and adequate
Even if your chickens are free-range,
they will need a safe place for laying and
to shelter at night. Predators, particularly
foxes, but also dogs, cats and rats, are the
curse of chickens.The chickens will
need a night compartment with laying
boxes, and preferably a run for daytime
use. Even if you are going to allow them
the freedom of your paddocks during
the day, there will be times when you
just cannot keep an eye on them to
ensure their safety, and the run will be
The location of the hen house is
important, as chickens need protection
from sun, wind and rain.They also need
good ventilation without draughts.
Most chickens like to be able to perch
at night, and perches should be about 25
centimetres to 70cm from the ground,
depending on the breed and size of your
birds. Keep the perch far enough from
the wall to prevent tail feather damage,
and a removable litter tray for catching
droppings can be useful.
If you are going to walk in and out of
the hen house it is best to make it a
reasonable height -- nothing is worse
than having to crawl into a chook house
on hands and knees to search for eggs.
Try to make the nest boxes easy to
access from the outside of the house.
Alternatively, if you are planning a much
smaller structure, a lift-up lid makes egg
collection easy and children tend to find
this rather less daunting than going right
into a shed if the birds are likely to flap
A shed with a concrete floor and some
form of litter such as sawdust is ideal,
but for the smallscale house the A-frame
design on wheels is becoming popular.
They are designed with a sheltered
section and a wired-in run, set on wheels
so they can be moved to different
locations when necessary to give the
birds fresh areas to scratch around.They
are most practical if you are thinking of
keeping just a few birds.
Dry straw or untanalised sawdust or
shavings make the best litter for nesting
Choice of breed is a matter of one's
own preference. Consider whether you
are looking for a dual-purpose bird -- one
which will lay well and which you can
eat when its laying days are over
(although it seems most ungrateful).
Enjoy fresh eggs with
your choice of chooks
YOUR CHOICE: Whether you decide on a standard layer or a more exotic breed, there are a
huge variety of chickens are available.
The Plymouth Rock is a useful dual-
purpose bird, as are Rhode Island Reds,
Australorps, Wyandotts and Light Sussex.
Some owners prefer to get the plain
Leghorns for laying, and there is also a
range of exotic and extremely attractive
breeds, such as the pretty spangled and
pencilled varieties, the huge Buff
Orpingtons and the most unusual
Araucanas, which lay pale blue eggs. Go
to a few poultry shows and check out
the different breeds and you will be
amazed at the choice you have.
If you are starting from scratch and do
not have much experience with
chickens, it may be best to begin with
point-of-lay pullets, which will provide
you with eggs almost immediately with
very little fuss. When you are more used
to the needs and care of your birds, you
may like to try some day-old chicks or
even keep a rooster with a few layers
and breed your own.
Chicken pellets are available from all
stock-feed suppliers, and wheat or the
readymix feed such as Red Hen are
always acceptable to your birds. A few
handfuls of shellgrit should be offered if
the eggshells are very thin.
But it is best to let them scrounge in
your paddocks as well. Chickens love
green feed, and it does wonders for the
look and taste of your eggs.Those huge,
bright yellow yolks come from birds
with a good supply of greens to pick at.
Be warned -- this could mean instant
death to your garden if the chooks get
within beak-shot of it, so it's best to
keep them some distance away or fence
off any special plants.
If you do have a vegetable garden and
can spare a few leaves, silverbeet,
spinach, lettuce and cabbage are always
appreciated, but steer clear of rhubarb,
potato sprouts and oleander, which are
poisonous to chooks.Your birds will also
enjoy fruit -- although not citrus -- and
will clean up any windfalls under your
trees. If the birds are not able to range
freely it is a good idea to provide them
with greens, but by far the best way is
just to let them forage for themselves,
and they will also pick up some protein-
rich bugs and fertilise your paddocks at
the same time.
To cull or not to cull?
At the end of a breeding or laying
season you may decide to cull
Their laying life is usually about two
or three years, and the best indication of
which birds are laying is the appearance
of the head. If it has a comb and wattles
which appear shrivelled or withered
instead of bright red and expanded, that
is a fair indication that the bird is no
longer laying and you may decide to
If, like me, you become quite attached
to them, that can be a difficult decision.
Some of them do have definite
personalities and it is easy to develop
favourites. Mine tend to stay on until
they die of old age, and some seem to
go on quite happily until they are eight
or nine years old.
It is up to you whether you adopt the
emotive or the pragmatic approach.
Whatever you decide, your own
chickens will no doubt provide you
with plenty of good meals, an enjoyable
exercise in animal-keeping for the
children, and a homely 'farmy' look to
your paddock or back yard.
Stock & pet foods
Point of lay chickens
GRAIN & FODDER
Ph/Fax 8568 5499
Mobile 0417 865 420
A/H 8380 5258
• Point of lay
• Full beaks
Start your own
Free Range egg business
Delivery across state
Ph 0417 825 361
Ah 8524 4329
Hate Constantly Feeding Them?
Rodents and birds eating their food?
Ph: 0406 154 274 E-mail: email@example.com
Postal: 341 Barwon Heads Rd, Marshall, Victoria 3216
farm fresh eggs without
attracting pests and their
developed and sold in New
Zealand for over 12 years,
have become hugely popular
and are now considered
standard equipment for
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