If you are new to chicken raising, then you no doubt have a ton of questions to which you need answers. As with most things in life, there are some questions asked more than others, but that doesn’t mean they are any less important. Here are a few of the most common keeping chickens FAQ we come across on a daily basis.
Can I Keep chickens in my area?
Yes, but it depends. Most councils in Australia allow residents to keep backyard chickens, but the regulations differ depending on the council. The number of chickens you can keep, the distance the coop is from other domiciles and street fronts, and whether or not you can keep roosters, etc., will all vary according to what your council allows.
Of course, if you live in a flat, unit, or townhouse, then you won’t be allowed to have chickens no matter where you live.
Should I have just one chicken?
The short answer to this question is no. While people are social animals, we can go for long stretches without socialising with others, but then we don’t have to worry about predators jumping out of the bushes, nor do we have a pecking order (well, not in the way chickens have them).
Chickens do best in a flock, and they love their pecking order, so every flock should have at least two chickens. Having one in charge, one to toe the line, and both to keep a lookout for danger will make for happier chickens, better tasting eggs, and more of them.
How big a coop should I buy?
The size of the coop you choose will depend on the breed and how many chickens you need. There are some large chicken breeds out there, and some that are tiny and petite. A useful rule of thumb is to aim for 30cm (1 foot) perch space per bird, and 1 square metre per chicken in the run. If you only have two birds (remember, you should always have more than one), then your chicken run should be a minimum of 3 square metres.
You will want enough room in your coop for the chickens to have their personal space. Bear in mind that chickens will fluff out their feathers to keep warm on chilly nights, which means they will take up more room. If you have too many chickens, a cramped coop will soon start feeling like a sauna after someone’s gone crazy with the hot rocks.
Proper ventilation is also essential, but make sure vents are in locations where the wind can’t blow directly into them.
What do I feed my chickens?
Chickens have different nutritional requirements at varying stages of their life. A lot of chicken feed is in pellet form and comes in varieties that match the age of your birds. You might not enjoy a plateful of feed pellets, but your chickens love them, and they contain all the nutrients a growing, or fully-grown chicken needs.
Just like people, chickens have their favourite foods which aren’t necessarily all that good for them, but an occasional treat will keep flock morale up. Would you like to eat nothing but pellets day in day out? Just a few examples of treats your birds will go crazy for include grapes, sweet corn, greens, strawberries, apples, and salads.
The best policy is to hold back on the treats until after lunchtime, so you know your birds have eaten their fill of quality nutrition; think of it as their desert and only give them out in moderation. Remember, a fat chicken is not a healthy chicken, and will have trouble supplying you with tasty eggs.
If you can, let your chickens out to free range, as they will pick up a lot of nutrition around the yard. It’s free, and your chickens will be happier for the extra variety. Plus, they will get rid of a lot of weeds for you.
Something of interest to note is that the UK has made it against the law to feed chickens any scraps which have come from your kitchen. If in doubt, don’t give it to your chickens.
What’s wrong with my chicken, she sits on her nest all day?
If there are no other signs of illness (Sick Chickens Signs, Symptoms and Treatments), then your hen is most likely in a motherly way and has become broody. Almost all breeds of chicken will go through broodiness at some stage. For the most part, it’s a harmless stage, and she will snap out of it in a few weeks herself (about 21 days).
However, continuous bouts of broodiness one after the other will start to take their toll, so you will want to use our strategies here (Broody Hen Guide – The Best Tips and Tricks) to break the cycle.
Other than sitting on her nest all day, your broody chicken may provide additional clues that she wants children of her own, such as snapping at your fingers if you try to take her off the nest, or you attempt to ‘steal’ her eggs.
Broody chickens will leave their nest only when they have to, so they tend to save up their bowel movements. If you notice extra-large stinky chicken poos, it’s another clue that one of your girls is broody.
I love eggs, how many will my chickens lay?
Chicken keepers often have more than one reason for keeping chickens. Some breeds make great pets but are not overly prolific in the egg-laying department. Others will try for an egg a day if they are healthy and happy.
Rhode Island Red, Leghorn, Sussex, and Maran will lay anywhere between 260 to 300 eggs a year, which means your friends and neighbours will love you for your fresh eggs if you have a few of these in your flock.
Do chickens need a rooster to lay eggs?
No, you don’t need a rooster to inspire your chickens to lay eggs, they will do that happily on their own. It’s a good thing you don’t need a rooster as well because some councils don’t let you keep them due to them being noisy little so and so’s.
Do chickens get on well with other pets?
Cats and dogs can learn to get on well with chickens. A curious cat will soon learn their place after a few aggressive pecks, but you will need to be more cautious if you have some of the smaller breeds. Dogs who have never been around chickens before will need to be supervised and trained to accept the chickens as members of the pack.
For whatever reason you choose, keeping chickens is an enriching experience. We hope the above questions have made things a little clearer about whether chickens should have a place in your life.