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The new chicks on the block

Laying chickens are popping up in urban areas all over New Zealand, as people realise that keeping a small flock of chickens does not require a huge outdoor space or a large time commitment.

Becoming an advocate for poultry amongst your urban family and friends can help to break down the rural-urban divide. At the Farmlands Support Office in Christchurch there are many avid chicken owners and we picked the brains of a few of them, to get some inside knowledge on keeping city slicker chickens.

Jane Kemp (Campaign Analyst, Marketing)
What are some benefits you get out of your chickens?
Besides the fresh eggs for breakfast and less food waste, our chickens come with some pretty awesome community feels. The Somerfield Junior Youth Group started an initiative to build chicken coops as a way to give back to their community. The youth group seek willing hosts to take on the care of a few chickens, which are provided by a local egg farmer, the youth group then builds and installs the coops at the hosts property — in return for half of the eggs the chickens produce. The eggs are then given back to the community, such as the local food pantry, or schools to feed to children in need.

What is your top tip for keeping chickens?
Invest in a bird feeder that keeps the wild birds out. Chickens are great at self-regulating their food intake, so a chicken feeder that stops wild birds getting in is a great investment.
“Jane is right here. There are some great automatic feeders available that only open when a chicken steps on them — an ingenious way to keep wild birds out and minimise wastage of chicken feed,” Nutritionist Stacey Cosnett says.

Matt McIntyre (Partnership Manager, Customer Experience)
How challenging is keeping chickens?
At first I had to learn what to feed them as back in the 90s we had chickens on our family farm and we just fed them scraps from the house, a little bit of barley and then they foraged whatever they wanted on the farm. I have learnt that to get the best out of my chickens, they need a balanced diet so we feed them NRM Peck’n’Lay. Top that up with kitchen scraps and we get an egg a day from each chicken.
“Feeding just barley and scraps isn’t balanced to support optimum egg production. It’s important to use a feed designed for laying chickens as the main part of their diet and use scraps as a top-up treat for them,” Stacey says.

What are some benefits you get out of your chickens?
We have three chickens, HENrietta, Mrs Cluck and Bob, all named by my daughters and other than the obvious of fresh eggs every day, the girls have enjoyed the responsibility of feeding them. Initially they were a bit scared of them, but over time they have learnt more about them and now pick them up and chat to them while walking around the garden. The chickens are also awesome helpers around the garden. Every time I am in the garden they are out with me, helping with the
weeding and getting the bugs as soon as I pull out the weeds.

Few things can be as rewarding for so little effort, so spread the love if you are already a convert!

Article supplied by Stacey Cosnett NRM Nutritionist