Thinking about getting some laying chickens but don’t know where to start? Setting up a backyard flock doesn’t need to be complicated so take the plunge.
1. Start with picking out a coop. Make sure you get something large enough for the number of birds you want in your flock. Each bird will need about 0.3m2 of space and you will need one nest
box per three chickens.
2. Think about where your birds will hang out in your garden. You may want to let your chickens free range around your entire garden during the day if it is well fenced, or you may prefer to block off a part of the garden just for the chickens. This can be done using chicken netting and is a good way to protect your vege patch from feathered thieves.
3. Feeders and drinkers are next on your list. A good investment is a free-access feeder such as the Feed-o-Matic, which the chickens open themselves. This is a great way to minimise wastage of chicken feed and keeps wild birds away. Chickens won’t overeat their food, they just take what they need. Keep in mind when shopping for a drinker that a chicken will drink about a cup of water a day.
4. Your birds will be producing nutritious eggs for you to eat so make sure they get a balanced diet with all the right nutrients to produce quality eggs and stay in optimum health. Pick a high-quality chicken feed such as NRM Peck’n’Lay. A layer feed should be the largest part of a chicken’s diet but you can offer kitchen scraps as an extra treat.
5. Now it’s time to get your hens. You will need at least three as they are social animals and prefer to live in groups. Each chicken will produce five or six eggs a week so think about that when choosing your flock size. If you have an oversupply, friends and family will be more than happy to take them off your hands. The easiest option to get started is to buy point-of-lay pullets, which are hens due to start laying any day. You can hatch chicks from fertilised eggs or buy day old chicks and rear them, but getting some that are just about old enough to start laying is an easy way to get started and gives instant gratification in the egg department.
6. Picking the breed of your chickens is the fun part and you can successfully keep an eclectic mix of breeds if that tickles your fancy. Commercial breeds such as the brown shaver are phenomenal layers and go well in a backyard environment. There are many egg-laying heritage breeds available as well and while they may lay fewer eggs than a brown shaver, they can be very enjoyable to have in the flock.
7. Once your hens arrive, get them into a routine. In the morning let them out of the coop, check on their feed and water and have a general look around to make sure everyone is OK. When the sun comes down, it’s time to start the evening routine, locking your girls safely inside the coop. You will also need to empty the egg boxes each day.
For further information, contact your Farmlands Technical Field Officer or the friendly team at your local Farmlands store. Booklets on keeping poultry are available in-store and online.
Article supplied by Stacey Cosnett, Farmlands Nutritionist