On Sunday 19 July the Kitchen Gardeners group rushed out of the foul weather into the Guildford Mechanics Institute to hear all about backyard chooks! Expert Barb Frey was on hand to deliver a thoroughly informative and engaging presentation on creating the right backyard environment for chickens, supplying quality food, maintaining hygiene, controlling parasites and deterring pests. It was great to see so many children along who were keen to learn about chooks.
I’m sure a few attendees left with some renovation ideas after Barb ran through the essentials for an effective pen. Each chicken in a backyard pen should have access to at least 3m2 – any less and you’re not free rangin’. Other things to keep in mind are giving chooks access to lawn/scrub to forage in, putting in stable roosts for night time and providing ample shade and secure fencing to ensure weather and vermin can’t interfere with your best laid plans…
Other items covered by Barb included:
- Getting your eggs checked – there are a range of chemicals that you should consider checking your eggs for. This link provides some relevant information: https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/poultry-birds/keeping-backyard-chickens?page=0%2C3.
- If you have limited space and can’t provide a permanent chook run, chook tractors are very useful. These are large, moveable cages that you can place in different parts of your property.
- It’s important to put comfortable material in your nesting boxes so your ladies can lay! Shredded paper and straw are two great options.
- While it’s useful to give food scraps to chooks and these provide a range of nutrients, most scraps (especially vegetables) have a high water content and don’t provide all the nutrition that chickens require, especially protein. Laying pellets should be on hand at all times – they contain very little water and are an essential source of protein. An adult chicken can eat about 150g of pellets a day.
- Chooks are vulnerable to a range of ailments, but most can be easily resolved if they are identified early and treated properly, and parasites are controlled. Scaly leg mites, feather mite and stick-fast mite are the most common conditions in Perth. For the scaly leg mite and stick-fast mite, a dewormer is required. For feather mites (comparable to head lice) poultry dust is required.
After some delicious afternoon tea we all wandered down the road to Flo’s place to see her extraordinary chicken coop. With nine chickens running around, this coop has it all – an open compost pit with chickens playing, nipple sprinkler heads, generous shade all around and little chicken rooms with spiffy curtains for roosting. Certainly inspiring and a great way to see the theory put into practice!