Imagine that someone invented a machine that allowed you to turn food scraps and waste into something useful… like eggs and fertiliser. You can stop imagining now, because this machine exists.
It’s not really a machine at all, though. It’s a chicken. I think I used to have a little chicken shaped hole in my heart before it was filled by our beautiful brood of ladies. Chickens are chockers with personality and just a joy to watch. They run around your yard like tiny dinosaurs, chasing flies, keeping your grass levels pretty low and generally seeming to have a whale of a time. They are not always the kindest to lawns, though. They have a penchant for dust baths which can leave you with a few chicken sized potholes in your lawn, so maybe they’re best to have in a run away from lawns… if lawns are important to you of course.
Yet… as you can see in this picture the lawn/plants can also flourish from the chicken poo that feeds it. Those are our girls there and that’s our lawn at the moment. We have 2 Isa Browns, a Buff Orpington X, a Plymouth Rock, an Ancona and a whitey brown one I don’t know the breed of. Different breeds lay at different rates and grow to different sizes, so it’s worth investigating what’s best for you (and what’s available). Here’s a site that recommends breeds for the backyard and egg production.
Honestly, why don’t more people have chickens? Chickens are amazing. They’re easy to care for and come in a whole range of awesome colours and breeds. Our chickens have slowly accumulated to a stage where we have too many eggs for just us, so we give them to our friends. This works out pretty well because not everyone has the room for chickens. I kind of want to renege on that last statement… because chickens don’t need to have heaps of room. Even if you ran 2 chooks down the side of your house between the house and the boundary wall it’d be fine. And P.S what are you using that space for anyway? Isn’t it just going to waste? Chickens could be your answer! Chickens are allowed in most suburban areas in Australia.
However, I do understand that some people rent houses where they aren’t allowed to keep chickens or live in apartments etc. If so, why not get a chicken or two to keep at your friends/neighbours/parents house? Could there be someone with the space to run chickens who isn’t taking advantage of this? Just give them a little money for food each month and you’ll have the most amazing eggs ever. Free range eggs are so many times better in texture, colour and consistency. Trust me, I know. You may need to help clean out the hen house occasionally too.
Chickens do need to be fenced in and bantam chickens (a smaller breed) can fly pretty high, so they need a proper enclosure, or very high fences. Or you can get what’s called a CHICKEN TRACTOR. Yeah, it’s not what it sounds like, best to check out what they are here. It’s also a good idea to have a hen house so that you can lock the chooks away at night, keeping them safe from foxes etc. In a few weeks time we’re going to be building a new hen house for our ladies out of salvaged goods, so keep your eyes peeled for that process. You can make hen houses out of all kinds of things and it’s a fun activity to get the family involved in.
Speaking of families, I’ve noticed that whenever my friends with children come to stay their kids adore the chickens. Keeping hens can be such a great learning activity for children, it teaches them more about where food comes from and how to care for animals.
I’m no expert on keeping chickens, but there are plenty out there. Here are some sites that I found useful:
The City Chicken website is U.S site filled with great, inspiring, fun and friendly ideas for keeping chooks in the city
The Backyard Chickens site is pretty collaborative and info filled
The Backyard Chicken Coops site (where you can also buy a coop if you need)
And now for some quirky hen house ideas from the internet:
The City Chicken site has a Hen House of the Month competition!
Here’s a video with a great idea of how to get your chickens to work with your vegetable garden
A garden roofed chicken house
I’ll leave you with a picture of my favourite chicken (though they are all gorgeous), Beatrix. Beatrix is an Ancona, she’s much more upright than the other chooks and she’s got a bit of sass about her…