With backyard chickens reportedly in high demand - as people look to become more self-sufficient during the pandemic - we spoke to a local chicken owner about her experience.
Roz set up a chicken coop close to 18 months ago. We asked her how she’s found raising backyard chickens.
Why did you decide to get chickens?
We were eating lots of eggs at that time and felt like it would be great to have our own organic laid eggs. I had always hoped to have chickens too. I just enjoy hearing their clucking noises in the morning and throughout the day, and really the eggs were a bonus. I feel like it brings a little country living into your backyard.
What types of chickens do you have?
We have two Isa Browns, we bought them from a local chicken farmer for about $40 per chicken. We got them when they were about six months old and were of a laying age.
Can you tell us about your chicken coop set up and the costs involved?
We purchased a flat pack chicken coop from Bunnings, but felt it didn't quite offer enough roaming space and so built an extension. I think the flat pack was around $200, and we probably spent another $100 or so in chicken wire and timber for the extension.
How often do you get eggs?
The chickens laid consistently for about the first six to eight months we had them, literally one each every day.
Unfortunately we have had laying issues for probably the last eight months. Many neighbourhood sparrows and other birds cottoned onto the free grain feeds going on in our backyard and decided to participate. We think the presence of so many other birds had a stress effect on our chickens, and gradually they stopped laying.
We are hoping that as we progress through winter and head into the warmer months again with more natural light, that hopefully they will begin to lay again. It is normal for chickens to stop laying in the darker months as they need a certain amount of daylight hours to generate enough eating, hence energy, to produce eggs. So the chicken breeder we bought ours from did warn us that there would be periods where they would stop laying, however we suspect that there are other issues at play with ours too.
What do you feed your chickens?
We feed them grain pellets and lots of our green/vegetable waste as well.
Any interesting observations?
I found it interesting that chicken's egg shell colour is related to their feather colour. Our lighter chicken laid distinctively lighter coloured eggs and the darker chicken, had eggs that were a rich brown colour. Apparently this is true of all chickens!
What are the pros?
They have been a great source of amusement to us and are very funny creatures. They are not particularly intelligent so it is amusing watching them try and problem solve first world chicken issues, like which grain to eat first and thinking they have lost their mate, when really their companion has gone into the egg box to lay!
Our cats have been fascinated by them. Originally we were concerned the cats may try and target the chickens, but actually the opposite is true, both cats are wary of the chickens and, when they are allowed out to have a supervised roam around the garden, the cats stay well clear of the chickens and their unpredictable movements.
What about the cons?
The cons are they are quite fragile creatures in some ways, and so need to have stress-free environments to lay consistently well. It can be a bit hit and miss in terms of whether you will have a good layer.
Any tips or advice for would-be chicken owners?
My advice for anyone would be not to get chickens solely for eggs, but because you would actually like to have them around as well with or without eggs.