We are getting Chickens - Hooray

nettleroseMay 22, 2005

Finally convinced my other half that some backyard chickens would be a good idea. Imagining those first free range eggs and a fresh chive omelette.

We have the coop underway and the chickens will have their own fenced in yard (both walls and roof will be wired). I want to grow something over part of the enclosure that will be both pleasing aesthetically and have some use. I was thinking kiwi fruit and a climbing rose for appeal. I also don't want to grow anything over the chickens that might be poisonous for them or that will be pecked mercilessly through the wire.

Any other thoughts and suggestions.



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That sounds good Eve, having your own chooks is really great & they do like somewhere shadey as their ancestors were jungle birds.
Other suggestions would be passionfruit or a chokoe(not sure why you would want a chokoe though!) Basically if it's ok for you to eat it'll be ok for your chooks.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2005 at 4:36AM
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Thanks Sarah. I am looking forward to getting the chooks but want to make sure the enclosure is ready to go. We will have a metal garden shed type shelter with boxes and perch and they will have their own yard as well as the odd visit into the garden.

I might try passionfruit on one part over summer as the frost tends to kill it off here in Canbrra. There are also two deciduous trees nearby that provide shade for summer and overhang the pen on one side.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 1:28AM
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Bravo Nettle!
I've got two chooks and have no regrets. This season I put a sprouting choko alongside their coop. It grew 60ft into a gum tree and all over the chook run and, as we speak, huge green chokos dangle like Christmas baubles from the netting. I like chokos but the vine's gone mad. Might try passionfruit next time. In summer, tomatoes grown around the run were really healthy. As Sarah hinted, the chooks like protection from the western sun in the height of summer. Maybe cucumber vine would work? On the ground, I use a deep-litter system comprising straw in their run and coop. It ends up making wickedly fertile compost. Go for it. Grub.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 5:03AM
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Grub I have heard the litter is an extra bonus of having chooks. The choko vine sounds a bit scary like day of the triffids. :)

I can't wait to get the chooks now,feel like a kid waiting for Christmas.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 5:52AM
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And I will add that mine are probably the most spoilt chooks in Sydney. They dine on cobs of fresh corn, bran mixed with warm water, mixed grains, multigrain toast, fresh fish, salad and weeds, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, shellgrit, lots of big wriggly worms and slaters, and occasionally snack of fresh popcorn. No wonder that turn thier noses or beaks up at layer pellets. Lol.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 6:16PM
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Do grapes grow in your area? I'm planning on growing grape vines over my dog run. In summer they will be shaded and being deciduous, they will have glorious sunshine in winter. It shouldn't take too long to cover, depending on the size of the pen.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 6:37PM
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Grub you are a good father to those chicks. If anyone has any recipes for what they feed their chooks I will treasure them gratefully. There is a place here that sells organic pellets but if I can make my own scrumptious chook food I will. I am planning to grow sunflowers and a few herbs that are good for chooks once the enclosure is finished.

Pepino we can grow grapes here and that is a good idea - thank you. Serves double purpose and my kids love grapes.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 7:33PM
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I have grown both grapes and passionfruit over my chook enclosure and I have to say the passionfruit are great for the fruit, but the grapes have given me and my husband lots of fun.

Our chickens (we have five) quickly denuded their run (about 4 x 3m big) of anything green and then ate all the grape leaves they could reach. Now they stand next to the fence on which the grapes grow and jump straight up to peck off the leaves higher up! It looks very funny and we often laugh ourselves silly sitting on the balcony eating breakfast and watching them. They are such funny animals.

The passionfruit hasn't been touched so they obviously don't like it's greenery :-)

Seriously though we import a lot of greenery in for them. My mum and I are both always on the lookout for greens to bring in as they just go through such huge quantities of stuff. I give them scratch mix and all my food scraps, and try to get in at least a bag of greens each week. Any weeds from the garden, old vege plants, lettuce leaves etc go straight to them.

I used to get stacks of the outer lettuce/cabbage/cauliflower leaves from the supermarkets for nothing, but now my local woolworths won't let me have them anymore (supposedly health and safety risk!) but I can still source them from my local greengrocer, when someone else hasn't already beaten me to them!

I also scoop up grass clippings from the local reserves when the coucil do their mowing and I have asked my neighbors for theirs too! This makes a nice green addition and serves a dual purpose of making a nice mulch layer too! Just be careful they haven't been spraying herbicide around just before mowing.

If you are thinking of Kiwi's you may be interested in Actinidia arguta 'Issai' which diggers are currently offering. They are self pollinating so you don't need the male and female and they seem to be smaller vines than the normal Kiwi's. The fruit are hairless and grape size and the fruit I bought were very tasty. I am considering where in my yard i have room for these. I'm sure I have a couple of metres someplace :-(

Good luck with the chickens!

    Bookmark   May 23, 2005 at 11:45PM
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My four girls get layer pellets, leftover scraps from the kitchen(kids crusts off toast etc), and the backyard has never been so weed free, as I forage about for them to give to the chooks. I usually wet the layer pellets for them.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 4:28AM
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Thank you for your useful info Fin. I am still laughing at the chicken antics with the grape vine. Hopefully the vines have not suffered too badly. Another benefit is somewhere to throw the caterpillars once I have plucked them off the brassicas.

Ozmantis I too am looking forward to throwing the weeds into the chook pen.

My kids are very excited about getting chickens and have already chosen some names.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 5:02AM
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I too have been trying for a while to convince a reluctant partner to agree to a couple of chooks. But, I think I'm getting close... We live in the inner west of Sydney, so haven't got a huge backyard, ~15x7m. She's worried they will smell. Is this a problem? Also, we haven't got easy access to straw, lucerne etc. Is shredded paper OK to use as bedding?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 8:12AM
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If you keep them high and dry they shouldn't smell. The worst thing is to leave them on the bare ground and let them walk through mud (when it rains). Their feet will keep churning it up and, combined with their droppings, it will stink. We used to get wood shavings also to help absorb, but that needs to be replaced when it gets wet as it will also smell. I'm not sure of the shredded paper bedding but I think it would be fine in the nesting/laying boxes.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 7:20PM
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They only stink if you don't clean out their pen regularly. Keep the ground dry, as pepino suggested. Shredded paper should be fine. Replace it when it's wet/dirty.

Summers are the worst with the smell. So keep at it. The soiled bedding can be put in the compost. After that it's fantastic for the garden.

I like all the suggestions for planting over the run. Unfortunately, this is not feasible at our place, as the sheep would attack everything from the outside. But then, our chooks have the run of the whole place, so they can find shade everywhere. :)

Have you got room for a Wormwood plant close to the run? It's supposed to be very beneficial for chooks - keeping away parasites, etc.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 7:50PM
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Pepe has given you good advice. My US chook books often talk about cedar shavings and wood shavings as bedding material. In the run itself, I have found straw to work best. I also regularly toss in dry leaves  bamboo leaves are brilliant  from deciduous trees and vines like wisteria. The idea is to create a deep litter that doesnÂt hold moisture. Newspaper wouldnÂt work because, once it rained, it would turn to mush. Think about creating a run of say 2m x 3m with a coop up one end with a (tin) roof for weather protection and to provide somewhere for them to lay and sleep. In hindsight I should have traced my run with tin standing about 35cm off the ground to stop the chooks kicking all the hay and dust outside. Enclose the run to keep dogs and other birds out with chookwire and add a gate for access. Top the run with loads of straw, dry leaves, grass clipping and suchlike. You can buy bales of straw and hay from pet suppliers in Sydney and even hardware joints, which sell hay bails for use at work sites. If you have a nice deep, dry, non-moisture retaining litter there will no smell. After several years my chooks hardly smell at all. The only smell comes from their droppings in the coop in the morning after theyÂve been sleeping in the one spot. As such, my mornings begin with a tour of the chook run, where IÂll throw something or other in there for them to eat, and then sneak around to the back of the coop, open the door, and literally pick up the poop-covered leaves and toss them into compost pen no. 1, which is right alongside. Yes, I wash my hands before eating the morning toast. There is a small amount of smell from thes compost pen, but not much at all. Weekly, I turn all compost bins. Daily, after removing the soiled litter, I top it with a handful of fresh bamboo leaves or a little straw. You could use your shredded newspaper in this dry coop area. But for the run with deep-litter system you need quite a lot of dry organic material that doesnÂt hold water. Once a month I get in there with a spade and turn it all over, add some more material, and thatÂs about it. If you go for backyard chickens in Sydney do select the Isabrowns. The Rhode Island Red I have constantly cackles. The Isa is a quiet little thing. Bottom line: smell isnÂt an issue at all providing you are diligent. You have to go out there to fetch the eggs anyway. - Grub.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 8:08PM
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Thanks for the brilliant advice everyone! Given our small garden I'm thinking of either one or two chooks. Is it feasable to have just the one? I.e, will it get lonely? Grub, any idea where I can get Isabrowns in Sydney? What's the best age to get one? I'd rather get it younger if anything so that it may be more friendly/familiar with us when older. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 8:41PM
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I would never get a single animal. Get two so they've got company. Any age will do - maybe before point-of-lay?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 9:27PM
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I agree. Get two. Two's company. Isabrowns and others are available, with a Sunday drive, from listings in the yellow pages under chicken farmers. Here's an address for some chook cockies in the greater Sydney region:


    Bookmark   May 24, 2005 at 10:41PM
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My hubby took a while to agree to some chooks too. We convinced him with all the benefits and the fact that they will be my domain as far as cleaning out and feeding. I have no doubt he will be glad to have them once they are here.

We are hoping to get about 3-4 to start with and maybe a couple extra later on when they layers start to get a bit older.

We have some wormwood growing in the backyard at the moment. For others interested in chooks I have found Jackie French's Chook Book really useful reading and she has lots of useful tips.

I was wondering about clipping the wings. Is this necessary with all breeds? I will let mine out of the enclosure to roam the garden occasionally and to use in the 'chicken tractor' but don't want them flying over the neigbours fence.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2005 at 12:01AM
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Please don't use shredded paper in the chook pen. Chooks feet are susceptable to paper cuts especially from office type paper. I have noticed that when given a choice they stayed off the paper even when food was scattered. Peter

    Bookmark   May 25, 2005 at 10:43PM
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We have been wanting chooks for the past three years but live right on the edge of Daisy Hill State Forest and have a resident carpet snake in the ceiling and regular passers through (snakes). We (humans) just ignore the snakes but worry that they will get the chooks - any suggestions to prevent this? Don't want to have to bring the chooks INSIDE each night but also don't want to have them eaten in their coup! Guess I could put insect screen on the coup and lock them in at night? Give them the spare bedroom? Looking for suggestions, no doubt they will become as pampered as any other pet in this household!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2005 at 10:17AM
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Can people suggest their favourite book on chickens? Something easy to read, practical and useful. (Would be useful if it had plans on how to make chicken coops too!)
By the way, my favourite vegie book is Organic Vegetable Gardening by Annette McFarlane- I find myself consulting this almost daily!

    Bookmark   May 26, 2005 at 6:57PM
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I quite like Jackie French's "Chook Book". Entertaining read with lots of tips and recipes. But there are heaps of other chook books out there. :)

    Bookmark   May 26, 2005 at 7:02PM
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Great to hear so many people enthuisiastic about chooks, mine have stopped laying now but they're still fun. Sadly we lost one of our two half grown chicks & the Tomato Models pet rabbit to the fox last week.
My advice as far as names goes is don't!! In my experience giving a chook a name is as good as a death sentence, it's always the first to be eaten by the fox, get egg bound or succumb to some mysterious disease.
My chickens lead a far less luxurious life than Grub's inner city girls, they get fed layer pellets & grain mix, and the leftovers the dogs don't like but they do also have the run of a half acre paddock.
Good luck

    Bookmark   May 27, 2005 at 5:59AM
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In regards to nettlerose's question about clipping wings, I don't know if it makes a difference what breed the chook is but we used to clip only one wing so they were lop-sided and therefor couldn't fly. If you clip both they soon learn to try harder.
By the way, I too am going to have a chook pen soon. I'm looking for a small garden shed or avery, if anyone on the south coast NSW has one they don't want. We thought that would make an easy chook shed and save money at the same time. But will it get too hot?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2005 at 6:17AM
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Oh, I realise that I didn't spell aviary correctly. Had a mental blank.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 7:35AM
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I agree with Doona re clipping only one wing at a time, my present chooks don't try & fly over the fence but others in the past have. Clipping one wing not only works better but makes for less work too!
BTW one of my girls has just started to lay, I wasn't expecting any for a while yet.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2005 at 7:20PM
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We're also keen to get chooks soon. Have to build a side fence first to make sure they don't get away and neighbourhood dogs can't get in, but we've already decided on names that will assist in the inevitable end process:


etc :-)

These are the coops we're looking at, but they only deliver to Sydney so we still need to work that little kink out!

Here is a link that might be useful: Cavallino Park Chicken Houses

    Bookmark   June 19, 2005 at 5:11PM
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