rspca

How to care for chickens

Pet Care Article taken from The Biscuit magazine
Does the thought of having fresh, home grown eggs ready and available appeal to you? But is the thought of having your own hens daunting? Fear no more, let’s help ease you into the process.

This article is from The Biscuit magazine.

Just remember your chickens will have all the basic needs that any other pet will have; food, water, shelter, love and attention. Owning poultry is an easy task as long as you have everything required to keep them happy and healthy.

Hens will not only supply you with fresh eggs daily without even having to leave the house, but they also help compost your scraps into nutritious soil for other fresh fruit or vegetables to grow. You’ll be one step closer to sustainable living!

Do remember that hens will take up a lot of your time. Daily feeding, water checks, coop cleaning, collecting eggs and most importantly keeping them safe from predators!

Shelter

It is important to make sure you have enough outdoor space before you get started.

Each chook needs roughly 10 square feet of outdoor space, enough room to move around and exercise. The more room to play, the happier they’ll be! You can let them roam free during the day outside of their coop, once the sun starts to set, they’ll naturally head back into their housing. But make sure you keep an eye on them, to ensure their safety. Predators like foxes, wild dogs and eagles can be watching at any time of the day!

Just like dogs and cats, hens must have shelter to protect them from temperature extremes; wind, rain, heat and cold. To feel comfortable and confident to lay eggs, they need a safe, quiet, dark place that is lined with straw or even shredded paper – a good way of recycling those pesky bill statements. Their shelter should have access to a grassy patch, be weatherproof and can be locked at night.

Keeping your chickens away from predators is best done by having a strong frame with galvanised wire mesh. To further protect them you can go as far as predator sensor lights, wire mesh flooring and an auto door.

Don’t worry if you feel as though your handyman skills are not up to scratch, there are plenty of ready-to-go chicken coops available for purchase to get you started (link to backyard chicken coops).

Food

Chickens eat almost anything you give them, however they should be fed good quality poultry pellet and burrowing worms or insects. In addition, they’ll also eat your kitchen scraps like fruit and vegetable cut-offs and cooked oats, rice and pasta. Do you like eating the same food every day? Hens are just like us, they like a variety of food, so try not to feed them the same thing every day.

Foods to avoid feeding your chickens: rhubarb, avocado, chocolate, onion, garlic, citrus fruits, lawn mower clippings, raw green potato peels, and dried or undercooked beans.

To supplement the calcium levels of laying hens, dried and crushed egg shells should be added to their food occasionally.

Make sure your hen food isn’t left lying around or it might attract rodents. To ensure this doesn’t happen, store all food in secure containers.

Chickens need a constant supply of fresh water, they drink between 500 ml to 1 L of water per day. So make sure they always have fresh water available to them. Or they will become dehydrated.

Care

Your hens will need to be wormed regularly with worming products that can be purchased from a vet or pet produce shop. They also have the possibility of becoming ill, but not all vets will be experienced in caring for chickens, so make sure you find a poultry vet in your area that is suitable.

Want new feathered family members? Head over to rspcaqld.org.au/adopt to keep an eye on what hens may be waiting for a home.

Tahlia McFarlane
Share this article
Find the perfect pet