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Backyard Chooks – What, where and when….

By ActuAli - 23 April 2012 25

Hello Rioters,

I am hoping to get some information regarding back yard chickens in Canberra.

According to Dr Harry Cooper, Isa Browns are the best in terms of breeds for families just wanting pets to lay eggs. Does anyone have any opinions on this? We’re not interested in any fancy breeds. Just good, friendly chickens that produce ‘normal’ sized eggs on a fairly regular basis

At what age do they start to lay? We want birds that are ready (or almost ready) to lay.

Recommended breeders/sellers – where can we buy them, and what should we expect to pay?

At this stage, we’re looking to purchase 2 hens. Any other advice would be greatly appreciated.

What’s Your opinion?


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25 Responses to
Backyard Chooks – What, where and when….
1
Holden Caulfield 2:53 pm
23 Apr 12
#

I’m moderately interested in this too. I understand Uncle Joe is the man you need…
http://web.me.com/earthsake/unclejoesmobilechookruns/home.html

Also, google told me to read these…
http://the-riotact.com/backyard-chooks-in-canberra/20160 (2 years ago)
http://canberrachooks.net/

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2
mp2615 3:11 pm
23 Apr 12
#

Most birds are sold at what is called “point of lay”. I think that is approx 18 weeks. The old guy with the battered yellow suzuki at the jamo markets sells the isa brown variety for $18.

I bought some last year and they have been excellent producers. It took them a couple of weeks to start laying but now it’s perfect 70 gram eggs every day.

Buying the laying pellets from FAW, for the rural feel. they also gave me a handy booklet and a free feed scoop.

Make sure the coop is fox proof. I think it’s best to keep the birds in a run. They will crap on your deck otherwise. let them out for a wider forage once a week or so. They will eat just about any scraps, except citrus, onion, and some enormous zuchinis from the neighbour.

heaps of good advice online and from the local poultry breeders.

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3
enrique 4:10 pm
23 Apr 12
#

The following site is a goldmine… http://www.backyardpoultry.com.au

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4
shirty_bear 5:01 pm
23 Apr 12
#

mp2615 said :

Most birds are sold at what is called “point of lay”. I think that is approx 18 weeks. The old guy with the battered yellow suzuki at the jamo markets sells the isa brown variety for $18.

I bought some last year and they have been excellent producers. It took them a couple of weeks to start laying but now it’s perfect 70 gram eggs every day.

Buying the laying pellets from FAW, for the rural feel. they also gave me a handy booklet and a free feed scoop.

Make sure the coop is fox proof. I think it’s best to keep the birds in a run. They will crap on your deck otherwise. let them out for a wider forage once a week or so. They will eat just about any scraps, except citrus, onion, and some enormous zuchinis from the neighbour.

heaps of good advice online and from the local poultry breeders.

Good info.

We got two from the old guy at Jammo about 4 months ago … one started laying more or less immediately; the other took about a month. Now getting 2 beaut googs most days.
Best to go see him on a Saturday afternoon – he tends to sell out quickly, but will take an order for collecting the next weekend.

Foxes haven’t been a problem for us [touches own head], but they are widely reported to wreak havoc on backyard chooks. We have a (small, timid) dog and one neighbour does too. Have heard claims from elsewhere that this is enough to deter foxes, and it seems that way at our place.

Haven’t been to FAW. I recommend the pet supplies shop next to Toyworld on Barrier St, Fyshwick.

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5
pink little birdie 5:11 pm
23 Apr 12
#

we buy mum’s chooks at Powell’s stock feed in Phillip. The chickens are usually ready to lay when you buy them but they will take a couple of weeks to settle into their new home and start laying. Our chooks eat most things though we don’t give them meat, tea leaves or coffee grounds. Make sure they have pleanty of room to roam normally.

Also if you are starting off with 2 and are considering adding more only add them 1 or 2 at a time. When we added 6 chooks to our 4 the 2 groups wouldn’t associate with each other. (like the four wouldn’t let the 6 into the chook shed but the six wouldn’t let the 4 in the tree)

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6
dr. faustus 5:36 pm
23 Apr 12
#

Check out the upcoming sale being held on the 13th May by the Canberra Queanbeyan Poultry Club: http://www.cqpoultryclub.com/sale.htm

It’s a pure breed sale, meaning there will be no ISA Browns there. ISA (which is an acronym) Browns are hybrid layers designed to lay a lot for the first 12 months (after they begin laying at 6 months of age). They will lay very well for that first 12 months then the eggs will start to peter out and it’s not uncommon for people to see reproductive disorders in their birds at around the 3 yr mark. These birds have been bred to fit the needs of the commercial industry – high production until they are replaced after a year. On the plus side they are cheap and readily available, and they are quite friendly towards people. They will have personality and be good pets, just like any chicken.

However if you are after the ‘heirloom tomato’ of the chicken world (as opposed to ISAs or red layers – the supermarket tomato equivalent 😉 then check out the pure breed sale that I linked to above. Pure breeds of chook can equal an ISA in productivity in the backyard environment and they will continue to lay for more years. They should also live longer than ISAs. As a guide, Australorps or Australian Langshans are good, placid birds to start with. You will pay twice as much for pure breeds as you will for red/brown hybrids or ISAs – that’s the ‘unfront’ downside.

There has been mention of dogs deterring foxes – a dog will help but is not enough. The only safe approach is to shut your birds in a pen that has mesh (not chicken wire) on top, bottom and all sides – at night and when you are not at home. Canberra has plenty of foxes.

Pretty much all breeds of chook will start laying at about 6 months of age.

I know you said that you are not after a ‘fancy breed’ but I did want to put in a plug for pure breeds. :-) People are getting into heirloom veggies etc, recognising that they have a lot of value and will disappear if people don’t grow them. Well, pure breeds of poultry are the same – a valuable part of the world’s stock of gene pools and they have a place in our backyards too.

But if you really want great layers and great personalities then get ducks 😉 One of my ducks has laid over 320 big eggs in a row since last May, and counting.

I hope you enjoy your chickens. Whatever you get you will find that they are great pets and you will get tasty eggs that have been laid by happy hens.

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7
gottahunch 6:08 pm
23 Apr 12
#

I have Brown Isas. They have good personalities and I get an egg from each one a day. I got mine from Gibbs farm centre in Queanbeyan and you can get the food and wood shavings from there too. They start laying at around 18 – 20 weeks.

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8
Rusalka 7:38 pm
23 Apr 12
#

We get our chicks now from Yarralumla Nursery. They are sexed, wormed and vaccinated but you do pay $12 for the privilege. That being said, we have bought two Australorp chicks from there and they are wonderful layers. Much better than our two Isa Browns. And Australorps are beautiful, with glossy black feathers, an iridescent green sheen and rusty red flecks through their breasts. If you’re going to get functional pets, pretty is a bonus! But they also tend to have Isa Browns/Rhode Island Reds and Leghorns (white) if you desire.

I hands down recommend chicks over pullets or ready to lay. Hand raising them, they imprint somewhat on you and at least trust you implicitly. And from your side, they are so cute!! We walk outside and our girls all run up to us, follow us around, help us garden and are happy for hugs. The one chicken we had that we didn’t hand raise as a chick wasn’t interested at all in us, and was very hard to catch if needed.

Depending on the breed depends on when they start laying but around 3-4 months. We try to keep 2-3 layers for eggs for 2 of us. Remember though they only lay regularly for 3 years and may live for twice that long. Enrique (#3) is right as well, that website is fantastic. Also make sure you have a lockable pen with wire dug down into the ground, and a roof, as foxes are all through the Canberra suburbs and have taken some of ours and friends of our birds when they have been left out too late.

Good luck! Chickens are lots of fun as pets. I found a nest in the lavender on the weekend with 12 eggs in it, even as a grown up I love hunting for eggs!!

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9
kakosi 10:11 pm
23 Apr 12
#

Dad used to get young chicks from a local farmer – white, brown doesn’t make a difference to egg production as far as we could see. The smaller the hen size the smaller the egg of course and the white hens produced the largest eggs. Dad would get one rooster if he had several hens to stop “pecking” fights but if you have a large run with plenty of room you shouldn’t have too many wounded hens and roosters can damage chickens in confined spaces. Our chickens did well on purchased chicken feed, river sand to peck/dust their feathers in, as well as kitchen scraps (they’ll eat most anything but don’t feed them meat product). Whoever you buy from make sure they are disease free and vet checked as one sick bird can infect the entire roost.

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10
dr. faustus 7:37 am
24 Apr 12
#

A few people have suggested that chooks can’t have meat products, but in fact chickens certainly can have meat in their diet. They are omnivorous and will eat any insect, spider, grub or mouse they can get their beaks on. Likewise they will love a bit of extra meat given as a treat – raw mince, leftover spag bol, bandsaw dust (the stuff that comes off the butcher’s bandsaw after cutting up chops etc). They also love bacon but make that an occasional treat as chooks don’t need a heap of salt in their diet.

Once you see a chook running past with a mouse in its beak, closely pursued by all the other chooks, you’ll see that velociraptors still walk amongst us 😉

Many poultry feeds contain meat meal (basically ground up and dried meat) as the primary source of protein in the feed. Products without meat meal will rely on things like soybeans instead. Just check the label. As far as a protein level goes, aim for something around 16 to 17% protein (at the higher end if you have birds that lay daily or close to it). Don’t feed scratch mix as a staple diet – it doesn’t have enough protein in it and is only intended to be tossed on the ground now and then do the chooks have something to scratch around for. Personally I feed pellets, as with a grain mix the chooks tend to eat the bit they like the most (the sunflower seeds, usually) and ignore the rest – unless you only give them a day’s worth of feed at a time (ie whatever they can polish off over the course of the day).

Your birds will need to be wormed with a commercial wormer every three months (especially if you have them living on the same patch of ground most of the time). Look for a wormer that kills tapeworm. Wormers come in tablet form (great since you can accurately dose each chicken) or liquid form (usually for adding to drinking water. Unfortunately things like garlic and vinegar in the water will not be an effective treatment against worms. Do your birds a favour and use proper medication. When I worm my birds I also dust them for mites – tomato dust containing rotenone is the cheapest way (or you can pay more for Pestene powder which is essentially the same thing).

If you end up getting chicks keep an eye out for signs that indicate they may have a coccidiosis infection (a protozoan that attacks the gut). The chicks will look hunched up and unhappy, and their droppings may have some evidence of blood. The treatment options are Baycox (most effective), Amprolium or something containing Amprolium (next best option) or a sulphur based medication (from pet shops and the least effective option but better than nothing). Chicks are quite susceptible to coccidiosis do I’d recommend that for your first chooks you get birds that are at least 4 months old. They will be past the main danger zone.

If you do get birds younger than this they will need feed formulated for birds their age. Up to 6 weeks of age feed ‘chick starter crumble’. From 6 weeks to 16 weeks (or 4 months) feed ‘pullet grower’. After that they can go on adult food. Adult food has too much calcium in it for birds younger than 4 months.

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11
sarahsarah 8:13 am
24 Apr 12
#

This thread makes me long for a yard big enough for chooks :(

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12
Holden Caulfield 10:07 am
24 Apr 12
#

What’s the life expectancy for a good laying hen? And what do people do with them when they’re no longer producing?

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13
watto23 10:22 am
24 Apr 12
#

I’m also wondering just how big a space do you need…..

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14
pink little birdie 11:04 am
24 Apr 12
#

watto23 said :

I’m also wondering just how big a space do you need…..

We have 6 chooks in their pen which is about 5m by 10m With an additional shed of 2×3. Their weekend pen is approximately 4-5 times as big. but this is considered big (and our chooks spoilt)

Holden Caulfield said :

What’s the life expectancy for a good laying hen? And what do people do with them when they’re no longer producing?

Let them live a while longer is peace then eat them om nom nom
Eat them nom nom

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15
Very Busy 11:30 am
24 Apr 12
#

Rusalka said :

I hands down recommend chicks over pullets or ready to lay. Hand raising them, they imprint somewhat on you and at least trust you implicitly. And from your side, they are so cute!!

Good luck! Chickens are lots of fun as pets.

I absolutely agree, especially when buying larger numbers of them. Introducing larger chickens to each other can be less than harmonious.

We have 6 Isa Browns, all bought together from 1 day old, who live harmoniously together in a 20sq metre run. This is more than enough space. This is our 3rd lot of Chickens since we built our run 8 years ago. Both of our previous lots were of 3 Chickens and included Australorps. Our first three were all killed by a fox when they were 1 year old. I then enclosed the run with a wire roof.

Something to ask when buying day old chicks: Some suppliers will use a hot iron to burn off the end of the chick’s beak. This is done to reduce injury if the Chickens peck at each other. My experience is that this is totally unnecessary when buying day old chicks that will not be mixed with other chickens. I think it does more harm than good as the chickens have more difficulty using their beaks to eat. Often the top and bottom beaks end up uneven which makes it even harder for them to pick food up.

Also, you should never have just one chicken on its own. Aside from the fact that they enjoy company, maggots can grow in any dags which remain on the chicken. A second chicken will remove the maggots if they arise and stop them from infesting the chicken’s insides.

Good luck!!!

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