Husbandry of Chickens: part 1
Updated: Feb 3
Backyard chickens are becoming increasingly popular, with people wanting to raise their own poultry for egg collection, breeding and showing, or having them as pets.
This blog focuses on basic key points to enable the keen hobby farmer to help raise their chooks.
Sourcing of birds
Hens can be obtained from a variety of sources, but be sure to do you’re research on what type of bird is best suited to your home or purpose of having them , i.e. more commercial breeds would be desirable if egg production is important.
End of point lay hens can be rehomed from commercial production, these are usually already vaccinated, however consider that they are older birds and can be towards the end of their laying life. They often arrive with feathers missing and a little underweight but it can be very rewarding to look after an ex-laying hen into the end of her life.
Key points to consider when introducing new stock is to isolate them in quarantine for two to three weeks. This is housing them separately away from contact of existing birds on the premises. After any period of mixing with other birds, i.e. after a show, it is important to isolate birds for seven days after taking them to an exhibition to avoid introduction of new diseases into the flock. Other at home biosecurity can included disinfectant foot dips, and awareness of cleaning clothes or boots worn if visiting other poultry premises or agricultural shows.
Housing of birds varies, owners may decide their birds are free range, but shelter should be provided for adverse weather conditions. Pods, runs and huts can be hand made or purchased but it is important they are draught free, well ventilated and provide protection from predators, and rodents.
Housing should be cleaned regularly or moved to prevent mud/foul building up in scratch areas which can lead to parasite or bacterial burdens. Change water and food daily and do a thorough clean of droppings once weekly or more often if needed.
Poor ventilation or draughty accommodation can lead to respiratory illness within the flock.
If you live near the road be sure to secure the property to keep your chickens safe and contained to your property.
Depending on the age of the birds, either a grower feed or mash may be suitable, or a mix of home cereals. You can also supplement their main diet with fruit and vegetables.
It is advised to visit your local agricultural store or veterinarian to ensure you are providing the most suitable feed for your chooks.
Ensure all food is stored air tight to avoid moulds, which can make chickens ill and also vermin contamination.
Fresh clean water must be available, and the drinkers should be cleaned regularly. Make sure there are enough water drinkers for your chickens to have easy access. This reduces bullying behaviour as chickens are not competing for resources.
Click here to read part 2 of our series on chicken husbandry.