With the increasing popularity of keeping backyard chickens in inner city areas we are seeing more and more chickens in our practice. Keeping pet chickens can be very rewarding, and not just for eggs. Chickens can make great pets and provide pest control, fertilizer and weed disposal in the garden.
There are a few things to consider in keeping backyard flocks:
- Ensure you buy your chickens from a reputable source. It is better to spend a little bit extra on well cared for, healthy birds than try and save money. There are a number of breeders selling birds for backyard flocks, poultry auctions can also be a good place to source birds. It is extremely important that your chickens are vaccinated against Marek’s disease – a common and extremely contagious disease of chickens which is invariably fatal and untreatable once birds start showing signs. Ideally chicks should be vaccinated at one day old and must be vaccinated before five days old for the vaccine to be effective.
- Foxes can be a real problem, even in inner city areas such as Flemington and Kensington. Foxes can dig into or climb over many chicken runs and can be devastating on a flock. It is recommended that chickens are housed securely at night to safeguard them from foxes.
- Ensure you have clean, fresh water available at all times. Drinker type arrangements are ideal as they reduce soiling but it is vital that water is checked daily as chickens can be very good at quickly dirtying their water. Suspending the drinker can help.
- A good quality, balanced commercial diet appropriate for your chicken’s life stage should be fed, supplemented with green vegetable matter. A limited amount of appropriate table scraps can be fed. Food should be provided in a suspended feeder to reduce soiling and restrict access by rats and mice. Oyster shell or limestone grit should be provided ad lib to assist in grinding food within the gizzard and assist in shell formation.