After a great deal of mulling, our family has decided to keep some chickens for fresh eggs. But what should have been a relatively simple decision, became months of mind changing and uncertainty as I was unable to pin down a direction to take.
The main concerns I had was the type of coop to get. We live in the suburbs but we have an open space on the other side of the back fence which does attract a lot of wild life. In the 5 years since we’ve been here, we’ve seen an echidna, kangaroos, possums (Grr), various lizards, we have a koala that frequents our gumtree, and have had a fox visit the front garden. We also have an abundance of wild birds frequenting our garden and neighbours.
Some of my concerns were:
· Is an all-in-one coop too small?
· Do I want to fence off part of the garden for a run? If so, I will have to dig up and alter the irrigation pipes.
· Safety? Can foxes get into the back yard?
· Coops with wired roofs on the attached runs will catch gum leaves.
· What kind of feeder? Garden is accessed by a large variety of wild birds.
So after driving myself quite nuts, I asked Bel for her advice again. She has kept chickens for years and has a great, no-nonsense attitude which I love. Her advice was “Stop overthinking it. Pick something and make a start, you can always adapt it as you go”. This was what I needed to hear. Rather than trying to foresee every problem I may have, and worry that I’ll make the wrong decision, just make a decision using the information I have and then make any further adjustments as and when it’s needed.
We had thought of building our own coop, but after pricing up materials (even from a salvage yard) it was going to work out more expensive than buying one already made. The coop I (eventually) decided upon has a house with an attached enclosure. This I thought would be useful for keeping the feed in and to minimise access by the wild birds. It does have a wire roof on the enclosure, but I will buy a sheet of polycarb roofing (about $20 from Bunnings) to put over the enclosure roof instead of having the wire. This coop was on eBay, had free shipping, and was 10% off.
Photo from eBay
We have also decided to give the chickens their own part of the garden to wander in. We’re happy for them to free range on the lawn every now and then, but chickens poop A LOT and we want our kids to freely enjoy the garden. So I’ll give the chickens a dedicated space that they can access every day as we wouldn’t feel happy leaving them in the enclosure exclusively. We have an unused corner of the garden that’s tucked behind a shed and has a gumtree smack in the middle that I’ll turn into their run. We can then let them out on the lawn every now and then to forage. But this will take time to implement as I want the area to look pleasant as well because it’s visible from parts of the house. So I’ll make do with the enclosure and garden free-ranging until I’m able to create a dedicated space for them. I’ll keep you updated with the progress.
The feeder we decided on is an automatic feeder that requires the chicken to stand on the pedal to open the lid in order for it to access the feed. This I’m hoping will limit any wild birds stealing their food and keep it safe from rain, rats and mice. Fingers crossed we’re able to train them to open it.
Photo from eBay
So if you’ve decided to keep chickens, save yourself a headache and follow a few simple steps:
1. Read the book “Keeping Chickens An Australian Guide” published by Penguin. It’s a great book, straightforward and informative.
2. Send an email to your local Council regarding any rules and regulations you’ll have to follow.
3. Decide how many chickens you want as this will dictate the size of coop and run you’ll need. You will need more than one as they’re social animals.
4. Pick a coop. Ensure it has a spot for laying, a spot for roosting, ventilation and is fully enclosed to keep them safe from predators at night.
5. Decide what access to outside they’ll get, ie an attached run, enclosed yard area or free range in the garden.
6. Pick a feeder and waterer.
7. Buy your chickens and feed.
That’s it for now. We’ve ordered the coop and feeder and they’re on their way. After putting them together we’ll purchase our chickens and feed, and will then start transforming our garden as soon as the weather fines up. I can’t wait!
Do you have any helpful advice for other first-time-chicken owners?