What you need to know before you get chickens.
The needs of chickens are simple; shelter from the sun and rain, a comfortable place to lay eggs, a small space to scratch around in, fresh food and water. However the requirements for keeping chickens by your local council might require more thought.
Almost all local councils allow chickens to be kept in the backyard. Most councils have very similar policies that supply a few regulations, such as the amount of chickens you can keep, distance from your fence line, and coop requirements.
Below I have summarised the main points from a typical council policy:
Maximum number of chickens
Most councils allow somewhere between 9 – 12 chickens per household. That’s alot of chickens! When you consider that each chicken generally lays an egg a day, that about a carton a day you have to deal with.
Worth considering is that if a council deems 9-12 chickens to be acceptable from a noise and smell point of view, what impact will 2-3 chickens have? You or your neighbours won’t even know they are there.
Distance from fence line and dwelling
Councils will generally have two clauses relating to the distance your chicken coop can be from the fence line, and from a dwelling (you house included). I have grouped both together as from a council point of view both relate to the same thing….your neighbours.
Only you will know if you have the type of neighbours likely to have issue with your chickens. If you have the type of neighbours that complain about everything, chickens are likely to be no different.
The best thing you can do is tell your neighbours that you are getting chickens. The occasional carton of fresh eggs usually does wonders.
Another point to consider here is in many new suburbs, your neighbours bedroom might only be a couple of metres from your backyard. Be sensitive and ensure that your chicken coop isn’t along the fence closest to your neighbours.
Distance from the road verge
This clause is mainly to prevent people putting their chickens out in the front yard. The council perception is that the chicken coop will be unattractive, and therfore more likley to be a point of contention with your neighbours.
Roosters (and others)
Most councils prohibit roosters in typical suburban backyards. With good reason too! Roosters are exceptionally loud when they crow and it’s likely you will complain about your own rooster before your neighbours have the chance too. Other poultry prohibited (turkeys, geese, etc) can be equally as loud so heed council policy here.
Each council has a similar set of requirements for the construction of the chicken coop. It is worth taking note of these specifications if you are considering making your own permanent chicken coop.
However, when you see reference to an impervious surface such as concrete or paving, please remember that the council is referring to the surface of the enclosure where the chickens sleep and not the full area of the chicken run. There are good reasons why councils require this.
This coop requirement is to help prevent flea, live, and mites (who are active at night) attacking your chickens while they sleep. These bugs are present in the soil and the impervious surface will prevent problems. The impervious surface also assists in cleaning (washing out) the area which is usually requires the most cleaning (the chickens are stationary when they sleep and this is where their droppings collect).
Chickens need sand or soil to scratch around in and dust bath. Creating an impervious floor for the entire enclosure would be cruel to your chickens. Not only are dust baths one of your chickens greatest life pleasures, they are also the way chickens ‘wash’ parasites from within their feathers. Also consider that a concrete floor in the run would be as hot as a frying pan in the heat of summer.
In a nutshell
Some councils make it hard to keep chickens and some modern block sizes make it hard to adhere to policy regulations.
Its worth remembering that the council isn’t flying a helicopter over each suburb to identify rouge chicken coops that don’t meet council policy.
Simply put, a council poultry policy is written to ensure a standard that is acceptable for the health of the chickens plus the well being and happiness of the neighbourhood. If there is a problem between neighbours, then there is always the policy to refer to.
The moral of this story is to make sure your neighbours don’t have issue with you getting chickens, or that they feel they can talk to you if any issues arise.