Getting chickens for your backyard can result in problems. Here is how to avoid common mistakes.
It’s a beautiful golden morning. The smell of coffee fills your home and you start thinking about breakfast. You walk outside and collect eggs so fresh, they are still warm. In your hands are the ingredients for the world’s freshest omelette, and it’s all from your own backyard!
Sounds like a dream doesn’t it? What if having chickens turns into a nightmare?
Here are some of the most common causes for problems with chickens and how to overcome them.
The Chickens Are Very Noisy
Chickens are generally quiet animals. Their gentle clucking can be soothing and the little announcement that they have laid an egg won’t bother anyone. However in certain circumstances they can become very rowdy and you will be able to hear them a couple of houses away. This is particularly important if you are living close to your neighbours who may not share the same enthusiasm for your chickens as you do.
The habit of being noisy is due to your chickens becoming demanding over food and freedom.
Chickens love treats! If you like taking your scraps to your chickens and feed them from your hands, your chickens will start to associate you with fine dining. If you go outside to hang up the washing (and don’t have treats) your chickens will let you know that they are disappointed that their expected treat didn’t arrive.
To prevent this problem, take your greens a container, just make sure it is the same container and you make a small show by tapping it on your way to deliver the treats. This ensures the chickens associate treats with the container and not you, so they won’t expect greens every time they see you.
Another method is to deliver the feed after dark. When the chickens wake up they will not know how the greens appeared. However this could cause a problem with the chickens expecting greens in the morning and letting you know (very early in the morning) that they are very disappointed!
Allowing chickens to free range around your garden seems like a good idea. They will eat bugs out of the garden and fertilise as they go. However in practice it doesn’t always work out like this. The chickens end up decimating veggie gardens, scratching mulch out of garden beds and leaving droppings all over your patio.
A problem with noise will occur if your chickens have had a taste of the run of your backyard and then you decide that they need to be enclosed behind wire full time.
The way to prevent this problem occurring is to not let them free range in the first place. What they don’t know, they don’t miss, and they won’t demand to be let out. Before you get your chickens, make the largest enclosure you can afford to give them. Once they are here leave them behind the fence and don’t let them out!
Chicken enclosures can smell if you don’t regularly clean it out or you have tried to squeeze too many chickens into a small area.
Its worth considering that most councils allow about 9 chickens per household. If they have deemed 9 chickens to be acceptable from a smell point of view then what is the impact that your 3 or 4 chickens going to have? Barely any. However they do need their enclosures cleaned weekly. Religiously.
A good way to make sure you keep up the cleaning of the enclosure is to look forward to cleaning it out.
How am I going to look forward to cleaning my chicken pen? Easy. Make sure you have a veggie garden. Each week you will be excited to give your veggie garden another fresh application of chicken dropping goodness and that is something to look forward to (isn’t it?).
Dogs aren’t always accepting of the new additions to the family resulting in a barking dog and scared chickens. In most cases the dog will become accepting over time, especially when they work out that they can’t actually get to the chickens. However in some cases the dog just won’t drop the issue.
If you think this is going to be the case, ensure that your enclosure is totally dog proof and that you get a confident breed of chicken. An example of a confident breed of chicken is the ISA Brown. These birds will quickly learn that the dog can’t get to them and they will ignore the dog (or even taunt it through the wire). Flighty or easy scared chicken breeds will not develop this level of confidence and will most likely live in a degree of fear. Naturally this excites the dog which in turn scares the chickens further.
There is nothing worse than waking up at the crack of dawn with what sounds like one of your chickens being strangled (loudly) in your backyard. Roosters are not permitted in suburbia however accidents do occur.
To lessen the chances of getting a rooster:
Don’t raise chicks, buy a chicken that is at laying age and has already laid an egg. If it has laid an egg it’s definitely a girl!
Buy a breed of chicken where there is a 100% success rate of the chicken being sexed correctly. This can be achieved in breeds such as ISA Brown chickens that hatch in different colours for boys and girls. If you buy chickens that are not one of the ‘brown’ varieties then there is a chance that at least one is going to be a boy.
Let’s get chickens!
In order to make sure your decision to get chickens is the best decision you have made:
Create a large, sturdy, and dog proof enclosure where the chickens will stay day and night.
Let your chickens associate feeds with the presence of a bright feed bucket. Always deliver feed with the bucket and never feed them without the bucket.
Do some research. Look for breeds of chickens that are confident and have a guaranteed sexing success rate.
If you have ideas to help make life great for you and your chickens please leave them below. It will help anyone considering chickens!