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Sometimes the simple thing in life are the most rewarding - Back Yard Chooks.

Once upon a time practically every street had a house or three with a chook shed in the backyard.

Mass production of eggs and chickens in huge sheds, and changing lifestyles, saw the decline of backyard poultry, but it's making a huge comeback as a part of the resurgence in backyard gardening. Many are seeking to cut food costs, eat healthy food, and grow and eat food for its taste rather than for its supermarket shelf life. Another reason for keeping your own chickens, is out of concern about the treatment some chickens get, trapped in small cages all their lives, their feet never hitting the ground.  If you are starting to think that keeping a few backyard chickens might be something you and your family would like to do then attending a workshop on keeping chicken will give information to get started. 

Just a few reasons why you should go ahead are: 
* You can be a Food Producer, the local food movement is flourishing (just ask any one attending a Farmers Market) and by keeping backyard chickens you can take pride in being a producer and not just a consumer.  

* You know exactly where your eggs come from, when you raise your own eggs as you know what the chicken ate, its living condition's and how it was treated. 

* You will be another step closer to sustainable living.

* You can eat fresh, fresh food simply tastes better and eggs are no exception. You will never look at store bought eggs again, only fresh organic eggs daily will do. 

* You can fertilise your garden, chicken manure is high in nitrogen and great for the compost heap. It will give your vegetable garden the nutrient boost it needs without having to buy pelletised chicken manure. 

* You can practice natural pest control, chickens are great at controlling certain pests naturally, no need to put down nasty chemicals. And yes, chickens will even eat mice! 

*You will be entertained, while chicken keeping may sound like a chore to some, many (including myself) see egg collection and putting out feed a relaxing ritual. They make great pets for everyone from kids to the elderly. 

* Chickens do have personalities and can be great fun to watch as they go about their daily life. Chickens can put a calming reality into a world that has become far too fast paced .It is one of life's simple pleasures.

This is all sounding great but here is the important question, How do you keep chickens in your back yard? Although many of our grandparents knew how to keep chickens this valuable knowledge seems to have skipped a generation (or two) and now that we are interested in bringing chickens back to our backyards, we are not all that sure were to start.

 So where to start? Well, I find that sharing and learning from others makes such a difference in gaining an understanding of all that backyard chicken keeping requires so a good staring point might be to attend the Backyard Chicken Workshop being held on Sunday August 19th in Teesdale.

 But in the mean time, on to things you need to consider. You will need a chicken house and run. Portable or Permanent? Perch space? Nest box, How many?  Chook food (no chickens do not thrive on left over table scraps only !) What type? , How much? Potential chicken problems - broody hens, worms & lice, Predators (yes foxy-loxy will come visiting even in the suburbs.) And of course the big questions, 

1) What breed do I want? This is a question that is always asked, the obvious answer is keep the breed that most appeals to you. However in saying this there are some factors to consider the obvious being are you wanting bantams or large chickens? Do you want chickens for pets, meat or egg laying? What coloured eggs do you want? White, Brown or Green eggs? (yes you really can get green eggs ... yes really). 

2) How many chickens do I need? Well I would recommend at least  2 (1 chicken would be too lonely). As to more than that, well how many members in the family? Will you be supplying extended family? Do you bake regularly? How many eggs do you eat a week? Remember most chickens will lay on average 5- 6 eggs a week, so do the maths. How many chickens will also be determined by your chicken house (or maybe your chicken house will be determined by the number of chickens you want to keep) You need to consider the size of your hen house & run, each chicken needs about 1.5m2 of floor space and 20cm of perch space and 1 nest box per 5 birds. Over crowded chickens do not make for happy chickens so please do your homework.

 Confused? Well don't be. There is actually no hard and fast rule to chicken choosing or keeping, other than common sense. Common sense will tell you that as all living creatures, chickens need shelter, food, water, warmth and kindness. Get these right and the other issues will sort themselves out as you go along on the wonderful journey of backyard chickens. Don't forget that workshop I mentioned earlier - it will have heaps of hands on activities and question time with 2 very experienced chicken keepers.   

Remember you are not alone on this journey there is plenty of information available, books and magazines on chickens keeping a great starting place, as well you can check out dedicated chicken web pages, chat with those already keeping backyard chickens or by attending poultry shows or workshop.  As I have said a  couple of chickens in the backyard can be great fun as well as being productive in  providing eggs, fertiliser, weeding and garden manure.

If you would like to spend time with chickens and tap into the knowledge of 2 expert chicken keepers, then join our Backyard Chicken Keeping Workshop being offered in Teesdale on Sunday 19th August from 9.30am - 1.30pm.  Please contact us on or call into Kruger's Sheetmetal (home of the Double E Feeder)   5 Gray Rd Bannockburn to pickup an information flyer.

This workshop is being proudly sponsored by the  Double E Chicken Feeder
(the easy & economical way to feed your chickens.)

by K.Kruger