We’re very happy to introduce our friend Ashleigh who lives locally and cares for the Chickens at Booyong. Ashleigh and had Mum love chickens and have generously offered to supply fresh eggs to our guests. We’re so grateful – thank you Ashleigh, we look forward to meeting your variety of chickens as they come to stay!
The Chickens coop is well and truly established at Booyong, we love having them there and so do our guests, they are such an important part of the rural experience. Like anything, we are constantly learning and Kristen has made some great recommendations for how we can improve the environment in the Chicken Coop.
We’re lucky to have had Bob build a lovely coop for our chickens. It certainly exceeds any regular expectations, with its brass door knobs, a timber deck that overlooks the dam, timber perches and it even has floral windows! Mesh has since been placed around the lowest area of the henhouse to keep snakes and rats out.
Chickens require 1m squared of floor space per bird, dust for bathing and seclusion for laying. The nest boxes are required to have 10cm of litter and should always be kept fresh. Nest boxes are in a cool dark spot and one box per 5 hens is enough. The nest box can be lined with pine needles, dried grass, wormwood or herbs. It is also very important to keep the henhouse clean, painting the floor can assist making cleaning easier. The floor of the hen house should be topped up every 2 months with shredded paper, rice hulls or wood shavings. Twice a year it should be cleaned out and the floor sprinkled prior with DE Diatomaceous Earth ($29 for 5kg) and Chicken litter can be added to the garden as mulch or placed in the compost.
During the Winter months the hens will prefer high perches to keep warm, and in the summer months they prefer to perch closer to the ground. The perches should be brushed regularly to keep them clean. Ventilation in the roof is also beneficial and something to consider for the future, especially given the hot and dry weather the past 12 months. In summer it’s important not to remove the litter as the hens will scratch deep into it on hot days to cool down. They also benefit from shell grit in their food and it is important to provide additional water.
Birds are often eating the chicken feed at Booyong, this is concerning as they can spoil the feed and introduce disease and parasites. I recently saw a gardener had placed fishing string across the roof or the henhouse to deter birds, sounds like a great idea. Our neighbour Kristen has found that her chickens hate layer pellets, and when given scratch mix a lot of it gets wasted and attracts the local ducks and pigeons. So, she uses poultry supreme from mitre 10, it’s a crumble and it’s easier for the bantams to eat and has no wastage.
The chicken pen also has a mulberry tree to provide shade and feed for the chickens, they thoroughly enjoyed the fruit this year. We would prefer the hens to be free ranged so they can find shady areas in the garden, but this is not always possible. So, we will add some shade cloth to the roof as Summer approaches.
They also get bored so we will look at adding some fund things for them to do, like a lettuce on a string, a swing or a mirror.
Weeds can be recycled by tossing them into the chook pen, this also gives them the opportunity to scratch about. Chickens are susceptible to red mites who eat chicken food and produce rapidly in the Summer months. Water and food containers should be rotated to keep clean and during summer months frozen water bottles can be added to their water containers to keep it cool as chickens don’t like to drink warm water.
We’ve done some research regarding what they eat and what they don’t. The chickens are still getting used to the food scraps we give them, but had no trouble with high protein pellets we purchased from the co-op. They also benefit from shell grit ad chicken pickings. The RSPCA say they eat almost anything, but what they can’t consume is rhubarb, avocado, onion, chocolate, garlic and any citrus fruits scraps should be broken or cut up into small pieces as chickens don’t have teeth.. They also mustn’t be fed lawn clippings, as they can go mouldy very quickly.
Chickens benefit from wormwood planted outside their coop, they also enjoy home grown amaranth, sunflowers, chicory, millet, alphalfa and salad greens. Kristen has said they also like lavender and rosemary so we will propagate some and create a garden bed along the perimeter.
Our bantam chickens have become accustomed to their new home and are now supplying fresh eggs daily. We encourage anyone visiting to keep their food scraps, avoiding those listed above feed the chickens during your stay. There is a track from the house to the coop so you can visit the hens, and feel free to take a few fresh eggs of a morning and enjoy them for breakfast.
Reference – The Contented Chook: Practical Tips and Inspirational Ideas for Keeping Your Hens Happy