Chickens are a great addition to your family. If you are an egg lover and have a spacious backyard, you’ll be the perfect chicken parent. Here’s how to keep your chickens healthy and happy.

Chicken care

Fact File

Life span – 7-8 years
Size – 2-2.75kg
Diet – chicken pellets, oyster shell grit, fruits and veggies
Home – coop with 1 square metre of space per chicken

Care and maintenance

Before committing to some new chickens, check your local government website for regulations. Watch out for predators in your local area. If you’re raising chickens for egg production, invest in younger hens, as chickens will lay most of their eggs during their early years of life. Chickens bred for egg laying die early of laying-related diseases, whereas speciality breeds will lay fewer eggs but live longer.

Purchase or adopt vaccinated chickens from a reliable source as they are easily prone to respiratory disease and viruses. If you want to keep neighbours happy, don’t add a rooster to your family as they can be noisy. Plus, his dominance will make your hens broody, which decreases egg production.

Setting up

Your chicken coop will need to be secure, dry and properly ventilated. Depending on the climate you live in, you may need to insulate your henhouse, too.

Reinforce the coop with chicken wire that goes underground by 30cm to deter any digging predators and to prevent pests. Cover the floor with about 8cm of sawdust substrate to add comfort to your chicken enclosure and encourage foraging.

Give your chickens room to enjoy the outdoors. You can even let them roam free in your backyard if it’s fenced properly and there’s no risk of injury. Seek your Greencross Vet’s advice about clipping their wings before you let them roam.

If you’re hoping for eggs, provide nesting boxes. Make sure they are dark, secure spaces with only one entrance. Line the boxes with straw or sawdust bedding and change it weekly or earlier if it gets dirty. Set up roosts, install waterers and a feeder for your chooks to have access to the right supplies.

Once weekly, check for mites and lice, and disinfect your coop, spot clean the coop bedding, top up and change the bedding in the nesting boxes, wash the waterers and feeder. This will minimise viral diseases.

Annually, maintain your coop by checking fencing and screws and looking for holes. Use animal-safe antibacterial solutions, found at your local Petbarn, for cleaning.

Feeding

Feed your chickens with dry poultry pellets or grains. Give them a ready supply of oyster shell grit, fresh raw fruits and veggies, access to worms, insects and plants. Your chooks will also love cooked rice, pasta, bread and legumes as a treat every now and then.

Provide your chickens with access to fresh water at all times. Avoid feeding them chocolate, eggshells, chicken, avocado, lawn-mower clippings or bones, as these foods are harmful to their health.

Talk to your local Petbarn team member for advice on the best ways to feed your chickens based on the number of chooks in your coop, their age and how often they are fed.

Grooming

Your chickens will need grooming every once in a while. Chickens enjoy dust baths. Therefore, they should be inspected for skin parasites regularly and treated with chicken registered products if mites and lice are found. Make sure you treat the bedding and environment if an infestation is detected and even increase the frequency of bedding changes if needed.

While all that foraging will wear down your chook’s nails, check the nails and, if they appear long, contact your local Greencross Vets. They might have ulcers on their foot pads that can lead to significant disease and lameness.

Travelling

Make sure you keep your chickens separated when travelling, as they may peck or scratch each other in transit. The best way to transport your new chickens is in separate cat carriers or cages.

Make sure the boxes have holes for ventilation and are big enough for your chicken to sit comfortably. Cushion the box with bedding from the coop. Take water and food for your chickens and make regular stops so they can eat and drink.

Health

If purchased commercially your chickens should be properly vaccinated, but still take them to your local Greencross Vets for a check-up. When purchasing or adopting your chickens, request accurate information on their vaccination history.

Your chickens are at risk of picking up lice and mites, worms and respiratory diseases. Conduct regular health checks to ensure their wellbeing. Look for mites, messy appearance, sneezing, lack of energy, loss of appetite or stunted growth.

If your pets show any of these symptoms, or you notice anything else peculiar about your chickens, visit your local Greencross Vets for advice and treatment. However, regular parasite assessment is important for aging animals as lot of parasites and diseases can be picked up from the ground.

Pet safety tips

Lock your chickens up overnight to keep them safe from predators. When parenting chickens, be aware of pecking order. Chickens peck at each other to determine an order of most to least dominant. This decides a chook’s position in getting food or choice of roosting spot. If you notice a change in pecking order, it can indicate that a chicken has fallen ill or is unhealthy, as weaker chooks are pushed to the bottom. Chooks should never be treated with products not registered for use on chickens and always seek veterinary advice.

Tip: Avoid feeding your chickens:

  • Chocolate
  • Coffee
  • Eggshells
  • Avocado
  • Lawn-mower clippings
  • Bones

Chicken checklist

Visit your local Petbarn or shop our bird supplies online to find the best products for your chickens.

Housing
  • Chicken coop
  • Underground netting
  • Sawdust bedding
  • Thick branches
  • Nesting boxes
  • Outdoor area
Feeding
  • Pellets/grains
  • Oyster shell grit
  • Fruits
  • Mealworms
  • Veggies
Grooming
  • Plastic tub
  • Nail clippers
Cleaning
  • Hose
  • Chlorhexidine disinfectant
  • Parasite prevention medication

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