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Fowl Play

Kristen Watts explains why chickens rule the roost as both food provider and pet

10.10.2017

As more people become conscious about the origins of food they put into their bodies, homeowners are showing increasing interest in topics such as organic gardening and self-sustainability.

Keeping chickens at home can provide people with not only a great alternative pet option, but their eggs are a good source of fresh, home-grown food too.

City Farmers’ Clementine Sive says anyone interested in keeping chickens should first check with their local council to make sure they understand the relevant rules and regulations.

“These vary from council to council so make sure you are familiar with the ones in your area,” she says. “After you’ve checked these out, make sure you have a backyard big enough to keep chickens. Chickens love to run around, and they require a lot of space to be able to do this. So make sure you have enough room for their coop and space for them to exercise in.”

The benefits of keeping chickens are endless and Ms Sive says one little known fact is that they are affectionate.

“If you want a cuddly type pet, chickens actually are a good option. They are loyal and friendly, they are easy to handle and reasonably easy to care for.”

Chickens teach children to be responsible and there are plenty of life lessons to be learnt while caring for them.

“In general, chickens are usually pretty friendly and tend to bond easily with their owner once they know they are the person that provides their food.”

Ms Sive says chickens also enjoy socialising with each other. “Make sure that if you do plan on keeping chickens, you keep more than just one. Do some research and figure out what type of chicken you want to keep.”

Looking after chickens is not all fun and games.

“Just like all animals and pets, chickens need to be taken care of,” she says. “Their coops need to be cleaned out about once a week and they need to be fed the right type of food. You need to ensure that they get their required nutrients through their food as well.

“In some instances, like most animals, chickens can smell but this in fact is not their fault but usually it is more of a case of their coop being dirty.

“If you make sure your coop is clean, you can rest assured that you won’t have a bad smell to deal with.”

The Department of Agriculture says it is a good idea to buy vaccinated chickens from a reliable commercial source. Getting birds from a variety of sources can increase the risk of the chickens getting sick.

The department also says it is a good idea for people in suburban areas to avoid buying roosters because many local government authorities prohibit them because they are noisy.

KEEPING YOUR CHOOKS HEALTHY

A healthy bird should be alert, active, eat often, have clean eyes and nostrils, and its breathing should be silent and unnoticeable.

Sick birds may have drooping wings and tail, discharge from the nostrils and eyes, weakness or paralysis of one or both legs or wings, be lethargic or experience a loss of appetite. Observing the flock every day, and learning what is normal for your birds, can help you identify when a bird is sick.

Egg-bound hens – Caused when an egg matures inside the bird but is not laid.
Egg peritonitis – This is when an egg ruptures inside the bird. Affected birds become depressed, cease eating and usually die. The most common cause of egg peritonitis is perches set too high.
Lice – These are small parasites which can cause severe irritation and stress. Birds often stop laying. Treat with a registered poultry dust.
Stickfast fleas – These appear as small, shiny black dots on the combs, wattles and around the eyes that move very little. Larvae need deep soil to complete their development so an impervious floor under the roosting area can assist control. Treat individual birds with a registered treatment. Cats and dogs can also be affected.
Mites and ticks – Blood-sucking parasites which can cause severe irritation, loss of blood and body weight. These pests also lead to a decrease in egg production and death. Mites and ticks can spend considerable time off the host, therefore it is essential to remove and destroy rubbish in the coop so that it can be properly cleaned and sprayed with an insecticide registered for the purpose. The most common mites in WA poultry are the scaly leg mite and the red mite.

Source: Department of Agriculture

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