One of the things I struggle with living in the city is the lack of livestock. When you are frustrated, livestock will listen and stare at you. Neighbours less so.
So when we built our house my Pa built an aviary for our pink and grey galah and I bought some chickens for him to make friends with. Mostly he just chases them around angrily, but sometimes they hang out together.
I now have two cherubs as my first girl, a silkie named Gwendolyn, got a bit lonely. I think it was the language barrier between her and Syd the galah. Recently we acquired Gwen’s little friend Helga, a Polish frizzle x Belgium bantam. Neither breed are particularly good layers, though the Belgium bantam is supposed to lay more often than the silky, I’m not looking at really more than 100 eggs from either over the year.
Syd & Gwen, Gwen & Helga
On the flip side, chickens do dig through the soil eating grubs and slaters as well as producing some serious fertiliser. They are also freaking adorable.
I bought my girlies from my version of Disneyland – a chicken (and variations) breeder nestled in the gorgeous hills of Karakup – Brookside Pheasantry and Hatchery. As we arrived we were welcomed by a gaggle of geese with a few ducks thrown in the mix. To James dismay we set off on a tour of the breeding sheds. Peacocks and pheasants stared us down on the way in to the coops but it is well worthwhile to see the amazing different chicken breeds. Sebrights, Silkies, Frizzles, Belgiums. All up there is 12 chicken breeds, 7 pheasant breeds and 10 fowl & partridge species. Bred for show are a range of gamecocks which are truly spectacular, but their spurs are fairly intimidating so I wouldn’t be keen to get up close. Stuart, the breeder, is brilliant and welcoming, if you are looking for chickens I would truly recommend paying a visit.
The greeting party – a really noisy door bell. Plus plenty of free rangers.
Check out this lot, hatching all sorts of crazy plans!
My Favourite chicken breeds
1. Australorps – bred for Australian conditions, these ladies are pretty productive producing around 200 eggs a year. They lay for many, many years and are extremely friendly and great with children.
2. Silkies – they look ridiculous but are so nurturing, great for kids. They aren’t particularly noisy ladies but they will befriend not only chickens, but most animals – including our kittens.
3. Isa Browns – another passive breed, these ladies will lay oodles of eggs for your family. They won’t live so long and can be a bit bossy, but are still great companions.
Important notes for keeping chickens
– Dust diatomaceous earth around your coop every couple of months to keep fleas away from your chickens.
– Make sure your coop if completely enclosed – cats and predatory birds can get in the top if open. You can dig wire under the ground to stop foxes and dogs digging under.
– Give your ladies time out of their cage to look around and get some bugs out of your garden. Be prepared to wash off the veranda as they will leave little gifts.
– Always put your chicken poo in compost as it will burn plant roots without being well composted.
– Provide plenty of fresh food to your girls. I am limited in this as everything has to be safe for my galah to eat too. I am currently sprouting bird seed in coco peat to give them little treats more regularly. Lettuce leaves work great too.
– Always have a friend, don’t leave your chickens lonely. We have had Gwen for one year, but have noticed a huge change to her personality since having a friend.
Chickens are loving little pets and are easy to leave for a neighbour to check every few days if you go away. They don’t have large vet bills and they give you eggs (sometimes) – so consider getting a couple to join your family!