Recent regulatory changes banning battery cages for layer hens in NZ mean supermarkets are now only accepting cage-free eggs. This is a great win for our feathered friends, who now have the room they need to be happy and productive, but it has left our egg shelves a little bare!
In a bid to ensure we have eggs to go with our bacon, there has been a dramatic rise in Kiwis taking matters into their own hands and buying chooks.
TradeMe reported a whopping 190% increase in searches for chickens in January 2023, and local buy and sell pages have endless requests for chooks or local eggs to buy. With that in mind, we thought it would be timely to remind ourselves of some basic chicken-keeping for those of you with some new additions to your back garden.
Chickens eat almost anything you give them, however, they should be fed good quality poultry feed. In addition, they’ll also eat your kitchen scraps like fruit and vegetable cut-offs and cooked oats, rice and pasta. Hens like a variety of food, so try not to feed them the same thing every day.
Foods to avoid feeding your chickens:
Lawn mower clippings
Raw green potato peels
Dried or undercooked beans.
To supplement the calcium levels of laying hens, dried and crushed egg shells should be added to their food occasionally, but we recommend supplementing with the formulated calcium available at feed stores. Chickens also need a constant supply of fresh water - they drink between 500ml to 1L of water per day.
Housing and pest control
Chickens prefer to roost up high and off the ground at night. Providing bars for them to perch on will keep them off the ground and away from pests. Getting traps may also be a wise idea as feed, food scraps (and eggs) can attract unwelcome visitors.
To keep your chooks healthy, their coops should be regularly cleaned out to prevent the build-up of droppings, and their grazing area or run ideally moved monthly.
Line nesting boxes and chicken coop floors with straw or untreated wood shavings, so that it can be easily removed when cleaned out.
Chickens need to be able to bathe in dust, the sun and forage for both enrichment and health. Consider this when housing your chookies!
Worming and mites
Yes, chickens get worms! You can buy a chicken wormer from the vets.
Get used to picking up your chooks and looking in between their feathers for mites, which can be treated with a powder by adding to their nesting boxes. Give us a call and we can help figure out what is best to use.
Top tip: adding lavender or rosemary cuttings to their nesting boxes can help keep mites away too.