Caring for your chooks
CHOOKS in the backyard make great pets and they are very useful at providing fresh eggs - here are some tips to keep them healthy. Chooks will just about eat anything, but it is important to feed a balanced pellets or grain mix as the main part of their diet. In addition to this, all those food scraps you would normally throw away can be fed to the chickens, but just remember that coffee, avocado and chocolate can be toxic so avoid these. During the day it is fine to let chickens scratch around in the back yard, but remember wherever you live, predators such as foxes, birds of prey and dogs can attack chickens, so they need to have a secure shed or pen for their safety. The pen should contain perches, nesting boxes and plenty of clean fresh water. There are many breeds of chickens available: some types are very large and some are small (bantams); there are laying breeds such as Isa Browns and also meat breeds which are heavier birds that are suitable to eat; meat breeds do not lay as many eggs and have a more seasonal laying pattern than the egg laying breeds. It is important to remember that when you live in town, it is usually fine to have hens, however roosters can be very noisy and upset the neighbors when they crow first thing in the morning and sometimes the local council has restrictions on where roosters can be kept and also how many birds you can have in a built up area. Roosters can also be quite aggressive, so care should be taken when keeping them. Chickens are quite prone to parasites such as worms, mites, lice and ticks. Your local vet can provide advice on treating these problems but remember if you are consuming the eggs or eating the birds, then with holding periods must be observed. Chickens can be prone to lots of other illnesses that can be transmitted by wild birds so if you notice any abnormalities, ring your local vet.