Excerpt from Small Farms September 2019 (Written by Elise Davine - Barastoc Poultry)
Spring is on its way and with it a change in your chook.
Their pineal gland, in the chooks brain, picks up the longer hours of daylight, which in turn signals their bodies to restart or ramp up egg production after a slow-down over winter.
Early spring is the perfect time to start preparing your chooks so they can hop into another laying season. Here are Elise's top 10 tips for peak egg laying performance.
Know the rules of the game Regulations on keeping poultry vary across Australia and cover such things as how many birds you are allowed to keep and whether roosters are allowed in the mix. Consult our local council to make sure you know where you and your feathery friends stand.
Pick you flock for their abilities Why do you want chooks? For a bountiful supply of eggs ISA Browns or Hy-line Browns are ideal. If you are wanting them for their looks then Plymouth Rocks, Barnevelders, Silkies, Polishes, Frizzles and Seabrights will be great companions even if egg numbers are less.
Your chooks and exercise How much room you have will determine how many chooks you can keep. Will your chook be able to free range or will they spend most of their day in a run/coop? The more time they spend in a hen house, the more room they will need. Rule of thumb is 0.4 square metres of floor space per hen.
Protection from injury Wherever you live in Australia the chook has a potential predator (Fox, feral cat, ferret or native Quoll all love the taste of chicken). The enclosure you install must be strong enough to keep your birds safe at night.
Ensure you coop is fit for purpose Chooks like to lay in places that are comfortable, clean, private and secure. To save you rummaging through bushes to find them, ensure nesting boxes are part of your coop and they are lined with a dry loose material. Ensure these are cleaned out regularly
Hydrate Keep water vessel off the ground to avoid droppings and deter them from walking through it. Use clean fresh water to avoid contamination from other birds and wildlife which could make your chooks sick. Position water in the shade to keep cool in the summer months.
The natural order of things Moving or introductions can be stressful for chooks. When the new chooks first arrive there will be disruption to the hierarchy of the flock. Monitor and intervene if necessary during the settlement period to make sure there are no injuries. It is recommended to introduce two birds to a flock as one is likely to be singled out and bullied.
Is there a doctor in the coop? Familiarise yourself with common poultry illnesses. Watch your flock closely - as animals of prey they will hide signs of illness to the outside world. If something seems out of the ordinary, call your vet straight away.
Yellow card Its not just sportspeople that need to be removed from the field of play; poultry can develop undesirable tendencies too. Watch out for broodiness, egg-eating, and plucking at feather or pecking other birds. Don't be afraid to isolate a bird for a few days or add toys or distractions into the pen or garden to act as a distraction and deter destructive behaviour.
Eat Right Just as we enjoy a varied diet so too do our feathered friends. Foraging for grubs is part of a chook being free range. However, the average backyard does not contain nearly enough quality food to keep them happy and healthy. Guarantee their health by providing a complete, balanced commercial feed with added calcium for eggshell and bone health. Feeding at least 70 percent of their diets as a balanced feed is recommended to maintain their nutritional needs.