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All About Chickens

For too long, eggs suffered an image problem. Consumers wrongly believed they contributed to blood cholesterol levels because eggs contain cholesterol. But research shows the humble egg does not cause cholesterol to build up in the body – the real culprit is saturated fats.

As they are highly nutritious – containing some 18 vitamins and minerals such as protein, vitamins A and B12, niacin, riboflavin, folate and the anti-oxidant selenium – and are relatively low in fat (76 calories or 320 kilojoules) – eggs have been given the Heart Foundation’s tick of approval.

But while more and more varieties of eggs filling grocery store shelves, there’s still the debate about which type of egg is best. Eighty percent of eggs sold in Australia come from battery hens – those kept in small cages.

Benefits of Keeping Chickens

  • Eggs – Tasty with flavour and fresh
  • Consumers of kitchen scraps
  • Poultry Manure
  • Compost makers
  • Entertainment and personal enjoyment
  • New family additions for your children to enjoy and care for
  • Maybe even meat

Once chooks are on your agenda, what comes next?

  • Local councils allow keeping of hens, no roosters
  • Decide how many to buy, consider space, egg production, social needs of the birds (two or three, one is lonely).
  • What age should the new family members be – day olds or ready for outdoors? Chicks need warmth for 5 weeks and are 8 weeks old ready for outdoors.

Housing Requirements

  • Draught free Winter accommodation, cool in Summer and dry in wet weather – large dog kennels, old cubby houses, aviaries or custom made coops with a perch to roost on – approx size of a thick rake handle: height approx 1 meter.
  • Nest boxes - can be old drawers from cupboards, old lawnmower catchers, with nice enticing bedding eg: dry grass, sawdust preferably up off the ground, in a dark corner, but close to where you can reach the eggs easily.
  • Yard to scratch and hang out in the daytime. Sun in Winter, shade from Summer heat (tree, choko vine, shade cloth etc).
  • Predator proof fence up to 2 metres high, roof over yard if necessary.
  • Water dish that cannot be tipped over in hot weather.
  • Feeder for chicken feed

Chicken Tractors/Coops

  • Movable chicken coops may also be suitable
  • Needs to be predator proof – foxes, dogs or, large cats.
  • Good way to prepare garden for planting so make same size as garden beds.
  • Suitable for smaller backyards or rented properties.
  • Chickens do not have to roam outdoors, but live quiet happily in a coop.


  • Chicken Feed
  • Vegetable scraps from grocers or your garden
  • Kitchen scraps – love meat – protein for egg production
  • Green pick – grass
  • Shell grit and/or egg shell – crushed
  • Fresh water
  • Love to scratch around the garden foraging for their own food.


  • Worming is necessary – check with holding periods if any (piperzine, see our products page).
  • Watch for lice in hot, humid weather. Pestene can be used for lice control (see products page).
  • Soft egg shells can be due to lack of calcium if this is a repeated problem.
  • All chooks moult late Autumn and look awful until they regrow feathers and recuperate from a busy year of laying.

Where to buy

  • Barter & Sons Hatchery – vaccinated, sexed and healthy
  • Beware of markets, auctions and old commercial layer. Usually they are cheap and finished laying. Bringing chickens in from everywhere might bring in new diseases to your stock.

More Info

  • Recommended book: A Guide to Keeping Poultry in Australia
  • Permaculture Friends
  • Australorp Club of Australia Inc (Secretary: David Gannon – Tel 07 5547 0940)