Why NOT to buy backyard chickens
I own backyard chickens. When my son was barely 5, in 2011, I decided that I wanted to show him where we get some of our food from and I wanted him to learn to take responsibility for pets. So I researched and found chickens for sale in Brisbane.
What follows below is a factual account of our family’s experience of keeping chickens in Brisbane. It also discusses why I should have never bought backyard chickens and why, if you have kids, you might want to reconsider buying chickens as ‘pets’.
Keeping Backyard Chickens in Brisbane
Any quick Google search will bring up a multitude of information about keeping pet chickens. Throw in a Google image search and there will be a multitude of cute, fluffy chicks and chickens with various varieties like Bantam and Brahma and Silkie. They are extremely cute as chicks and some even make cute fully grown chickens, but what you need to know are the facts. You will need to visit your local council website and find out how many you can keep in your backyard and what kind of enclosure or chicken coop they need.
For Brisbane City Council chicken regulations click here
For Logan City Council chicken regulations click here
For Redland City Council chicken regulations click here
For Ipswich City Council chicken regulations click here
For Gold Coast Council chicken regulations click here
For Toowoomba City Council chicken regulations click here
For Sunshine Coast Council chicken regulations click here
Once you have established the number of chickens you are allowed to have, you will need to determine how many are an appropriate number for the actual space you have available to house them. A quick calculation showed me how many we were allowed to have but we decided to buy only 4 chickens.
Steady as she goes…
There is no flock without a chicken coop
I determined that I wanted to have 4 chickens. I needed a coop. Google, ebay, Facebook Buy/Sell/Swap and Gumtree scoured I managed to source a large (but not too large) coop for $300 delivered. If eggs cost me around $5 a dozen… that is around 60 dozen eggs to break even.
The coop was delivered, the grandparents rallied and the coop was built. Huzzah. A chicken home for my new additions.
Buying baby chickens or point of laying hens?
Next I had to make a decision about whether to buy baby chickens at a week old or purchase laying hens at around 18 weeks old, but already laying. There was a price difference of course. Chicks were $12 each x 4= $48, laying hens are more expensive… but check out your local produce to find out how much it costs to buy chickens or chicks in Brisbane! Another 10 dozen eggs to add to the break even point. I decided to get the baby chicks. Sure I would have to feed them for 18 weeks before I saw a single egg, but the certainty that these little girls will have always have had a loving home and been treated well was important to me.
Where to buy chickens in Brisbane & SE QLD
Chickens are for sale across Brisbane and South East Queensland, but where should you buy chickens? There are 4 options.
- Some produces will sell baby chicks and point of lay hens
- Rescue chickens – give ex-battery hens a second chance at life
- Poultry farms – you can visit to see how their chickens are cared for
- Online chicken sales – but be careful to check out the credentials of sellers (please)!
Week old chicks – the facts
Week old chicks are gorgeous. Fluffy, chirpy and dependent… oh, so dependent. Think baby kitten, but chirpier. If you get babies in anything other than the hottest months of our summer, they will need a heat lamp… which is quite ok, as most of us have one of those lying around, right!? So you need to rent or buy a heat lamp to keep the babies warm at night (and during the day if you get them over winter!) This is the type of heat lamp I used – click here. But, take it from me… get those chicks in summer!
Week old chicks need to be kept inside, in a small-ish cage (we used an old cat carrier like this one) day and night until they grow a bit. And because we got the chicks for the kids (remember that 5 year old at the beginning of the article?) they wanted to be involved and PLAY with the week old chicks…. Which are very delicate, so I needed to carefully supervise. ALL. THE. TIME!! Once the chicks get a little bit bigger you can let them out for walks on the grass and to wander in the garden. With protection. Supervised. ALL.THE. TIME.
Moving the Chicks Outside Permanently
Once the chicks have their adult feathers and if the weather is warm enough, you can transition the young chickens to their outside enclosure and chicken coop. I fretted, of course, my babies were outside alone. What if a cat came and snatched one? Or a dog? Or a fox? Would they be safe overnight? I kept going outside to check…..because, you know, you worry about them being in the big open world all by themselves (well with their sisters, but you know…)
Roosting at Night
The best thing about backyard chickens (and other than the eggs, this really is their saving grace) is their bedtime routine. They put themselves to bed at dusk. I didn’t know this initially and was both shocked and pleased to see that they had popped up the ramp into their coop when I came out at 7pm to ‘put them away’ for the night. Brisbane chickens go to bed even earlier in winter as dusk is earlier… One less thing for me to do! #winning
Fences, visits from the council and cranky neighbours
I will be the first person to admit that I am not ‘handy’. So building secure fences didn’t rate highly on my ‘chicken raising priorities’. Nor did I know about the vigour and Houdini like nature of these chickens! Oh my days! It wasn’t until we had a visit from the local council ‘ranger’ with a ‘polite but firm message’ that I truly realised that my chickens needed to remain inside their enclosure and my yard. Any escapees would be dealt with… needless to say, the fences were reinforced.
Why you should NOT get backyard chickens
- We’ve had our backyard chickens for 5 years now. 2 of the original flock remain and we’ve added 4 more. We also have rats. Rats in our yard, feasting on their feed. Rats in our ceiling space, thumping around so loudly I thought it must have been a possum (or two!). I’ve had ‘Pete the Possum Man’ come out twice (at nearly $200 per time) to place poison. How many dozen eggs will that take to repay?
- We’ve had our backyard chickens for 5 years now. I have spent over $500 on fencing material making our fences higher (that black chicken can fly, even with a clipped wing), deeper (one of the brown chickens burrows under wherever she can!), stronger (errr… technically that was the cyclone’s fault) and added gates, locks and ties.
- We’ve had our backyard chickens for 5 years now. 2 have got sick and eventually passed away. Don’t talk to me about vet bills or the time worrying about what ‘could’ be wrong. Egg-bound? Bird influenza? Mites? Google ‘chicken illnesses’. Try this dust. Add this to their food…their water….bring them inside….
- We’ve had our backyard chickens for 5 years now. They’ve trashed their enclosure (1/4 of our whole yard) and created a dirt bath. I read that they should be able to walk on grass and peck at bugs. They destroyed my vege garden (I only made that mistake 3 times….) They’ve destroyed our grassed area where the children (used to) play.
- We’ve had our backyard chickens for 5 years now. They poop everywhere. Because I let them out on the grass around our patio area, they poop all over the concrete making it useless 90% of the time. Once a fortnight I clean the concrete and their coop, putting the poo in our compost bin and in the garden. To be fair, the vegetables love it!
What to do with old backyard chickens
The truth of the matter is, pet chickens get old. They can stop laying eggs at around 4 or 5 or 6 years of age, depending on the chicken. Then you have to make a decision. Do you keep an unproductive ‘free-loader’ and feed her until the end of her time? There are three alternatives. Either re-home her (ie off load the freeloader to someone else to feed until the end of her time – hardly a fair option) or ‘off’ her altogether (hardly a kid-friendly option for their pet!). The third option is to keep the freeloader yourself… until the end of her time. (This is what we are doing!) You have to accept that chickens will out live their laying capacity, and you will have to make a decision.
The benefits of backyard chickens
To give credit where credit is due my girls do lay like champions, even the older girls. Those fresh eggs are fabulous. Knowing how the chickens have been treated is important to me. At $5 a dozen and based on the current rate of my girls production and considering all the feed costs as well as everything else, I have worked out my break even point is in 2021 (I wrote this article in 2016!)
I am not even joking!
*Update in 2017
Blackie (one of the originals) has hurt her leg. She cannot walk on it properly and seems to be in pain. The cat is keeping a close eye on her.
I have taken her to the vet. It was muscle/soft tissues damage probs from a fall/or something – aggrevating an existing injury from last year. Otherwise 100% healthy. Anti-inflammoratory and pain killers for 5 days and $186. I need to keep giving her medicine twice a day for 2 weeks.
*Update in 2018
We’ve had to move out of our home as we are going travelling in 2019 for a year RTW trip! We’ve relocted the chickens to my dad’s house where they are LOVING a HUGE backyard and lots of grass to roam in. We’ve had to get our yard repaired from 7 years of damage…
To repair this area and another area (not in the photo)…. it cost just over $2, 000!!!