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Why NOT to buy backyard chickens

sustainability for kids 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

backyard chickens Brisbane

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

backyard chickens - baby chicks cage

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.

baby chicks or backyard chickens

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

backyard chickens roosting at ngiht

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

backyard chickens - clipping their wings

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

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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….
  4. 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.
  5. 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

farm fresh eggs from our 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.

backyard chickens

AT THE VETS!!

*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…

backyard chickens

To repair this area and another area (not in the photo)…. it cost just over $2, 000!!!

#getchickenstheysaid

11 responses to “Why NOT to buy backyard chickens”

  1. Sue says:

    I love having chooks. From the time they lobbed in on a stormy Friday night when a friend dropped 3 redheads off when their owner had to go to hospital. 3 pen changes (each one bigger and more secure) and 2 years later we are thinking of adding to our gang which is why I am googling chickens and found your forum. We have had rats but now have a rodent proof feeder that works. Pigeons in the pen are a constant annoyance as they can’t find their way back out. We have neighbours who bring scraps over and are rewarded with eggs. Win win really…

  2. N says:

    Our neighbours have chooks and have kindly decided not to follow council regulations and have allowed them right next to our back fence even though they have a huge yard and our entertainment are is only 2 mts from the fence.
    The chooks are noisy, smell really bad and we have had an infestation of rats.
    Unfortunately they haven’t gotten the hint when we have addressed the situation so we have now resorted to the council sending out a terrier to search for rat nests.
    Will be interesting to hear them try to justify why they haven’t followed council regs when they call.
    Don’t get me wrong, l do like chickens but there are times where you need to take into consideration your neighbours too

  3. Michele says:

    Wow I was pretty keen on the idea of 4 chooks, but this realistic article has brought me back to harsh reality. Maybe with the possible health issues they could face and therefore vet bills and all out garden destruction I’m thinking twice. I’ll just keep donating our scraps to the 4 chickens next door….. 😔

  4. Hi, thanks for the article. We are looking at getting 2 chickens or silkies for your backyard so it was a very useful read. We plan to have a corner of our yard fenced off for them and only let them out when supervised.
    Good to have balanced view with positive comments from Chrissy and Kangabanga too – if either of you follow this have you also had rat problems as thats a big worry for me?

  5. Chrissy says:

    We have had chickens for about the same time. We set out an area in the yard for them and they stay there. We grew bamboo to shade them, they love this area. They are let out for a few hours a week to help control weeds. We love our chickens and are about to add to our flock. It’s wonderful to keep our big family in eggs. They all love them and our chickens. Get some, they are great.

  6. Pete says:

    Gday Janine,
    We have had chooks for about the last 10 or 12 years. I fought against it, but no. Having lived on a farm when I was a kid, I knew what was going to happen and how it would pan out, but despite my advice and protests, I was worn down by my wife and two sons. We were up to 12 girls at one stage but through natural attrition we are now down to one black silkie . When she passes away, that will be the end. She is looking a bit lonely by herself so I am looking for another silkie just to keep her company. Yes, the back yard was destroyed as I predicted. Yes, chook crap everywhere as I predicted. Did I mention that the dog we had liked eating chook crap?…and the chooks liked to have a go at the dog crap as well. Yes, we had the rat plague which was had a body count of 16. Had a bit on a cockroach infestation as well. That sort of got dealt with. Went through the stage of broody hens. We were lucky enough to have a friend who gave us a few fertilized eggs every now and then when a hen decided to go broody. The odd Roosters were found homes. The chooks were mostly named after cousins and aunties (my idea…snigger snigger), which were great conversion starters at family turnouts…hehehe. We used to let them out the front yard every now and then for a scratch. All in all they were fun to have with their own personalities and idiosyncrasy’s despite some of their annoying habits. I used to describe it to mates as ‘looking after a mob of adolescent schoolgirls.’ Ps: Unlike adolescent school girls, the hens did put themselves to bed, on time all the time. That was one of their best points.

  7. Kangabanga says:

    Sounds like you need some help.
    1) Egg laying chooks only need 125g-150g of layer mash/feed a day(at least 16%protein). So for 4 just put out 500-600g feed each morning. Supplement with kitchen scraps. If not gone by night time, reduce amount.
    2) Remove poop tray if you have standard chicken coop (no need to clean poop tray anymore, all poop goes to floor). Chickens can balance fine on the roosts and get to laying compartments just fine.
    3) Put in a layer at least 4inches of wood chips or leaves and twigs (deep litter method). Absorbs all the poop. These can be sourced for free. Chooks will dig around in this all day.
    4) Rotate vege garden between two areas, 6 months each. So when veges done after half year, rotate coop and run there.
    5) Try to have a fully enclosed coop and run 10sqft/chook.

  8. Greig says:

    You left our the fact that a day old chick costs on average $12 per bird! I think the breeders out there
    are too greedy

  9. Leah says:

    We’ve had a very similar experience and similar timeframes. We’ve just had our first chicken die from being ‘egg bound’, and have raised our first 3 ‘day old chicks’, which the kids have loved (our first 4 were laying age when we bought them). The rats are definitely a downer, but at least the neighbours also have chickens, so it wouldn’t matter if we didn’t, we’d still have the rats. Better to have rats AND eggs, than just rats! I grew up on a small hobby farm, and had chickens throughout my childhood. I don’t know why, but it relaxes me to go out the backyard and watch them pecking at the grass. We have often thought of building a ‘ robotic chook chaser’ to keep them off the patio, as they sneak past our golden retriever regularly to eat my veggies and poop on the pavers. Loved reading your article.

    • Janine says:

      Hi Leah – I love my ‘girls’ too and wouldn’t have got the second ‘batch’ if I didn’t. But the reality is they poop, dig, fly, attract vermin and become freeloaders… they also are relaxing to watch, provide more eggs than we can eat (so our friends and relatives enjoy their offerings!) and help teach the children about pet care and responsibility. So glad you enjoyed the article! Janine (Editor)

  10. Gillian Mathewson says:

    Thank you for this fantastic insight. I have just read this out loud to my two girls who are always suggesting pets to get. This firmly closed the door on my “no way no chickens” policy. Thank you for your community service !

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