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Why NOT to Buy Backyard Chickens: FACTS for Suburban Families!

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’ for your family.

Keeping Backyard Chickens in Brisbane

So, you want to know the truth about keeping 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.

We bought this website when you want to buy a chicken coop. Ours was similar to the one in the photo above. 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 find point of lay chickens for sale in Brisbane, aged 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

Keeping chickens in Brisbane

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). I’ve had the pest controller out twice! 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?

You have 3 choices of what to do with old chickens:

  1. Re-home her (ie off-load the freeloader to someone else to feed until the end of her time – hardly a fair option)
  2. ‘Off’ her altogether (hardly a kid-friendly option for their pet!).
  3. 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 probably from a fall/or something – aggravating an existing injury from last year. Otherwise 100% healthy. Anti-inflammatory and pain killers for 5 days and $186. I need to keep giving her medicine twice a day for 2 weeks.

backyard chickens

*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 relocated the chickens to my dad’s house where they are LOVING a HUGE backyard and lots of grass to roam in. We 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!!!


Photo of author

Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

24 thoughts on “Why NOT to Buy Backyard Chickens: FACTS for Suburban Families!”

  1. I thought I knew all this already. I did my research. And I’m still making the same mistakes.

    I adopted three chicks who are now about 7-8 weeks. They have been outside for a little over a week. Inside all the “poultry dust” and vacuuming/cleaning constantly was driving me nuts. Now the poop all over the grass and the deck is driving me a bit nuts.

    I also have cats and I’m worried the cats are walking on the poop and walking in with it on their feet.

    I’m not really handy either but I really want to DIY all the things! I’ve spent so much time looking for free/cheap stuff to try to make a lovely home for these pullets.

    Oh yeah .. and they’re not all pullets. Turns out one of them is a cockerel. I’m a bit sad :(. He’s so beautiful.

    I do get a kick out of McGuyvering stuff though.

    It’s nice spending time outside.

    But all the extra work and stress this is causing me .. ohmygod.

    I can’t wait to be spending lots of money on vet bills :(.

    I already have a cat costing me a lot.

    I’m sorry I’ve made this about me. But it was nice reading your article since you are also in Brisbane and I related to a lot of what you wrote.

  2. thank you thank you!
    I was contemplating chickens, but one look at your backyard and the decision is made!! No idea they destroy the place and leave so much poop around.
    And the return on investment and worry about foxes, vets etc. Ummmm rather spend a bit more on good eggs! Where do you live, maybe I can buy yours? haha

  3. I appreciate your experience but a lot of this is not the chickens fault, such as how many, type of coop & choices to allow them to free range in such a big area.


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