Many people enjoy the benefits of being able to produce their own fresh eggs. As with other pets, you have a right to own and keep poultry such as chickens and ducks, providing you take responsibility to ensure they are cared for appropriately and do not cause a nuisance to other residents in the area.
The ‘Keeping Poultry in the Tablelands Regional Council’ Fact Sheet, offers answers to many frequently asked questions.
You may keep poultry in urban and rural residential areas under the following conditions:
- They shall not be a nuisance (eg. by crowing, causing a noise nuisance or roaming onto neighbouring land), injurious or prejudicial to health;
- The number of poultry does not exceed the maximum limit outlined in the local laws applicable to keeping animals in your area;
- Fowl houses, pens and runs shall not be situated within 2 metres from a dwelling or a place where food is kept or a property boundary and constructed to the satisfaction of an authorised Officer;
- Places where poultry are kept shall be thoroughly cleaned at least weekly and effectively treated with an insecticide at least twice yearly or when required by an authorised Officer; and
- Stored poultry food is to be kept in a rodent proof receptacle.
Poultry can catch a number of serious diseases. It is important that birds are kept in clean, draft-free accommodation, fed a balanced diet and not kept in overcrowded conditions.
As with most domestic animals, if kept clean and well fed, chooks do not suffer a great deal of disease. However there are many parasites and diseases waiting to strike your birds if the right conditions occur. The main external parasites that affect them are:
- Red Mites; and
- Scaly Leg Mites.
Other pests may infest chickens in different areas including fleas, ticks and depluming lice. Regular checks of the flock for insect parasites are a good way to prevent major outbreaks. Consult your vet for advice if you notice any irregularities in the health of your poultry.
Chickens are very susceptible to illness if they are forced to roost in drafty conditions. When designing your shed:
- Make sure all cracks and crevices are filled;
- Keep perches away from the walls to prevent birds sleeping next to them from chilling; and
- Keep perches on a single level – perches placed above each other result in the birds on the lower ones being soiled and dirtied by those above.
The free-range method of keeping birds allows them to roam at will during the day and they are housed in simple sheds at night. The main dangers with this system are the threat from predators, birds laying eggs in hard to find places, greater chance of the birds contracting parasites like worms, difficulty in managing the bird’s diet and lastly, not many people have neighbours who will like fowls roaming the streets.
The semi-intensive or deep litter method is another good way to keep chooks. This is simply a shed with a covering of deep litter on the floor, somewhere for the birds to roost and an enclosed yard for them to exercise.
The positioning of the shed is important; the front should always face the north in the southern hemisphere. This allows the winter sun to shine into the shed and if positioned just right will shade them in summer from the hot sun.
By keeping the litter deep and dry, bacterial action within the litter itself breaks down wastes and keeps the shed clean and hygienic. Litter usually comprises all or some of these materials: wood shavings, rice hulls, dry leaves, soil, and perhaps some dry horse or cow manure.
Straw is NOT recommended because it does not absorb moisture and the stalks are hollow, allowing mites and other pests to hide and breed within.
For best protection, a concrete floor can be laid. This also makes cleaning tasks much easier, however a deep cover of litter must be used to prevent the birds suffering from the effects of extreme cold in winter. Uncovered, cold concrete floors can result in arthritis and necrosis of the toes, as well as not allowing the birds anywhere to dig and scratch.