Tried and tested tips for keeping chooks

Keeping chickens can be a rewarding pastime. Picture: Supplied.
Keeping chickens can be a rewarding pastime. Picture: Supplied.

Over the many years of keeping chickens we've tried lots of systems and techniques for housing, feeding and managing them.

Here are some of the systems that we have found work really well for maintaining a happy and healthy area in the backyard for your chickens.

Deep litter

Chooks are originally jungle birds and need a deep litter to scratch around in. You never want them on bare earth as it'll become a stinky, unhealthy mess.

We put in loads of dry carbon materials, like woodchips, straw, and brown leaves, to soak up all the poo and rain and helps prevent it from becoming stinky.

Then once or twice a year we dig the whole thing out and replace it with fresh carbon materials.

The stuff we dig out heads straight to our compost or under our orchard trees.

More lifestyle:

Depending on the species, there is an ornamental prunus suitable for temperate to cold climates. Their adaptability and relatively small stature make them ideal for smaller gardens or perfect for avenue plantings in larger gardens.

Prunus flower in a range of colours and hues with white, pink, red and crimson tones in single and double flowering forms, with a range of flower sizes up to about 20 millimetres in diameter.

Chook house

The "self-cleaning" chook house is a winner. We never have to crawl in there to dig out poo, it's easy to harvest eggs and the ladies are nice and comfy in there.

The floor is made from strong wire mesh, allowing all poo to fall straight through to the ground beneath.

It's raised off the ground and its legs' length can be adjusted and has an external egg hatch, meaning you can harvest eggs without having to go into the run.

Under the chook house we've placed a "poo catcher" (an old bread crate found on the side of the road). This catches some of the poo and makes it easy to drag it out with one quick motion.

TIPS AND TRICKS: There are some simple systems worth implementing in your own chook run to make life better for all involved. Clockwise from left, the self-cleaning chook house design allows poo to fall through the floor easily and eggs can be collected from the outside; the ground should always be covered in something like woodchip or brown leaves to help prevent stinky smells; chicken self feeders are a great way to keep rodents out of the grain; and chicken tunnels or passages are a great way to give chickens more room to roam. Pictures: Hannah Moloney.

TIPS AND TRICKS: There are some simple systems worth implementing in your own chook run to make life better for all involved. Clockwise from left, the self-cleaning chook house design allows poo to fall through the floor easily and eggs can be collected from the outside; the ground should always be covered in something like woodchip or brown leaves to help prevent stinky smells; chicken self feeders are a great way to keep rodents out of the grain; and chicken tunnels or passages are a great way to give chickens more room to roam. Pictures: Hannah Moloney.

Chook feeder

This has been a life-changing system for feeding our chooks. They can feed themselves and not attract unwanted flocks of birds or rodents.

The basic premise is that the bucket is full of grain. A hole has been drilled into the bottom and a toggle (an eye bolt with a chunk of wood attached) is installed which the chooks peck to access the grain - only a few grains at a time.

This means they peck once, then quickly eat all the grain off the ground before doing another peck to get more grain - ensuring no excess grain is left out on the ground for rodents and birds.

Chicken tunnel

A chook tunnel helps connect the chooks to their green foraging area with lots of grass and weeds.

It's a tunnel system that hugs your fence lines (or relevant area) to pipe your chickens across your garden and to help keep weedy plants away from your food gardens.

You can use chicken wire for the tunnel, tie-wire to connect it to the boundary fence (or nails if the fence is timber) and some type of landscaping peg to secure it to the ground.

Our own chicken tunnel connects our main chicken yard to their house, then to their feeding station and then down a passage behind our compost bays, under a little tunnel and into a green foraging area where our hazelnut shrubs live - and lots of grass and weeds.

The chooks love it in there, and we love it because it means they can help themselves to fresh greens whenever they like.

Overall, we can't imagine a home without these feathered friends. They're a wonderful addition to any home, helping turn it into a thriving, pumping place of production, rather than just consumption.

  • Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstrom are the founders of Good Life Permaculture.