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Updated June 18, 2012, 3:33 pm betterhomesgardens
Chickens make fantastic domestic pets and they'll supply enough eggs to feed the whole family.
Don't be tempted to buy cute new chicks, they're too fragile, especially around children, and you could end up with cockerels (young male chickens), instead of hens. Your best options are to choose stronger, older chickens, aged six to eight weeks, or chickens 16-20 weeks old and ready to lay. Suitable breeds for a home coop include:
First cover the floor with a layer of cut grass, straw or wood shavings to make it warm and cosy for the chickens and to help catch the manure. Automatic feed and water dispensers are recommended because the chickens can't dirty them and, when raised off the ground, they remain out of the reach of vermin. When you bring your chickens home, keep them inside the chook house for about a week so they become familiar with their new surrounds. After that, they can roam as free-range chickens.Free range
Chickens love to forage in the garden - the more greens (such as kitchen vegetable scraps) they eat, the more yellow the egg yolks and the better quality the eggs. They also love insects, so they'll help control nuisance pests. You'll still need to supplement your chooks' diet with a commercial food preparation so they get enough protein for good health and egg laying. Note that snail bait and pesticides can be fatal to chickens, so it's wise to avoid them.
This problem usually occurs when the coop is overcrowded, so it should be fine if your chickens live in a spacious area and their numbers are limited to six or less. If there is trouble, however, single out the henpecker and place a large piece of polystyrene board in the chicken house so the foul fowl picks at this instead of her poor housemates.2. Broody hens
Sometimes chickens get clucky and refuse to get off their eggs. The trick is to remove the eggs from under them and relocate the broody hens away from the nesting area.3. Worms and lice
Domestic chickens are prone to worm infestations and will require a dose of worm medicine every three to six months. They may get lice occasionally, too, usually from wild birds flying overhead. A dust bath in a sheltered position, bird-lice powder or pyrethrum powder should work. It's also vital to keep a chook house clean.4. Where are the eggs?