Monday, April 30, 2012

Why I Keep Backyard Chickens

A lot of people are surprised when they find out we have four chickens in our inner city suburb's small backyard and some people, because they know me well, aren't surprised at all...

This photo was taken a few years ago for a newspaper article on sustainability and city gardens.
We've kept chickens for 5 years now. Some have died and been replaced and we've given some chickens to friends who wanted to start keeping them.  We currently have one Isa Brown (the reddish brown ones in the photos above), one white Leghorn and 2 black Australorp.  

We love coming up with names for the chickens - currently we have Cloud (the white one), the brown one is Bucket (because chickens go "buck, buck buck"), and the black ones are Layla and Dr Eggbert.

Below is the big draw card - all this produce came from my little inner suburban back yard. We live within 5km of Sydney's CBD and have a small backyard by Australian standards but I manage to produce some lovely home grown food and I love the 4 fresh eggs every day.  They are completely different to supermarket eggs and seriously make the best poached eggs.

I love hearing the chickens throughout they day - they aren't very noisy but after they've laid their daily egg, they dance around and cackle to let me know. It's really lovely - and makes me feel as though I'm living in the country.

Every now and then we get weird eggs - like this tiny little one and often we get a double yolker. 

Another benefit of keeping chickens is we throw almost nothing organic into the garbage bin. The only food scraps I don't feed our chickens are chicken (obviously), potato peels, broccoli and avocado (poisonous to chickens).  We also put the cut lawn from the mower into their coop. The chickens will either eat everything or dig it into the dirt and the soil in their coop is so fertile, rich and brown. I use it through the rest of my garden as potting mix.

For their coop I initially built a traditional one and had it on the lawn, but after a while I moved the chickens to a big disused corner of our garden - behind the old sheds. We found an old wooden dog's kennel on the street and use it as one of the nesting boxes.  It's in pretty bad condition as you can see by the photo below but the chickens don't seem to mind! I just put netting over the whole area to keep the birds out and the chickens in and I found an old screen door on the street to close the area off from the rest of the garden.  Our guinea pig, Thumper, also lives in the with chickens but he is free range and visits the neighbours and we often see him on the middle of our lawn nibbling on the grass. 

Fresh eggs really are the best and I love that my kids know about caring for animals and where their food comes from.  We once killed and ate one of our chickens but it wasn't great as they are egg layers rather than meat chickens and it was quite old and tough - also its hard to eat an animal you've kept as a pet so we won't be doing that again!

So that's part of my little slice on country life in the inner city suburbs.



  1. Great and interesting post, Fiona! I eat scrambled eggs for breakfast every day and would love to eat 'real' ones but chickens freak me out, lol! I've been trying to convince Geoff (who grew up on farms) for years that he could look after them but he won't. I can usually convince him to my way of thinking for most things, but chooks, nup!

    xx Karen

  2. I love this post. Have been considering chickens for a while now but definitely want to give it a go.
    We have cats though, how do yours fare with cats in the neighbourhood?

    1. hi Katie, there are several cats around our area but they don't hurt the chickens at all. in fact i'd put my money on the chickens! even our dog doesn't worry the chickens. The cats used to perch up on the fence and watch the chickens but they have given up now. If a chicken gets threatened it fluffs all it's feathers up and wings and makes a big noise. this is enough to scare the cat away.
      go for it I say!
      cheers Fiona

  3. Oh my goodness, my husband and I have been discussing getting chickens for a while now but I wasn't too keen on the idea but its growing on me now...I can't wait after reading this post!!

    Thanks for sharing!

  4. Yup we have chickens in suburban Sydney too. We've tried the standards (normal size ones like the ones Fiona have) but they tear up our garden too much and they keep getting into the veggie patch, so we ended up with more 'exotic' bantam breeds (mini-hens). They lay smaller eggs - we might go back to standards next time. They are quite used to Tilly our cat who pounces on them on occasion but they just step away quickly and aren't at all perturbed by her - sometimes they give her a peck to put her in her place.

  5. I am very envious of your chickens!! There is nothing better than really fresh eggs, and you're right - they just look and taste different (and much better than the supermarket! Or even organic ones at the supermarket!). Occasionally, budget permitting, I buy these local ones that come from a farm about an hour away from where we live (in a city) and the difference is so obvious. Unfortunately it's hard to justify spending extra $$ for 1/2 a dozen when you can get double for the same amount.

  6. I love it that you have chickens! My brother and family used to have chickens even thought they were vegan and give the eggs to all of us, they were the best eggs ever.
    Thanks for linking up.

  7. I bought my granddaughter two chicks for Easter. The intention was to have fun taking care of them and giving them a loving and caring environment for a short period of time. We agreed when "The Chicks" could no longer stay in the house, we would take them to a farm, where they could live happily ever after. Right? She loved holding the chicks and petting them. Well our dogs, Ragen the Rat Terrier and Sugarbear the Yorkie, Raven, my husband and myself got so attached to Big Bird and Miss Molly, we couldn't give them up!!! A $330 coop later, the chicks are having a great life, producing beautiful brown eggs, and giving us lots of fun and laughter! So glad we all decided to keep them. We love hanging out with "The Chicks!" ps they are a very cheap pet and low maintenance

    once you get their home established.


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