Backyard Chickens - the gift that keeps on giving!


Yes, that's right the perfect gift for Christmas, but please do check with the gift receiver before giving a live Christmas present, Sydney Chic doesn't want to be accused of irresponsible gift giving.

We asked Dr Tiffany Dobbs what to look for when buying a chick.

What to look for in a baby chick?

Healthy chicks are busy chicks. Thus a healthy bird should be alert, active, eat often, have clean eyes and nostrils and its breathing should be silent and unnoticeable. Some signs of ill chicks are inactivity, watery eyes and watery droppings (more than usual).

For reliable laying breeds, choose hybrids. For information on breeders and hatcheries in your area contact your local Poultry Association.

Where to buy?

Always best to buy from a reputable commercial source that can ensure birds have been vaccinated. However there are also reliable poultry keepers that will trade or sell birds. A good starter flock to provide eggs for a household would consist of four to five 16-24 week old birds (described as point-of-lay pullets).

How to care for them?

A good source of food and clean water is essential. Chickens are omnivores so will eat almost anything, so it is important to provide a complete and balanced diet. A good quality poultry pellet, mash or crumble which consist of grains like wheat and sorghum should be the base of their diet, followed by a high quality vitamin and mineral supplement such as ‘Perfect Poultry’ to ensure your bird is getting its full daily requirements to stay healthy and keep producing lovely eggs for you. Provide access to grass, plants and weeds (be aware of poisonous plants) as they will love picking at forage and scavenging for earth worms and burrowing insects. Lastly, providing a constant supply of medium course shell grit and course limestone will ensure a good calcium source and help improve your birds digestion of nutrients.

Best practice for keeping chooks in suburbia?

A safe and appropriate size fox-proof coop is required while still easily accessible and adequately ventilated. The coop should be fully enclosed and chickens locked away every night. The chicken house should contain a perch (no more than 60cm high) for roosting and nesting boxes, which can be accessed from the outside. Nesting boxes provide a safe comfortable area for hens to lay their eggs and allow ease of collection. Sawdust can be used for flooring to that it mixes with the poultry droppings to form deep litter. Chicken runs are also common and should be fully enclosed and fox-proof. Fresh feed and water should be supplied daily and take extra care during summer to help keep your chooks cool from the heat as chooks are very susceptible to heat stress. Observe you chook everyday to ensure you understand what is ‘normal behaviour’ for your much loved chooks.

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