A movement for households to keep chickens in backyards is growing around the county.
In the early 1900s, about half of New Zealand households had hens in their backyards. After a lull in chicken and egg producing, a swing back to it has appeared – particularly on lifestyle blocks.
Investigations into cage-laid eggs being falsely promoted as free range are prompting more lifestyle block owners to look into keeping chickens on their properties.
Website chickensbydesign.co.nz contributor Fiona Herbert said people considering keeping hens needed to be clear why they had chickens.
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“Are they going to be pets or are they just for eggs? Do you have plans to make this a paying venture supplying local markets? Are you going to breed them, or show the chickens at poultry shows?
“All of these ideas are possible, but probably not at once. So identify what you want to achieve to help guide your choice of breed [or breeds] and the number of chickens you ultimately keep.”
Herbert said chickens were likeable and had distinct personalities.
“Eggs from your own chickens are generally superior to most store-bought eggs.”
She said not all breeds were created equal and broodiness was unwanted if people were counting on daily eggs from their chickens.
“Some of the fancier breeds and heritage varieties with attractive plumage and striking features, are not the greatest egg layers.”
Hyline brown and brown shavers make up most of New Zealand’s commercial poultry flock and are the most popular for domestic situations.
“Look for alert chickens with bright eyes, an upright vivid red comb, and shiny feathers.”
The SPCA said if housing and perches are fine, then an egg a day per hen should be your reward for good chicken management.
During the winter when daylights hours were condensed, most chickens will go off the lay.
Lifestyle property owners are increasingly driven or encouraged by healthy and ethical food options – something rural acreages can deliver on.