Today I was searching for information on how to grow papaya. I came across what looked like a useful video. But as I got into it, I realised it was the recipe for chemical soaked papaya. Papaya grown in chemical fertilizers, sprayed heavily with pesticides and soaked in chemicals to ripen the fruit so that it

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Here are the 7 biggest mistakes for anyone setting up a chicken coop. Avoiding these mistakes will save you a lot of amount of time, energy and money. And most importantly, will make sure your chickens are happy, healthy and productive.

Mistake 1. Pests and predators:

Chickens are a magnet for pests and predators. Uneaten grain and food scraps attract rats, mice and wild birds. Chickens also make a tasty treat for foxes, snakes or the dog next door. Not planning for pests and predators when setting up a chicken coop could cost your chickens or at the very least a lot of time and energy to fix up after the fact.

Mistake 2. Coop is to small

Setting up a chicken coop that's too small is a pretty common mistake. More space is better, otherwise you'll be looking for an upgrade before you know it. It might cost you a bit more up front, but is likely to save you time and money down the track. If you're just starting out, go for a coop that'll give you room to expand. A new coop will often be advertised to house up to a certain number of chickens - use this as a guide only alongside some common sense. The size and space required depends a lot on how you plan to manage your chickens. If your chickens will have regular access to roam free, then a smaller coop may do the trick. However if your chickens have limited free range access then a larger coop will be needed.

Mistake 3. Messy feeders and dirty drinkers

Badly designed chicken feeders and drinkers cause a lot of problems when, that quickly translate to time and money when setting up a chicken coop.

Chicken Feeders

A badly designed feeder will let them flick feed everywhere. Chickens will scratch feed out in their search for the tastiest bits, such as black sunflower seeds. This causes a lot of wasted feed which will cost you time and money. Chicken feed on the floor attracts rats, mice and wild birds, which often bring with them lice, mites and disease that your chickens could really do without. Pretty soon you will find yourself spending a lot of extra time and energy dealing with rodent and lice infestations, and wild birds that treat your backyard like their food bowl. A feeder that doesn't allow the chickens to trash the feed around is the solution.

Chicken Drinkers

Clean water is a key part of keeping your chickens happy and healthy. Water is important for digestion and for regulating body temperature.However if you have a badly designed drinker, you will find the water needs changing almost every day to keep it clean. The water will get dirty quickly with feed, dirt, poop and straw which somehow always ends up in the drinker. An open source of water also attracts rats and birds. Dirty water can make your chickens sick and they are also less likely to drink it which can make them dehydrated. On the other hand, a well designed drinker will turn a daily water change into to a weekly water top up and most importantly will ensure your chickens always have access to clean water.The best drinkers use poultry cups or nipples which stops the water from getting dirty. This is similar to what commercial poultry farmers use to make sure fresh water is always available on a large scale without all the mess.

Mistake 4. Difficult to move

When you are setting up a chicken coop chicken coop - think about how heavy it is and how hard it will be to move around. A heavy and more permanent coop might do the job, but its pretty likely you will want to move the coop at some stage and will be cursing that your coop was not lighter and easier to move. On the other hand, manoeuvrable coops such as a "Chicken Tractor" have a load of benefits. Redesigning your backyard or simply deciding on the best place to put your coop is no problem at all. Or you might want to move your coop around to fertilise and de-weed different areas of your property or backyard.

Mistake 5. Difficult to assemble

A coop that is difficult to assemble can cost you a lot more time and energy than expected. Whether you have decided to make your own coop or have bought a coop that is difficult to put together, it's not uncommon for a weekend project to turn into months. This may suit some people that enjoy building things, but for everyone else this will feel like a lot of time and energy that could be used more productively.

Mistake 6. Hard to clean

There is nothing more painful than a coop that is difficult to clean. If cleaning your coop means getting on your hands and knees, you will get sick of it pretty quick. Ideally a coop should have easy access with large doors. It also makes it easy if you can stand in your coop, or at least reach all the way into a smaller coop. A well designed coop setup should make cleaning  a simple and painless routine.

Mistake 7. Setting up a chicken coop without a plan

A chicken coop should never be a spur of the moment decision. There are loads of things to plan before rushing in and setting up a chicken coop; such as the location of the coop, space available, fences, local laws and regulations, the number of chickens you have or want, existing gardens and other pets. If you don't plan for these things, you could end up with a lot of problems and before to long be looking to get rid of your chickens or to replace your coop.
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There are loads of benefits of keeping backyard chickens. If you don't have pet chickens - you need to - and here are the top 7 reasons why.

1. Eggs from backyard chickens - nutritional powerhouse

Eggs from backyard chickens are a nutritional powerhouse and can't be compared to conventional eggs you find in the supermarket. Thats because backyard chickens are able to roam free, eating grass, foraging on insects and are given vegetable scraps to top up their diet. So called 'free range' eggs from the store often come from hens that are fed solely on grains, with limited to no access outdoors - let alone grass paddocks. Studies show that eggs from truly free range - pastured hens are much more nutrient dense, with significantly higher amounts of good fats, vitamins and minerals.

2. Eggs - free from nasty stuff

When you raise chickens, you know exactly where your eggs come from and what conditions they are raised in. You know that eggs from your backyard come from happy, healthy hens that are free of antibiotics. Intensive farming practices mean that commercial hens are stressed, often get sick and lack vitamin D (cause they often never see the light of day). To deal with the inevitable spread of sickness and disease caused by these conditions, commercial hens are regularly fed antibiotics. Commercial eggs you find in the store are also washed in a chlorine based chemical solution which is absorbed through the egg shell surface which is porous.

3. Don't support chicken cruelty and torture

Commercial egg factories are a system of cruelty and torture for chickens - who suffer as one of the most abused farm animal. It has been shown that chickens have a nervous system a lot like people. This means that caged hens which are stressed, sick and hurt - respond with abnormal behaviour like feather-pecking. To deal with this, caged chickens are tortured even more by cutting off their beak (debeaking) at a young age. A chicken's beak has lots of nerves which means debeaking causes significant pain.

4. Family pet

Chickens make great family pets. They are not especially cuddly, but they are great entertainment. Chickens can be trained to come when you call them, take dust baths and have a clear pecking order which makes for some interesting antics. Backyard chickens are also a fantastic way to teach kids about food and where food comes from.

5. Eggs from backyard chickens taste best

Fresh backyard eggs taste amazing and can't be beat. The yolk is richer and creamier and stands up a lot firmer than store bought eggs. If you have not tasted a fresh backyard egg, then you don't know what you are missing.

6. Insect control

Chickens love to eat protein packed insects. They will even gang up to chase down a tasty bug. They are also known to eat ticks and love eating lots of the weeds that are a nuisence in your yard. They make for an excellent backyard "farm hand" and are the equivalent of an automatic pool cleaner, except they do a much better job.

7. Waste = food

Chickens turn waste into food like Magic! Rather than all the valuable nutrients and energy from your vegetable scraps ending up in landfill, chickens break it down and turn it into food (eggs) and fertilizer for your garden. It creates a mini natural ecosystem in your backyard.
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Pet chickens are becoming increasingly popular. It is now pretty common for suburban homes across Australia to have a few pet chickens in the backyard. Chickens  give back way more than they take, which make them pretty unique. That’s why I think they deserve the title of the best family pet. They are relatively low cost to set up and maintain, require very little of your time each day and provide a whole lot of goodies that make your backyard vegetable patch more self sufficient. I have compared pet chickens against four other popular pets - Dogs, Cats, Fish and Birds. This comparison is based on cost, time required and benefits (what they give back). The comparison is pretty crude, but I think it paints a pretty fair picture. why chickens are the best family pet

Cost of pet chickens: Moderate

Setup costs: $200 - $1000

While there are a few setup costs, its pretty cheap to keep pet chickens. Average setup costs are between $200 to $500, however you could easily spend over $1,000 if you buy a large coop with all the bells and whistles. To break it down a bit more: Chickens: Cost of purchasing chickens ($5 to $30 each), depending on age and breed Coop: Cost of the coop, feeder and waterer can vary a lot from a cheap DIY to a brand new top of the range coop.
  • DIY from recycled materials: On one extreme, you could make your own coop for free from reused and materials.
  • DIY from purchased material: A solid homemade coop made from purchased materials could cost from $50 to $300, depending on the size and materials used.
  • Second hand: A good second hand coop can easily be found online for $50 - $150.
  • Brand new: A brand new coop could cost between $250 to $2000, depending on the size and materials used.

Ongoing costs: $240-$360

Feed, worming medication and other miscellaneous costs required to keep pet chickens in your backyard ($20-$30 per month)

Cost of pet chickens compared to other pets?

Pet

Setup costs

On-going

chicken

Chickens

$200 - $1000 $240 - $360 moderate icon
dog icon

Dogs

$500 - $6000

$300 - $2,500

high icon
cat icon

Cats

$500 - $3000

$300 - $1000

high icon
fish icon

Fish

$100 - $1000

$20  - $500

low icon
bird icon

Birds

$175 - $1300

$150 - $950

moderate icon

Time required to keep pet chickens: Low

Setup

There is a bit of setup time needed for pet chickens which often involves assembling or making the chicken coop, putting up fences and 'chicken proofing' the backyard.

Ongoing care and maintenance

Once everything is setup, pet chickens usually only require 5 minutes a day to  make sure they have plenty of food and water and to collect any eggs laid for the day. The coop also requires cleaning out every month or so which would take 30 minutes at most.

Benefits of pet chickens

Eggs

With 4 pet chickens, you are likely to get 2 or more eggs per day. That saves more than $10 a week on eggs. Not to mention that eggs from pet chickens are way better than any eggs you can buy from the shops, even compared to so called "free range" or "organic" eggs. Eggs from pet chickens are:
  • Highly nutritious:  Studies show that eggs from pet chickens are much more nutrient dense, with much higher amounts of good fats, vitamins and minerals.
  • Free from cruelty and bad stuff like antibiotics: You know exactly where your eggs come from  and what conditions your pet chickens are raised in. You know that your eggs come from happy, healthy, free ranging hens - that roam free in your backyard, eating bugs, grass and grain.

Fertiliser

Forget paying $20 a bag for manure or compost. Four pet chickens will easily give you that in a week and they even spread it out on the lawn and garden for you while they peck at grass and search for bugs. My lawn is luscious and green and I have never had to buy lawn builder. Our pet chickens also love to hang about under our fruit trees, which keeps them well fed and piled with fruit.

Weed and Bug control

Pet chickens love to snack on bugs, so you will never have a problem with lawn grubs or ant mounds. They also keep insects like grasshoppers at bay, that would otherwise be feasting on your vegetable patch.

Reduce waste

Between pet chickens and composting, you can pretty much reuse all your food waste. Food waste is usually about 5% of total household waste, which is pretty big drop in the amount of waste that would otherwise end up in landfill.

How does this compare to other pets

Pet chickens will never be as cute and cuddly as dogs or cats. Looking at it practically though, I think there is a pretty clear case for chickens to be crowned as the best family pet.
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Anyone who has free range chickens, will know how frustrating it is when your hens don't lay where you want them to. If your wondering where all your eggs have disappeared to, it may be that your hens have hidden nesting boxes. If your hens are not using the nesting box you provided, you need to sort this out fast. The longer they use hidden nesting boxes, the harder it will be to change and the more eggs you will miss out on. To fix the problem, there are 3 key steps you need to take: I had 4 hens that were laying regularly in the nesting box provided, without any problems. However, one of the hens (Ruby) decided to start being broody and was sitting on the eggs in the nesting box all day.  I caught this early on, so locked Ruby and the other hens out of the nesting box to stop her getting comfortable. The trouble was, I forgot to open up the nesting box again, which meant it was closed for almost 2 days. I got home from work and saw there were no eggs in the nesting box, which is when I realised what I had done. I guessed all would go back to normal once I opened the nesting box again, but for the next couple of days I only got eggs from 1 or the 4 hens. I needed to figure out what was going on, so I did some investigating After some  searching I found a couple of well hidden nesting boxes. They found a dark, secure and cushy spot to lay eggs. I could see why the hens found it comfortable, but I was annoyed because the eggs were wet from some recent rain. I took the eggs out and put a bucket in the hidden nesting box to deter the chickens from laying there. The next morning I watched my chickens to see how they would react. One of the hens (Cluck) went to lay an egg and was pretty upset  when she realised her hidden nesting box had been blocked. Cluck roamed around the backyard for a while looking irritable, searching for a spot to lay an egg. After a lot of flapping and a lot of noise, Cluck finally went back to the nesting box inside the coop. From then on, things went back to normal and all the hens started to lay eggs where I wanted them to. This just shows how temperamental chickens can be - it only takes a small change to throw them off completely.

3 Step solution - get rid of hidden nesting boxes for good

Step 1. Investigate the problem

If you suspect your chickens have hidden nesting boxes, the first step is to find where they are.
  • Search the backyard: If your hens are confined to a backyard, do a scout around your backyard. Look for spots that would make an ideal nesting spot. Anywhere dark, hidden and soft. Under hedges, below other plants, or on flattened area of grass.
  • Spy on your hens: If there are no obvious signs of hidden nesting boxes, another approach is to spy on them. Chickens are very much creatures of habit, which means they generally lay eggs at the same time each day and in the same place. Keep and eye on them at the usual laying time and follow them to their secret nesting spot. Another obvious sign is to listen out for the loud clucking noises chickens make when laying an egg. If you can hear this coming from somewhere other the nesting box provided, it should make it easy to find hidden nesting boxes.

Step 2. Sabotage the competition

Once you have found the hidden nesting boxes, the next step is to block them off. Anything that disrupts them from using the spot should do the trick. I have found that an upturned bucket works well.

Step 3. Make your nesting box irresistible

Now that their hidden nesting boxes have been blocked off, the trick is to attract them back into your nesting boxes. To do this, you need to make your nesting box irresistible by providing them with the ideal spot to lay their eggs:
  • Free from physical barriers
  • Free from animals, rodents and insects
  • Secure
  • Soft and dry bedding
  • Away from the elements like rain and wind
  • Warm but not too hot.
Another good trick to encourage your hens into your nesting box, is to use a decoy. Put an egg (or a fake egg) in your nesting box to encourage your hens to lay there. You may have noticed that hens do everything together, follow each other around and copy each other. This means if one hen lays her eggs in a certain place, that encourages other hens to lay there.  Anything that is roughly the right size and has a bit of weight to it should do the trick. I have found golf balls to work well. An irresistible nesting box is the key to keeping your eggs where you want then. If your nesting boxes give your hens everything they need, they will not bother building hidden nesting boxes in random places around your yard.
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