Backyard chicken keeping has risen in popularity in recent years, and many local councils are getting on board. However, the onus is on chicken keepers to maintain their setup in such a way that councils aren’t receiving complaints from nearby residents. Keeping a clean and well-managed henhouse helps assure the longevity of our hobby, keeps neighbours happy and means Cluckington Palace is a pleasure to be around.
Follow the rules
The first step is to make sure your henhouse is in line with council guidelines, or you may incur a penalty. The details will be on your local council website. Like many urban councils, mine stipulates that I can keep up to five birds, but not a rooster, and that housing must be 1.5m from any boundary. Rural areas allow more birds, however all councils will expect the premises to be well maintained, clean and hygienic.
While I love the clucking of my hens, some chooks have rather raucous voices, and then there's the loud cackle of the egg song! Talk to neighbours and find out if they can hear your birds and whether it’s an issue; it’s better to deal with the problem before it gets to the complaint stage. To minimise noise, locate the henhouse at the furthest suitable point from the boundary. Thick bushes will muffle noise along fence lines and around the pen, as will a rainwater tank or brick wall. You may even need to insulate the henhouse, or overnight talkative chooks in the garage.
Clean out the pen regularly so that manure does not build up and cause offensive odours; these are not pleasant for you, the hens, or the neighbours. Don't leave food or scraps out to spoil, especially in hot weather; expedite them into the compost. Replace any damp litter and add sand or tanbark to chicken runs in the rainy season so they don't become a bog.
Uncared for poultry setups can attract flies, rodents and even wild birds, which hang about on fences and poop everywhere. To keep these to a sensible minimum, maintain clean dry conditions. Only feed the chooks enough for each meal, or swap to a treadle feeder so that birds and rodents aren’t getting a free lunch. Clean any spilled grains and keep lids securely on stored feed. If offering fowls food scraps, don’t leave them out long enough to attract flies and vermin. Additionally, rodents love compost, so urban folk are better off having closed compost bins than open piles.
Why not give your neighbours a tour of your setup, with arvo tea, to address any concerns they have? If you regularly offer them a free carton of eggs or a freshly baked sponge cake, they’ll go away extolling the virtues of having chooks next door. Perhaps you could set up a produce swap?
A friendly attitude and a well-managed henhouse helps present urban chook farming in the best light, keeping neighbours and councils on side. Think of the benefits; fresh organic eggs, fertiliser for the garden, and plenty of exercise chasing the chooks out of your newly planted seedlings.
By: Jessamy Miller
First published: April 2017