Have you been thinking about adding a henhouse to your backyard organic efforts? Read Jessamy Miller's tips on chooks for small spaces.
Backyard bantam breeds
A small backyard calls for small chooks. Bantams are around one-third the size of standard fowls and there are many breeds to choose from. Modern Game and Belgian bantams are barely bigger than pigeons, Pekins make friendly pets, while Aussie Langshans are great layers. Bantams have personality, require less yard space, and lay an egg of around half the size of a chook egg, so are fun, productive and economical.
It makes sense to limit flock size in a tight backyard. Three hens will provide a reasonable supply of eggs, but if the worst happens and a hen dies, you still have two to keep each other company. In urban areas, roosters are not permitted.
Consider the available yard space carefully and aim to make the most of it. Small cottage style henhouses are well suited to bantams and won’t dominate the yard. If the garden is established, you may be able to free range rather than fencing off a wire run; bantams don’t wreak as much havoc in the garden as larger fowls.
If you need to protect the garden, build a run with a minimum of 0.5 square metres per bantam. Consider utilising the wire mesh to grow productive vines like beans, peas or passionfruit to increase growing space and give summer shade and appeal. Aim to fence out pesky wild birds, which bring pests and diseases and annoy neighbours.
Deep litter set-ups
An option is to build a spacious full-height henhouse with light and ventilation, and keep the birds inside in deep litter. The fowls are safe and will keep busy scratching and pecking the litter, not your garden. Install ladder perches so chooks utilise the height. Fowls can be let out for supervised free range time after work; a great option for busy people or where predators are active in daytime.
Chicken tractors are great for short periods but generally too small for full-time living, even for bantams, and rarely predator proof.
Entertainment for chooks
Keep highrise hens happy by offering them plenty to do. They’ll love a dust bath area such as a tub of sand or soil. Line the floor with rice hulls or pea straw, which the chooks will enjoy scratching through, and provide some hanging greens or grass clippings to peck at. Stumps for perching on and a mirror to preen in front of will also be appreciated.
Whatever size the set-up, make sure the henhouse and run are clean and well maintained so they are pleasant for the chooks, for you to visit and for the neighbours!
By: Jessamy Miller
First published: October 2019