Dr Jayne Weller from Exotic Animal Veterinary Service shared her knowledge of the anatomy of chickens and husbandry systems. She is also an expert in health and disease problems in poultry and spent time discussing the nutritional requirements for fowl and routine vaccinations. She also gave a demonstration to how to hold a bird and wing clipping.
Dr Kate Sawford from South East Local Land Services spoke on poultry diseases, exotic and zoonotic diseases of poultry, farm biosecurity and regulatory requirements for transport, egg and meat production.
Penny Kothe from Caroola Farm talked about meat bird production and care using organic principles. Penny concentrated on the considerations for commercial meat production of chicken, ducks and poultry. A copy of Penny’s presentation can be viewed here
Penny Evans from Pendon Farm shared her expertise on free range egg production, what works in practice and her management system for laying hens.
According to participants Chris and Bronwyn the key take home messages were:
- When designing a chicken coop for layers it’s a good idea to keep the nesting boxes at a lower level than the roosting perches to encourage the chooks to sit on the perches at night rather than in the nesting boxes, to reduce the amount of poo in the boxes – and as a bonus – clean eggs.
- If you are not producing your own chicks (from existing chooks and roosters), try to stick to either buying immunised chicks or using one trusted supplier to reduce the chance of introducing disease to your flock. If possible, quarantine new batches from existing birds for at least one month.
- Commercial scratch feeds have varied amounts of protein in them – not only different brands but sometimes different batches from the same brand. Also, they rarely have the required amount of protein, so some additional protein sources are necessary.
- Ordinary shell-grit is not a great source of calcium – generally, even when the chook’s gizzards grind the shell grit, ordinary shell-grit does not provide a readily absorbable form of calcium. Better options are either egg shells (may be crushed but not necessary), or oyster shells.
- Diagnosing sick chooks is very difficult – even for vets- and often requires an autopsy. Many diseases and nutrient deficiencies can have similar presentations. Often, symptoms are noticed when it is already too late. Prevention of disease and nutrient deficiency is definitely the way to go.
- To stop chooks flying, you cut seven primary feathers on both wings. Cutting the feathers on only one wing makes the chook unbalanced and they can hurt themselves.
- You can make a quick pen using $50 temporary fence panels available from a will known hardware store with an electric wire around the bottom.
- Chooks breathe in strange ways. They don’t have muscles to draw the air in. If you hold them to tight or squash them they can’t breathe.
- There is an operation that vets can do to rescue egg bound hens. It costs about $2000 and the hen can’t lay eggs afterwards!
Resources and Information
Here is a collection of websites and information which may be relevant to your small farm.
NSW Food Authority website
Licensing information for meat and egg producers
Licensing for Meat Businesses
NSW Department of Primary Industries Primefacts and website
Animal Disease Hotline – 1800 675 888
Backyard Poultry Forum http://forum.backyardpoultry.com/
Tocal Agricultural College Agskills Series – Poultry Agskills
This event was made possible with funding from South East Local Land Services, in kind support from FuturePLANS and is supported by the ACT Regional Landcare Facilitator and funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program. The Small Farms Network Capital Region thanks them all for their assistance that lets us deliver great events.