Tasmanians love their chooks.

Thousands and thousands of chooks roam suburban backyards and hobby farms all over the State. We have a proud cruelty-free history too. Thanks to the work of Pam Clarke over three or more decades, free-range is part of our collective-consciousness.

In marvellous Moonah, Chickie the silky Bantam didn’t go well with the quail we had started breeding so she went to live with 6 year old Taylor in Campania.

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We have more room in the country now so we’re breeding chickens. The two dozen double-laced barnevelders fertilised eggs ordered on line were met with multiple mishaps. They arrived when the power went off in most of southern Tasmania. Need I say more. The fact that five chicks hatched was a miracle. Then we watched as one by one they shuffled off this mortal coil until a lone survivor remained. The Lovely Deputy named the chick ‘Ninety’. I hope it’s a female and we get our money’s worth in eggs.  The incubator is full again. We also have four eight week old pullets and this weekend they left their protected enclosure to free-range across the paddocks.

I love my chicks. The pullets are so inquisitive, they strut up to check me out when I go and see them. Only child, Ninety, spends most of the time standing on an upturned plastic container, playing with a string.

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I wanted to get another opinion on chicken obsession. I found Emily Carter, Tasmanian and chicken devotee, on the Facebook page Tasmanian Backyard Poultry – Buy, Sell and Chat. Here’s what she shared with Living Loving Hobart:

We’re lucky to live in a state where even the ‘big city’ is incredibly close to rural areas. In South Hobart you back onto bush and there’s space for chooks.

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My grandparents have always had chickens so I’ve grown up surrounded by them, but I first got my own at age 14 when we moved onto a property with a couple of acres.

I’ve always loved animals but I remember being about five years old and slowly gaining the trust of my grandparents’ flock, using tasty treats to encourage them over, eventually having them eating from my hands. I was in awe of the trust I earned. They followed me around, allowed me to stroke them and even let me watch them lay their eggs, which is a time when they’re completely vulnerable. I’ve never forgotten that feeling.

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I think there’s something a bit whimsical about ‘farm life’, and many people want a sample of it without the colossal commitment of actually living that life. Many backyards are big enough to house a couple of chooks and they’re an animal that is fairly happy to be left alone to do their own thing, but easily tamed and safe for children to interact with, and they don’t require excessive maintenance for busy people; no shearing like sheep, no daily walks like dogs, etc. Plus you get free eggs!

I have one ISA Brown crossed with an unknown breed, one Silkie bantam, and the rest are Barnevelders and Faverolles.

We have two runs side by side, with ‘houses’ to sleep and nest in, attached to fully enclosed yards that they can scratch about in. They free-range over our 2.5 acres during the day, but they’re always closed in at night or when we’re not home to protect them from predators.

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Chickens have their own personalities. The more time you spend bonding with them, the more you see it. Some are really outgoing and active, others are shy and lazy, some are quite independent but others are really social.

My chooks are strictly pets, no different to my dog, so they live out their lives, even once they’ve stopped laying, and eventually get a nice little burial. Although, having kept chooks for 12 years, I’m running out of ‘graveyard’ space!!

Emily’s tip – Chickens are delicate critters and unfortunately ‘old farm remedies’ will not always work and there will come a time you have to get antibiotics or other veterinary care. If you’re putting aside a bit of loose change into a ‘chicken fund’ then you won’t be caught out unexpectedly.

Unfortunately, there is an absolute epidemic of people dumping their unwanted poultry on roadsides. Usually roosters, but sometimes hens that have stopped laying.

chickent 2It is a selfish act of animal cruelty. Think of it this way: an animal that has spent its whole life with shelter, food and water supplied, suddenly dumped on the side of a highway with NO water, NO food, NO shelter, being hit by cars, attacked by feral cats or loose dogs, dehydrating in summer due to no shade, or freezing in winter. If they’re lucky enough to survive 12 months, they’re severely malnourished and absolutely riddled with parasites.

If you don’t want your chooks and can’t stomach the idea of euthanising them yourself or can’t afford to pay a vet there are other options! There are rescue organisations who will take them, or you can offer them for rehoming on a poultry group online. Even ringing zoos and wildlife parks in your area is a great idea, as they’re often able to euthanise them humanely and feed them to the carnivores. It’s better than starving to death on a roadside.

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My beautiful Silkie bantam, Fru Fru, is one of the lucky ones. Some magnificently kind people found her dumped in the bush, completely blind and covered in leeches, barely alive in the sweltering summer sun. They saved her life and she’s now living in luxury with me, not allowing her blindness to affect her. She’s learned her way around, will follow my voice, and at feeding time I simply tap on her bowl to let her know there’s fresh food available. Sadly they’re not all so lucky.

Thanks to Emily for sharing her love of chickens and her great photos with Living Loving Hobart.

You can be part of an online chicken loving community here – Tasmanian Backyard Poultry – Buy, Sell and Chat

For animal rescue organisations check out Brightside Farm Sanctuary, FreeHearts Animal Sanctuary and Big Ears Animal Sanctuary.

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