The investment cost and space required for a small scale poultry operation is low. This makes it an attractive starting point for many small producers with limited access to the capital required for large operations. It is however important for the small scale farmer to research potential market opportunities so that they can ensure profitability as in some markets they will still be competing with larger producers.
The advantage for the small producer is that they will most likely have the opportunity, whilst the business is still run on a part-time basis, to earn income from an outside source (or complimentary enterprise) in the initial setting up period.
Whether you are raising poultry for self sufficiency, as pets, or as a business (at any level), it is important to select and keep breeds that are appropriate for your purpose; and to make the right choices it is important to learn more and be properly informed about the choices you make.
Consider Australorps for a Home Situation
The Australorp is a great all round breed recommended for anyone who wants a pet chicken that lays eggs dependably.
Australorps are calm, friendly and record breaking egg producers, with an Australorp hen holding the world record for egg production, having laid 364 eggs in 365 days! More usually, if you decide on an Australorp hen, you can depend on her laying 5 large light brown eggs per week. Still a mammoth effort on her part! They are hardy in both cold and hot climates and unlike many other breeds, usually continue laying right into winter.
Australorps have soft full plumage which is commonly black with a beautiful, metallic, beetle green shimmer in the sunlight. They typically have a vibrant red comb and black pigmented beak, legs and feet.
Feeding your Australorp chickens a balanced and nutritious diet is critical to keeping them healthy and to encourage them to lay many yummy eggs. Keep in mind though, that anything you feed them may alter the taste of their eggs. You can get a good quality poultry pellet as the main staple, and a variety of fruit and leafy green vegetables as extra feed – this should be given daily; remove any leftover vegetables from the previous day, to prevent contamination. You may also like to scatter a handful or two of corn or another grain for them to forage on. They will naturally scratch around in the garden for forage and insects.
You may also like to look at providing your chickens with a calcium supplement, as Australorps lay a large number of eggs which can deplete their calcium. Keep an eye out for soft or thin shelled eggs, as this may be an indication that your chickens require a calcium supplement.
Fresh, clean water must be available to your chickens at all times. Water is very important for chickens to enable them to absorb nutrients and also control the bird’s body temperature. Water troughs and drinkers should be kept shaded from direct sunlight. Adult hens will drink between 0.2 to 0.5 litres each day.
House your chickens in a secure pen overnight, to keep them safe from foxes and stray dogs, snakes and feral cats. The hen house does not have to be grand, but should be secure, provide a perch so they can roost (allow 15-20cm perch per bird, and make sure the perch is round and say 55-65cm in diameter and a minimum of 50cm above the ground), and enough space for the amount of birds you intend to keep. A bit of common sense should be applied here: your chickens should be able to stretch and flex, and expand their wings, without bumping into another hen - 1 to 1.2 square metres per chickens has been shown in research to be best, and will allow her to do this.
The house should be kept clean, again to prevent the introduction of vermin, and dry to prevent the spread of disease. Litter should also be changed regularly to prevent fungal problems which can arise in damp litter. And the used litter is a great addition to the compost heap!
If you intend to have an enclosed foraging area for your hens then you should allow about 2 square metres of area per bird; or if your yard is secure you could let them free range in the garden.