NICK REID (NR): Hi guys, I’m Nick general manager of Reid Stockfeeds and I’m excited today because we’re gonna be talking on one of my favourite animal topics and that is the humble chicken. And I’m here with chicken connoisseur. Phil van Gent, when is the hen at its absolute peak of production and how long is that maintained for?
PHIL VAN GENT (PVG): Generally, depending on the breed and how the bird has been reared about 28 weeks of age Is what we call peak lay, and you should maintain that for about eight to ten weeks, you’d probably expect to get an egg every 26 hours, which equates to about 320 eggs a year. The major influence which not many people are aware of is actually light intensity in the winter months when day length regresses that will actually go out of lay because she needs approximately 16 hours of light to stimulate egg production. As day length increases, you’ll find that the birds come back and to lay again, it’s just a biological process.
NR: How many years can a backyard chicken owner go through where they’re going to get eggs throughout the year from the chicken?
PVG: I’ve heard of some instances where birds are eight years old. And it depends if they go out of lay and come back into lay, which is what they call a molt. The birds can go for many, many years; a happy chicken will lay you eggs. And if she’s not happy, she’s not going to lay you an egg.
NR: I don’t have a set up at home just yet. How the hell do I go about establishing a home for Barb here?
PVG: Well, first you’ve got to work out how many birds you want. So, well, I suppose it’s how many eggs you want per day.
NR: Okay, I’m gonna say five.
PVG: Lets say get half a dozen chickens, you need a coop, which is set up so the girls have a little nesting area, have some untreated wood shavings or pea straw in there for them to dust bathe in and to lay the egg. Then you’ve got your drinkers which you want nice, cool water for the girls because they can’t sweat. You also need feeders so they’ve got feed there all the time. You need to imagine that it’s got to be Fox proof and rodent proof. So wild birds can’t get in there preferably. So you probably want to try and put some wire about 30 centimetres into the ground so foxes can’t dig underneath. Have a flap there with a latch on so you can actually feed the birds without going in the coop and also to collect eggs, that just makes life easier. The hens love to perch so have something there 30-40 centimetres off the ground, they just love to stand up there and have a look around and look at the other girls because they do have a pecking order. I suppose I can’t reiterate strong enough to have the coop fox proof because they can climb up the wire and all sorts of things, they can be real beggars. If you want the birds to go out ranging during the day, just make sure your dog doesn’t get a taste for them either. And make sure you lock them up at night.