If you're thinking of getting backyard chickens, you've no doubt considered if your local council has any rules on keeping a small flock of chickens. Any rules developed by your council are there to keep all residents happy, so it's wise to first check what rules you need to adhere to.
Councils vary in terms of the number of chickens that they allow in backyards. Most Councils allow six or fewer chickens without a permit, but often require a permit for a greater number. For most families, around six chickens are adequate in terms of their egg production, producing around 3 dozen eggs per week. Some Councils such as the Brisbane City Council, allow a greater number of chickens if you have more room in your backyard. In this instance, if your property is less than 800m2, you can keep a maximum of 6 chickens, compared with up to 20 chickens if your property is greater than 800m2. There are some Councils such as the Logan City Council, which do not allow chickens to be kept on properties with an area of less than 600m2. Strangely it seems that each council has their own regulations that will vary to some degree with some permitting slightly more or slightly fewer chickens on different sized parcels of land. If you're planning on acquiring chickens, a quick call to your local council is a good idea so you're sure to be keeping within their suggested guidelines.
Another very common rule is that your backyard flock cannot contain a rooster. As roosters are not necessary in the production of eggs and often cause a problem with the neighbours, most councils seem to ban roosters from the suburban backyard. If you live in a more rural area with your closest neighbours some distance away, a rooster may be allowed if it's unlikely to cause a disturbance. In this instance, I would suggest that you call your local council or have a look at their website to see if roosters are allowed. Some allow roosters as long as the neighbours don't complain.
Many Councils also have specific rules about how close a chicken shed can be from your neighbours fence. This really only applies if you plan to build a fixed chicken coop, compared with the increasingly popular mobile chicken coops. These restrictions are really in place to prevent poorly maintained chicken coops becoming a problem with the odour wafting over to the neighbours. So if you're planning on building a fixed structure, it's likely that you'll need to make sure it's around six metres from you neighbours house. Again this varies from council to council. For a mobile chicken coop this rule doesn't really apply as your chickens will work their manure into the soil and you move the coop around the different garden beds in your backyard.
It's unlikely your neighbours will appreciate mice or rats creeping into their backyard due to poorly stored chicken feed in your backyard. Councils therefore ask owners of backyard chickens to make sure that their chicken feed is stored appropriately so as to not attract rats or mice. Unlike other animals, chickens cannot overeat. Therefore it is not necessary to give your chickens breakfast, lunch and dinner but rather serve their feed in a self-feeder that they can access throughout the day. Scattering food on the ground attracts mice and wild birds. Obtaining a good feeder and storage container for your feed is important.
Doing the 'right' thing by your council and your neighbours is important when keeping chickens. You would be surprised by the number of people who are not even aware their neighbours have chickens, as they store their feed well, they keep a small number of chickens, and there is no odour or noise (apart from the gentle clucking) coming from their backyard.
If you're looking for a chicken coop that is durable, cost effective and looks terrific, check out the range of coops made by the Australian business Royal Rooster.