We got our first chickens three months ago from our friends that were going overseas for a few months. They are just on loan and will be going back home in the next week or so. It has been a great trial run to see how things would go and we have decided that we definitely need chickens in our life! Jonty has had a great time with them as well and loves visiting them everyday where he feeds them from his little scoop of grain (in between having some himself!).
There have been a few issues to iron out along the way. We have had trouble with the local birds also having a free feed and sometimes we have huge amounts of Indian Minors down there that I am not happy about at all. I have found that the best way to deal with it is to just put out the daily amount of grain each day, instead of filling the feeder all the way up. This way the chickens get in there first and have their fill and when they go off scratching and eating the scraps and weeds I give them, there isn't too much left for the other birds. We were considering completely closing in the run, but as it is quite a large space I don't really want to do that. I think that we have the problem mostly sorted now anyway. The chickens are fat and healthy so are obviously getting enough to eat. Another problem has been the lack of eggs and then the condition of them when we did get some. A lot of them were very soft shelled and would collapse once laid... we would find the remains of eggs in the house that didn't look like they had a shell at all. I though they weren't getting enough shell grit so I started adding that to their feed along with a constant supply in a separate bowl but this didn't seem to help. Then I stumbled upon an article in an old Earth Garden magazine that I had borrowed from the library. Someone had written in to the poultry expert with the same problem from the same breed that we had; Isa Browns. It turns out that they are not a pure breed but a hybrid for the egg industry which means that they are prolific layers for the first year but after that they really drop off and by the third year they don't lay much at all. (The industry would just cull them after their first year I guess.) Not really suitable for backyard purposes unless you are raising for meat as well as eggs. So I have done my research and when the time comes for us to get our own chickens I am going with a pure breed and probably an Australorp which is an Australian breed. I also might get a little Silkie for Jonty to have as his own pet as they are meant to be great with children and very affectionate.
Having chickens has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl and they haven't disappointed me. I could watch them for hours and I love the way that they not only give us eggs but act as great composting machines! All of my weeds go into the run where they have a good time scratching around. After about a week I rake out the house and run and either add it directly to my no dig garden beds or put it in the compost bins already with a head start to becoming beautiful black compost. They are also good at eating up some of my noxious weeds that I have here which I can't add straight to the compost bins or else I spread it even further. They like onion weed and a few others that I don't know the name of, and seem to kill them enough to not grow in the compost. They are very useful little birds!