How to keep chickens: Rex Liebelt's guide

The Strathalbyn breeder offers advice on what breed and food to choose and where to ask for help.

This post was contributed by Peter Crowley.

At the May meeting of the Murray Bridge Garden and Floral Art Club, members were presented with a very entertaining address from Rex Liebelt, of Strathalbyn, on the keeping and showing of poultry.

Mr Liebelt is not only known for his expert knowledge of poultry, but also for his work as president of the Strathalbyn Agricultural Show Society and secretary of the Southern Country Shows Association.

Mr Liebelt has been an enthusiastic keeper of poultry since 1979 and has not missed a Murray Bridge Show since 1980.

He brought along hens from two of his favourite breeds, a tame gold-laced Wyandotte and an Ancona.

In reflecting on the past 15 months, Mr Liebelt said if anything positive could be said to have come out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it had been the renewed interest in having a few chooks in the backyard.

“We’ve all heard how in certain parts of the country, those supplying hens to the public actually ran out of chooks to sell,” he said.

“As a poultry enthusiast, I thought that this was really good.”

The first decision for anyone wanting to keep chooks was whether to keep them just for eggs, or for showing, he suggested.

“Do you want a small chook like a bantam or a large hen like an Australorp, or do you want a quiet bird or one that is a bit more flighty?” he asked.

“I’m often asked which breed of hen makes for the perfect pet that the kids can easily pick up and cuddle.

“You can’t go past silkies or Pekin bantams, as kids find them cute and cuddly.

“They make great pets, plus they will give you some eggs for the kids’ breakfast.”

One of the best ways of acquiring hens of different breeds was to attend the annual sale of the Murray Bridge Poultry and Pigeon Club, in the poultry shed at the Murray Bridge Showground, he said.

Members were available to give advice at club meetings, held on the third Sunday of each month during the cooler months.

He recommended contacting any poultry club on Facebook, too.

Mr Liebelt had his own advice on how to get lovely, gold egg yolks, “which can be challenging here in Murray Bridge, as the amount of green pick is very much determined by how hot and dry the weather has been”.

“For me I find Laucke’s Red Hen mix helps do the trick,” he said.

“Its diverse seed mix means the hens get access to the ingredients their diet needs for the eggs to be that lovely gold colour that we all like in our eggs.

“Don’t forget, too, that our local fodder stores are full of advice as well as being able to supply you with all the things to keep your hens happy and well.”

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