’Other’ pets that can make a house a home


Julie O’Shea, founder of the hen rescue charity Who Gives a Cluck, says Covid-19 has led to a surge in inquiries from those wanting hens of their own with some looking for a new hobby and others after pets for their new rural abodes.

The charity rescues hens from farms when they hit 18 months or so, a period at which they begin to lay less eggs.

If they weren’t rescued at this age they’d be culled (another word for euthanased).

Instead, they’re rescued by Julie and her team of volunteers.

“I give every hen a thorough physical, plus the royal spa treatment consisting of a full body massage with lice mite treatment, tonic for internal worms, pedicure to remove those clumps of mud they can accumulate in big flocks, an ear nose and throat check and then finally, an essential oil mini massage of their comb and wattle.”

After this, the chooks are available to be adopted.

“I have rehomed about 3500 hens myself in the past two years,” says Julie.

The best thing about that, says Julie, is knowing that each hen went to a loving forever home where they can retire, lay an egg every second day or so, eat vege scraps and spend time in the garden.

Fancy rescuing one yourself? Julie says go for it but warns that chickens need love and care, just like cats and dogs.

What you should know

* Check government rules as to how many chickens you can keep.

* Keep your chickens safe. Even suburban areas have foxes plus cats and dogs.

* Chooks do not like to be cooped up. Remember, they need sunshine, dirt in which to scratch in and an enclosed area where they can explore.

* Stimulate their senses. Be imaginative. Peg lettuce leaves on a string. Chooks love lettuce and will jump to reach it. They will also be entertained by mirrors and small toys.


From platies to guppies to tetras, fish are the third most popular pet in Australia, after dogs and cats, with approximately 11 per cent of the population keeping them.

It’s estimated each of those households has 10 or 11 at any one time, according to the Pets in Australia report, meaning about 11.3 million pet fish live in Australian homes. Most of those surveyed said they chose pet fish for relaxation, because they were low maintenance and a good pet to teach children responsibility.

But, before you take the plunge and buy an expensive tank and 10 fish, it’s best to know the basics so you don’t end up with a watery graveyard that will have the kids in tears. As well as buying the right species to start with, you’ll need a tank, equipment, plus the right food for your fish.


According to the Pets in Australia survey, pet owners on average keep fish for about five years. Of those, 46 per cent are fishbowl/cold water tank breeds the most popular, followed by tropical freshwater fish, pond fish and marine species.

When choosing, as well as opting for fish that prefer different water temperatures, and types of water, fresh or tropical water, you can choose a fish’s temperament, from a peaceful and active variety, to a semi aggressive or aggressive species such as the Siamese Fighting Fish, which is probably good to know before you let the kids pick the carnivore that may eat all its siblings.

Black moors, blue guppies, rainbow sharks, tetras, ranchu and sucking catfish are among the peaceful fresh water types, while tropical fish such as red tiger oscar, blue acara cichlid and convict cichlid can be aggressive and may be best in a tank on their own. If in doubt, ask an expert.

Nutrition plays a huge part in keeping fish alive and well, and it’s imperative to pick the right type of food for your species, as not all like the same thing. There are many fish variety-specific foods so check with the pet store which is preferable.

Some fish are top dwellers while others like to hang out at ground level.

Top-dwelling fish such as hatchetfish and halfbeaks are best suited to flakes, which are light and float on the surface for them to nibble on, while for medium dwellers such as rainbow fish, goldfish and gourami, crisps are a good option as they sink slowly.

For those species which prefer to lurk near the bottom, such as cories, loaches and catfish, or species who have small downward facing mouths and must gulp their food, opt for a sinking wafer to munch on.

In order to keep fish clean and healthy you will need the right size tank and equipment for the number of fish you intend to keep.

You should always set up your tank first and let it cycle (the process where the filter builds up a population of beneficial bacteria that will break down the toxins in the water that are produced by fish waste) before you buy pet fish.

Petbarn says to set up a freshwater tank you will need: an aquarium and stand to suit; gravel, background decoration, a filter system and pump, a light, a heater for tropical fish, air stone; plants (natural or imitation) and decorations such as rocks, driftwood, ornaments or flower pots, a water conditioner, pH test kit, an ammonia test kit and, of course, fish food.

Most pet fish are keep indoors in aquariums or fish tanks with an enclosed lid, while the remainder live in outdoor ponds and as such, can grow large in size.

The choice of which fish tank to buy can seem overwhelming, but it will come down to your budget, the size you have space for and which will suit the type of fish you plan to have. Simple fish tanks start around $30 and head upward to $800 or more for advanced models. Petbarn experts suggest an ideal beginner option is one of the new “all in one” aquariums and come with lights and filters built-in and are easy to set up.

Just remember if you are going to keep tropical fish then you will need to purchase a heater as well, because they don’t like cold water.

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