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If you want to know what I'm on about in the shortest time then please read the introductory first post and my current action plan. Comments are very welcome. And if you like this blog, please tell a friend. Thanks!

Saturday, 31 January 2009

All things chicken

1. About a week ago, our oldest chicken started laying. Lovely Henny Penny has been producing an egg each day. They're not magical or anything. They don't even taste any different to the free-range eggs we've been buying from the shops for ages now. But they're as fresh as they come and there's something special about food which comes from your own back yard.

2. Not sure if I've mentioned this (and too lazy to check) but we are back up to five chickens now. We bought two new hatchlings a few weeks back. Just to be clear, these are chooks six and seven, having "lost" one young chick and given away a rooster. We're trying to be more hands-on with this pair than we were with our second lot, hoping to foster the kind of pet-like relationship we have with Henny Penny as opposed to the touch-me-and-I'll-scream-bloody-murder attitude that Steggles and Nighttime have sadly adopted.

3. I haven't finished renovating the laundry yet. But I have raised the roof and added a second level to the chickens' hutch. Much to my frustration, the chooks wanted nothing to do with the hutch that I'd poured so much time and effort into - other than to use it as a stepping stone every evening to aid them getting up on to the top of the fence where they'd sleep for the night. (And in the morning they wouldn't jump back into the coop, no they'd be down into the yard and shut safely out of the coop where their water is.)

Now the roof of the hutch is at the same height as the fence, the second level is completely open on two sides (one long and one short) with the other long side closed off with a piece of shadecloth; they cannot jump up onto the fence any more and they have a nice big perch running the length of the hutch about 1.5m off the ground. Not only do they sleep on the perch and stay confined in the coop, but with the lower half of the hutch now open at the top they come in through the side door and jump up. And Henny Penny obligingly chose the nesting boxes as a good place to lay her eggs.

4. Much as we enjoy having our pets sharing our space, especially when the three older chooks do cute things like sit on the doorstep in the morning waiting for somebody to bring them something to eat, having chicken shit all over the outdoor bbq area is something we're not willing to live with. So this arvo I purchased more wire and some garden stakes and erected a no-frills 4-foot fence to exclude the chooks from our entertaining space. I used the large square-mesh wire because it's cheaper, uses less material, does the job and is ideal for climbing plants. Thinking of growing some peas. Bet the damn chooks eat 'em. Have yet to construct the gate.

5. Free-range chooks are spoilt for choice. With all those nice bugs and seeds and leaves to eat, they can turn their beaks up at lousy kitchen scraps. Sigh. There are some things they do enjoy: bread crusts and watermelon skins are the favourites so far. Most everything else gets left to rot. I've got fussy kids, fussy worms and now fussy chooks. At least the compost bin can't spit anything back out at me.

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