Chickens are great value on any block with any type of gardening philosophy. Besides being downright entertaining, they also perform many useful functions.
Chickens are weed killers, compost processors, fertilizer makers, food producers, and destroyers of valuable seedlings.
They each have unique characters and personalities and contribute to the smooth running and well being of the garden. Well…anyone who has had chooks might disagree with that. They certainly find their way into every nook and cranny of the garden.
We have had five chooks in the last year. The first two were baby Silkies, Eir and Beyla. Beyla died mysteriously after the arrival of Mercy, our third chook, a Rhode Island Red. Then Eir decided to be a rooster, so we had to ship him off to another garden. He is very happy now with his own flock of six hens.
We got a brown Silky, Pappy, after Beyla died, but she was mercilessly hen pecked by the others that we decided to get another to smooth out the violence. Luckily enough, a black Silky with a brown top knot was available from our friend, John. It turned out that this chook, Yurei, was Pappy’s mother, so they bonded instantly and the violence subsided. Having a final say in everything, Mercy plucked out Yurei’s top-knot on the first day.
Mercy is a character, the most vocal of all of the flock. She clucks when not being paid attention to, clucks away when let out of the run, clucks more when its time to go back in. Shes’ also very unhappy with my garden designs and activities and can always be found reorganising whatever we’ve done in the yard.
Yurei is a shadow, she loves being under things, under bushes, building materials, tools, you name it. At the moment, she’s fascinated with walking under the hose that hangs on the side of the run. I left a few coils looped loosely on the ground and she detours to walk through these on the way back in for the night.
Pappy got her name from an old movie about a prison escapee, Papillon. After her first day, we constantly found her outside of the run. I’d clipped her wing to stop flight, so we couldn’t work out how she was escaping until, one day, Jelina saw her do a standing jump from the ground to the top of the run’s fence. She doesn’t need wings, she’s a natural high jumper!
The original chook house was a gift, so we gratefully used it. However, it was difficult to keep clean and get the eggs from.
Athena generously donated the dog house that we were also given, but that she doesn’t use. Athena prefers to be inside the house, as close to the action as possible.
I lifted the whole house up on stilts, giving the ladies about 600mm clearance to walk around beneath it. This gives them about an extra square metre of ground space, under shelter, to scratch around in.
For everyone’s convenience, I removed one half of the roof and reattached it with hinges so that with one move, we can access all of the inside to get eggs and clean.
The girls never had a roost in the old place, but now they do, along with two shiny new nesting boxes.
Mercy took to the new pad immediately, Yurei was apprehensive, but stayed in place. She didn’t like the down ramp at all.
Pappy just kept flapping around and escaping by whatever means she could. Didn’t like it one bit.
Now that a few days have passed…
Mercy and Pappy go happily into the house of an evening. They still haven’t got the idea of roosting on the beam, preferring to roost on the side of the nesting boxes. This wouldn’t be so bad, but they sit with their bums in the boxes and poo in them.
Yurei doesn’t like to sleep inside. She’ll hunker down on the ramp, sitting in the rain until I pick her up and put her inside where it’s dry.
It’s a big improvement on what we had before. Easier to clean and maintain and there’s more space for the girls for the times we don’t let them out to forage in the garden.
Dolores is our new girl, an Auracana cross who shares with us blue eggs. Shes obsessed with escaping, even more Pappy and is the reason we covered the chook run with bird netting. That seems to have stopped her morning leaps and attacks on our greens.
Unfortunately, she takes her frustration at being confined out on poor Yurei who often has to make a run for it!