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Archive for October, 2012|Monthly archive page

Ten Chooks …part two

In Poultry on October 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Our chooks have settled in to their new home very well. They’re intriguing creatures and very sociable. Whether you’re cleaning out their coop or sorting out the ‘feed and straw’ shed; they are around your feet, pecking your boots and generally waiting for you to give them something to feast on. I guess they are pets, but not the same companionship we have with our four-legged friends …they are here to provide us with eggs and in return we take good care of them.

They have good shelter, the right food, treats and plenty of space to forage.

My husband built the coop, a sheltered hut and a shed to store everything we need to care for them, which he enjoyed building as it was a refreshing break from work and house renovation (and he likes the challenge). And I think he’s done an excellent job!

On an average day, I tend to the chickens at least four times:

  • Morning: let them out of the coop and give them fresh food and water.
  • Mid-morning: collect eggs.
  • Afternoon: Give them scraps and check for more eggs and then at night they will take themselves off into the coop, find an area to sleep, either a perch or shelf and then one of us will shut them in for the night.
  • Lastly, take away the food to keep predators away!

Collecting eggs first thing on a morning is not the case as the majority tend to lay between 9am and 11am, and the rest thereafter. We keep sufficient eggs for ourselves to eat and to use in baking. And what we won’t use are then sold at the gate—boxed per dozen, left in a cooler box with a ‘honesty’ money box and a sign to let everyone know that they’re there. Our lovely fresh eggs have become quite popular and always sell. We definitely have a regular neighbour who buys them and I suspect we have more. It’s nice knowing that they are eating our hens’ eggs. In turn the hens’ pay for their own keep to a certain degree as the revenue collected pays for their food and straw etc.

Giving the chickens left-over food from our kitchen is ideal and apart from onion they’ll eat just about anything. There’s not much food that goes into our bin these days. However, they do prefer vegetables cooked and they adore potatoes mashed, roasted, baked— they love them! Scraps should ONLY be given in the afternoon as they need to have their own food for nutrients and good egg shell production. Their crop (where the food is stored when they eat) fills up quite quickly, therefore mornings should be kept with filling up on chicken feed and grubs they scrape-up themselves. The food we buy for them includes the grit needed to make the shell so there’s no messing about buying grit separately, although I do keep our egg shells to supplement it now and again. As long as they are cleaned and ground very finely they are suitable. You can roast them in the oven, but trust me, this option is surprisingly smelly!

Keeping planks of old wood or logs lying around on the ground in the hens’ area; is a good idea as the ground becomes damp and brings about an abundance of slugs and worms. Turn them over every couple of days and the chickens have a delicious appetiser to dine upon, in addition they also have new ground to scrape at, keeping them ENTERTAINED. If they are entertained they are less likely to become bored and start picking on each other!

Keeping check of their health is a must and with a small flock the time needs to be taken to individually glance over the vitals: a nice red comb, wattle and ears, legs that aren’t scaly and dry looking, any injuries and basically that they all appear healthy and happy. Egg production usually teeters off around moulting time and extra protein in the form of dog food (meat) can be given as an afternoon treat to get them laying again sooner. I give them this once a week anyway for extra protein. They relish it.

Mites and lice can be prevented with the appropriate treatment. I have a powder that I dust the chickens with once a fortnight and also the coop gets a dusting too, especially in the corners of the coop. As long as prevention is practiced, mites and lice won’t be a problem. Giving the coop a good scrub with water and disinfectant in the hot summer months is also a good idea for this reason.

Every egg starts as a yolk and by the time the egg is laid the whole process takes on average about eighteen hours!

Ten Chooks

In Poultry on October 2, 2012 at 9:46 am

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Part One:

Scraping the earth with their feet in search of grubs—doing what is natural, before heading off under a bush to dig and cultivate a dust bathing area for cleaning and resting; squirming and turning in their hen-made furrow . Their heads dip and bob; up, down and from side to side—my goodness their necks can stretch up high—peering up at you with their beady eyes and a bright red comb on its head wobbles to the movement. They almost look prehistoric.

Chickens have been around for a long time! First living around 5000 BC in the jungles of South Asia, known as Red Jungle Fowl.

I’d been planning on getting some chickens for some time and we now have ten of them. I was a complete novice as a chook keeper, therefore I did my research; as I do with most new things I decide to do (but have had little experience of). The breeder we bought them from said to me “they’re easy”.

Nevertheless, I began with reading, the obvious choice, but not on the Internet! I like a book in my hand. I am a big fan of research on the Internet, but there are times that I prefer a book. I began with a library book and then sourced a book of my own that will always be on hand should I need it. I bought a good, yet inexpensive one that I sourced on the Internet! I tend to opt for ‘quality-cheapness’ wherever possible!

Anyway, I am digressing from the topic—my apologies—back to the ten chooks out the back! They have settled into their new life on our farmstead very well. It wasn’t long before they were laying to their full potential. They started off laying five-a-day for the first week and then it crept up to a regular eight eggs each day. I have only collected ten once, equating to one egg per hen. A couple of the ladies aren’t laying regular, but that’s okay—they still might.

They are in a routine: Oh yes, morning— get up and feed, afternoon treats and then they take themselves off to bed and await ‘coop closing time’. Meanwhile, the days are spent running free range in a very large fenced off area with shelter and plenty of roaming to do. They run up when you arrive, clucking and cooing, eager to see if you bought them anything to eat and our dog Max likes to tag along to see if he can join in on the feeding frenzy. He’s not bothered at all by the chickens and they are not disturbed at all by him. I’m not surprised as he’s so placid.  All Max wants to do is to get in the pen and see if there are any treats left over on the ground that he can help them with!