Sunday, January 11, 2009
One of my favourite recent finds in the blogosphere - Rhonda, from Down to Earth - is hosting a 'kitchen table discussion' on the art of keeping chooks, and has asked for contributions from her readers. I really want to join in, but it is already terribly late (or early, depending on how you look at it) and I have vowed that I will not let the dawn find me sitting at the computer again this week! Also, most of my chicken photos are stuck on the hard drive of my old computer and currently inaccessible unless I trawl through stacks of cd archives (see previous comment about lack of time ;P)
As a result I am, with profound apologies, going to do this the easy way by *blush* linking to my own previous posts on this topic. My experiences with raising chickens are somewhat unconventional, and may be helpful to others who find themselves dealing with the unexpected. Follow the links for lots of drama and photos!
First, we have my happy happy joy joy post about welcoming eight Rhode Island Red Bantams, including the glorious rooster, Rufous, and his brave and daring harem leader, Ruby, into our lives.
Then comes tragedy, as Rufous leaves us, one cold morning. Yeti suspects that he probably died happy - from his experience working on a chicken farm, he has explained that roosters often have weak hearts and tendency to 'overexert' themselves, if you know what I mean *wink wink nudge nudge*.
All is not lost though, and in a comedy of clucky competitiveness, Ruby and Rosie save the day by ensuring that Rufous will live on in his children.
In the next long, rambling chook update, I am pregnant, working three days a week, and suddenly have to deal with predation by a stray cat we had adopted. Four chickens beheaded and the remainder of our flock brought 'inside' for safekeeping.
(PS. The environmental law case mentioned in that entry had quite a different outcome from my original optimistic expectations. On further research, I advised my solicitor friend that virgin excavated natural material was still classified as waste for the purposes of environmental planning laws, and that if the clients had not lodged a development application with council, then they were breaking the law and had no available defence. The end result was that they had to pay a hefty fine - but nowhere near as much as they would if the material dumped had included household rubbish or building materials.)
(lol... Munchkin called me in for a feed, then Wombat insisted "You stay in your bed, Mummy" so I am now finishing this before breakfast with a wriggling Wombat on my lap!)
While not technically about chickens, this entry shows the 'parrot' cage which is providing emergency housing for the chooks on our verandah (and introduces you to Mitch, my Corella, for whom the cage was originally built).
Now Wombat wants my company for breakfast, Munchkin is awake and asking for a clean nappy... blogging must wait - don't these children have any sense of priorities? oh... um... yeah... I'll be back.
OK, Munchkin is having nappy-free time and I gave Wombat a handful of pipecleaners and raided my button stash for interesting things to thread on them - that should give me a few minutes to finish this post.
Following on from the last recorded episode in the chook saga - the chooks lived in the parrot palace for a while, then we got rid of the cat who was causing the trouble and I very happily released them again... three days later, another fatality! This time, a hawk had decided to get in on the action. I tried everything I could think of to scare him off, but he perched in a tree above the pen and waited. We had cut down many of the trees within the pen (it is a large area, about 6metres square - used to be a dog run, with really high fences) to deny access to the cat, but unfortunately that gave the hawk a clear run.
Totally discouraged and busy getting ready for a baby, we moved all the chooks back onto the verandah - and there they have lived ever since. I gave them a crisper from an old fridge which I fill with dirt (and a few extra worms and bugs) for scratching. They get grain and their water is changed twice daily (I need to get them a proper waterer that they can't walk in as it gets so dirty.) We also give them a big handful of grass whenever Yeti is mowing or I am weeding. Whenever they start to get too grotty I scrape out all the material from their cage and give them fresh straw or dried grass (which they promptly kick out all over the floor.) It is SO much more work having them here, but at least they are safe - and surprisingly happy!
Towards the end of last year we had a hatching. I moved Mama hen (pretty sure it is either Ruby or Rosie, but no idea which - just know it is a very old hen) and the eggs into a smaller cage next door to the big one, and a few weeks later we had three baby chicks.
See the little one swimming in the water dish? Chicks are pretty silly. They need a big, wide, shallow dish for water that they can easily reach into but still climb out of if they fall in.
Disclaimer - don't read this paragraph while eating breakfast! I left the chicks for Mama hen to teach them how to peck and scratch, but I really should have moved them out a little sooner, as the remaining 10 eggs were mistreated - Mama hen ended up cracking a number of them open and feeding the babies on their unborn siblings.
The weather turned very cold (in November, in Australia!!!) so I brought the babies inside and lodged them in an old fish tank, with a wheat pillow for warmth (not having a suitable lamp.) This needed rewarming twice a day but was otherwise quite effective - I wrapped it in old towel that could be easily changed for washing.
They lived there for about a month. When they got too big (and the weather improved) they were moved back into the little cage and Mama hen was returned to the flock. She was immediately attacked by her companions, who seemed to feel she had been getting a better deal. Yeti said I should have completely changed everything in the cage (fresh straw, fresh food, clean dishes, new nestbox etc) and then the reintroduction would have gone unnoticed in the confusion.
I am not happy about all of this - I never expected to have chooks living IN the house! but we did what was needed to keep them alive. Although I know they don't have lice - I have checked carefully - I do know the dust and dirt they throw around is a major factor in contributing to our rodent and bug problem. Now our circumstances have settled down somewhat, Yeti has promised that their new quarters are top of his list and he is building them a tractor arrangement which NOTHING can get into! (Hope we can still collect the eggs :P) They have never been big layers (lol, being bantams!!) but we get between 3 and 5 pretty little brown eggs each week, which is enough to ensure that Wombat eats fresh, and that was my main concern as I don't want him getting commercial hormones.
Now the boys are clamouring for my attention and the chooks and parrot are squawking for their food, so I had better stop here... maybe I had better put a word limit on my future contributions to such discussions :P