Chookonia begins

Since we first moved here 14 months ago, I have wanted to have chickens.

It’s clear that there used to be some here, as evidenced by the totally dilapidated hen house near the end of the back yard. It’s only good for demolition now, but there’s a lot of back yard for a small flock to enjoy. Many things have prevented it happening, all perfectly understandable, but finally, finally, it seems as if it will go ahead.

Chookonia sketchDespite the heat and humidity, we have been doing some yard work towards this end; most notably, we’ve started digging the 8 post holes for Chookonia, the palatial hen house now taking shape in a shady corner of the back yard. It will be 3 metres square, 2 metres high, solid but airy, and will have a raised brick floor under straw to keep the Girls dry and cosy even if the yard gets very squishy and muddy when the Wet finally decides to start. It’s large because there will be times in storm season when they will be safer kept in than let out.

Chookonia planThe project is not a small one, which probably best explains why we’ve put it off for so long. The impetus came when we got permission to recycle all the dumped building material from the block next door. Not only do we have enough corrugated steel to make the chook house, we can also mend the shed roof, making it a bit more unlikely that the next cyclone will see it landing on the golf course half a kilometre away.

We’ll be getting some help putting up the frame, which needs to be embedded in concrete in holes sunk 40cm down, and mounded at the top so rain will run off. We’ll probably also get some help when we come to put on the roof, but the rest is down to us. I foresee some colourful language, hurling of tools, stomping around and going off in a sulk… We are both terribly clumsy. We have to make a sliding chicken door, a hinged person door and a nesting box access hatch. Endless possibilities for things to go wrong!

The Girls. Three Australorps and three Isa Browns.

Some of these will hopefully be arriving in the next couple of months…

The Girls will be getting a permanent run under the trees for shade and shelter, and protection from the quite large birds of prey round here. They will also be allowed into the back half of the yard once we have upgraded the fencing so they can’t sneak underneath it. You know how it is. If there’s one small hole in the whole 200m of fence, they’ll find it and be through in a flash.

I can’t quite decide how many Girls we need. I’ve always had six; three Australorps and three ISA Browns. I love the Lorps best, they are beautiful, friendly, stately and calm and lay large pale brown eggs. The Browns are slightly better layers of mid brown smaller eggs, and are a bit smarter, but they are also a bit more aggressive. The mix of 3 of each seems to work well, so I’ll probably end up going with the same again. I’ll be getting point-of-lay pullets rather than chicks, so they’ll be ready to start work a bit sooner and won’t be so vulnerable.

I’m looking forward to seeing one of my favourite sights again, the Girls hitching up their fluffy skirts and flat out racing for home because I’ve called them in for the evening grain. Closely followed, I might add, by two of them having a tug of war over a piece of bacon rind…

We’ve made a good start. Now we just have to keep the impetus going.


46 thoughts on “Chookonia begins

  1. tialys says:

    How exciting. There’s nothing like ‘home grown’ eggs and, as you do so much baking, they will come in handy. When we have a glut I use them as part exchange for my yoga lessons or just give them to my neighbour as compensation for having to listen to our cockerel. We converted the previous owners’ outside dog run into a chicken haven and Mr. T. made the chicken house himself so I know there are lots of design features to take into consideration for happy hens.

    • katechiconi says:

      You’re right, once eaten, your own eggs spoil you for anything else. I’ll only be giving them away if we get half a dozen a day, every day, and I’m sure the rest of the Chiconi tribe will accept them happily once they taste them. Our girls will have heaps of scratching room, even in the closed run, and if it ever looks like getting bare, I shall give them a bale of barley straw and they can have fun picking out the grains.

  2. knitnkwilt says:

    Sounds like quite an adventure. I agree about the taste. Long ago I had a friend who raised chickens and sold eggs. Loved them. Then I moved away. Here in Portland there are some local suppliers to the food coop and Farmers’ Market (in summer) whose eggs have the home grown taste.

  3. EllaDee says:

    Fantastic that you’ve been able to source the materials from next door, and that you have the space for a well-appointed Chookonia and with a little help it will soon go from plans to be a reality 🙂

  4. Wonderful! We started with one hen and a few chicks and eventually had about 20 hens, several cockerels and a whole other section in what we called “Chickenopolis” for the eaters, another 20 or so of them!

    • katechiconi says:

      Having been single most of my life, I’ve never kept more than 6 hens at a time! I think we’ll start with that many and see how we go.
      I’ve never kept meat chickens either, so that’s an adventure still to be investigated. We’re too urban to keep cockerels, so I can’t just raise a batch of random chicks and eat the boys; by the time they’re big enough, they’re already making too much noise.

      • Yes, the boys sure do kick up a din! Luckily where we are/were in Spain, everyone has noisy animals (dogs, goats, donkeys and cockerels) so no complaints from the neighbours 😉

  5. claire93 says:

    planning is all part of the fun ^^

  6. I loved the drawing and the idea. Wishing you all the best with the salty language and tossed tools. 🙂 It looks like a lovely home for the chickens.

  7. Your reply to Chica reminded me of when we had ten supposedly sexed week-old chicks, 5 of which turned out to be cockerels, who maddened us and our neighbours with their nonstop din. It also put us off raising meat chickens when we killed the cockerels. We tried to roast one and no-one would touch it, so the rest disappeared into anonymity in the freezer.

    Keeping hens is great. During WWII in suburban London, my mum was able to use eggs to barter for other scarce foodstuffs, at a time when the ration for the whole family was 1 egg per week.

    Bon courage and don’t hurt yourself in the construction project.

    • katechiconi says:

      I am not at all sentimental about meat, and have no compunction about eating ‘named’ animals, hence a dear friend’s comment on coming to dinner: “and who are we eating tonight…?”. It’s actually illegal to keep cockerels in urban areas (which we officially are), so that will never happen…

  8. Grannymar says:

    The plans look great and I look forward to learning about the progress of chicky palace.

    • katechiconi says:

      One and a half post holes closer after this morning’s effort. The ground is like iron after such miserable rainfall for the last six months. There’s no point in watering, either, because all it will do is make the clay subsoil incredibly sticky. We’ll get there, sooner or later.

  9. Good fun, one of my uncles named his chickens after his sisters. It was slightly disturbing when he reported that Kathi (an aunt) had gone off lay and that ‘Jacqui (my mum) had carked it!

  10. anne54 says:

    Chookonia! That made me smile 😊 I love the sound of chooks and would love to have them. My backyard is way too small. Great that you are able to use all the bits and bobs from the neighbours. BTW, where do you find the time to do all of this?!!

    • katechiconi says:

      I don’t know how big your back yard is, but a couple of bantams in a mobile chook tractor don’t take up much room, eat up lots of nasty bugs and lots of kitchen scraps, and as a bonus, you get friendly company, a soothing soundtrack and the odd egg. If you can give them 1 metre by 2 and move the tractor every 3 or 4 days, bantams will be fine.

  11. I’m sure they will be very happy there with you !

  12. I really enjoyed this post. Love your ideas for the Girls. Sounds like they are getting a Chicken Palace!

    • katechiconi says:

      Contrary to common opinion, chickens don’t much like dark, constricted spaces in my experience. They are jungle birds originally, used to roosting in trees. I’m making them an airy, spacious home where they can happily spend a day or two when the weather outside is too bad. They’ll have the choice to be in or out, too, and I will only close the door at night to keep them safe

  13. Jen Gardener says:

    Oh yay! I’m so excited! Looking forward to seeing some posts of your new girls in their new homes when they arrive!

  14. rutigt says:

    I never had hens, but my neighbour has. Last year they run away through a whole in the fence and now there´s only one hen left. A fox were very hungry or something……. 😦 I hope your hens will live much longer 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      I used to have chickens who made an art form of escaping into the neighbour’s vegetable garden. Then the fox got in one night. We don’t have many foxes here, so the danger is snakes. I can’t do much about them except use very small mesh wire. I do plan to keep the Girls around a good long time.

  15. Magpie Sue says:

    I love the idea of a backyard flock. Doubtful that will ever come to pass in my world so I’m going to thoroughly enjoy yours. 🙂 Good luck with construction of the new Chookonia.

  16. dezertsuz says:

    It looks like someone is quite the draftsman. Best of luck with your chooks and their housing. I smiled at your expectation of tool hurling. =) I’ll watch with interest, but I’ve never wanted chickens myself. I have two friends with them, Wyoming and Texas, and that’s enough work for me. LOL

    • katechiconi says:

      The draftsman is me, and so far, the hurling has been kept to a minimum. There was some slightly salty language when I bashed my thumb with the handle of the post hole digger, but there was no-one around to hear it except the birds…

  17. Fun post! I was sent over here by Marlene from In Search Of It All, because I am constantly going on about my chickens. I must say you did it right: getting their home ready first. I have a tiny and cute chicken house big enough for the four chickens my uncles raised for me. I had a comfortable summer, when I first moved here, and knew I would eventually make a more permanent home for my ladies before winter hit. Well, before winter hit, my job and schedule completely changed, and I don’t get two minutes in a row to myself. Needless to say, the ladies run loose all day long because their fence is only 4 feet high and they simply fly over it. My readers have had to hear me going back and forth between love and frustration with chickens. My hussies, I call them, because they are misbehaved and I never know where they are. I think “hitching up their skirts” and coming at a run is a perfect description. My girls prefer crumbled stale cookies to any other treats I give them. They love me and its mutual. 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      Hello, and welcome to Chiconia. Sadly we have not yet been able to complete the chook house because of the insanely dry weather we’re having. It’s supposed to be the Wet season, rain every day, lots of lush greenery. Instead we have rock hard ground (no post hole digging possible), everything is dry and bare, and only the weeds are doing well. Roll on the tropical winter, for perfect working weather outside…

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