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.
Despite 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.
The 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 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.