Chookonia rises!

It has been a very long time coming.

We first talked about keeping chickens in our previous home. I had the spot marked out, the coop and run designed, and…. well, it just never happened. At that point, we were still doing a lot of travelling on the motorbike and had no trusted neighbours who’d take over chook care in return for eggs while we were away.

The Girls. Three Australorps and three Isa Browns.I miss keeping chickens. I had a nice flock of 6 when I lived in northern NSW, three Australorps and three ISA Browns, which was enough to feed me and have some to sell. I’ve been eyeing various parts of our backyard for years, mentally installing chickens. Again, it hasn’t happened. But in the past couple of weeks, something has changed, some inner switch has clicked over and now, we’re ready. Construction has begun!

The Husband is losing the very slight use of a mostly-empty garden shed. It contains an old lawn mower, some empty paint cans, exactly 4 tools and some planks of wood. It’s also the perfect size for a small flock of between 3 and 7 chooks. I’m proposing 5, on the basis of two laying hens per person plus a spare. You need an odd number, it works better with the pecking order dynamic, I find. I’m hoping to order point of lay ISA Brown pullets from a local supplier called Just Got Laid…!

We have installed vents (we used leaf catchers for ground-water drainage) in two of the shed walls to allow free airflow and let in a bit of light. We have a solar shed light and nesting boxes to instal, and will need to add insulation to the roof to stop it getting too hot inside in the summer. I have a couple of broomsticks for perches, too, one higher than the other, because of the pecking order.

The water tank which collects run-off from the big shed is literally 2 metres away. There is both sun and shade. It has structures on three sides already, so only one fence needed to be built. All we have had to buy is a galvanised bin for feed and the gate (and yes, we could have built one, but sometimes, life is too short and this one will last far longer than whatever our only adequate carpentry skills could produce.

There was a handy pile of bricks from which I constructed the skirt for the fence. They’re laid dry, but it’s adequate for the purpose. It gives a hard line to mow up to, and stops chickens and other animals from squeezing under the bottom of the wire. We already had the wire and the star pickets. There’s some fairly random bricks laid out on the ground for who knows what original purpose which I’m going to grub up to give the Girls more scratching area. There’s a brick path to the shed, and a brick apron out the front of it. The rest will be grass and straw yard. They’ll be let out into the main back yard once they’re accustomed to their new home and come when called for feeding time. The chook house and run comprise 9m², or nearly 100ft², which is almost double what is required for free ranging. Once they’re allowed out into the rest of the back yard, that will increase massively, and they will have extensive green pick to enjoy.

There’s not much in the back yard they can destroy. I have no vegie garden at the moment. But I do have plans to convert the disused orchid shade house into a vegie raising area. It’s constructed of scaffolding pipe, with a roof, a door and shelving. If some of the shade cloth is removed, it will become a very useful caged area, safe against marauding chickens, possums, bandicoots and greyhounds pelting around stretching their legs…

Still plenty to do, and I’ll do an update once we’re a bit further along. We still have to introduce Mouse to the concept, but he has a low prey drive and doesn’t chase either cats or the chickens that casually let themselves out of a chicken yard at the bottom of the street to forage in the surrounding area, trotting off home at the end of the day. I’m not too concerned.

Must brush up on my Chicken-speak. It’s been a while…

Took, took, Bork!

63 thoughts on “Chookonia rises!

  1. How utterly marvellous and what joy when those first eggs go from paddock to plate 😍
    It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but unfortunately with the reserve just behind our back fence there are always Fox’ and of course not forgetting the two possums that have taken up residence in the trees down the side of the house 😒
    Oh well I can’t have everything I guess so I’ll definitely be living vicariously through your chooks 🥰

  2. Woo hoo… Excellent everything! Ideas, planning and beginnings. I know how much you’ve missed chooks and backyard eggs. You are so patient, and I’m very pleased for you ♡

  3. Fresh eggs soon! Splendid!

  4. I love reading about the building details. Right now I have 21 chickens which is too many but I mail-ordered them at the beginning of the pandemic and I had to get at least 25. I have to keep them fenced most of the time because of foxes, but I do let them out in the evenings when I can sit out and babysit them, and that is always so relaxing!

    • katechiconi says:

      21 is a lot! We both love and eat a lot of eggs, but that kind of supply would definitely outstrip our demand! We’re so lucky not to be troubled by foxes or any native predators, but the feed may be vulnerable, which is why we’ve gone for a galvanised feed bin with a lid. My last flock of Girls were so tame that they’d sit in my lap or peck at my bootlaces, thinking they were worms.

  5. I’ve always wanted chickens too but never lived where I could have them. What a wonderful experience. I love farm fresh eggs. Hard to get around here. I’m sure Mouse will be well behaved and maybe with time a bit protective. I’m so excited for you.

    • katechiconi says:

      If the chickens behave true to form, they will freeze when they see a ‘predator’. Mouse isn’t interested in chasing still things, only fluffy and preferably white, running-away things… The black hawks are more of a concern, and I may need to net the top of the pen at some stage.

  6. knitnkwilt says:

    What a cool project! I live in an apartment so have never contemplated owning chickens; however, local farmers do and sell free-range eggs at the farmers market.

    • katechiconi says:

      Free range really is so much tastier, but even those are nothing compared with a still warm egg straight from the nest. The yolk is dark and rich, and the white is thick and has a completely different texture when boiled from eggs just a few days old. Meringue heaven!

  7. kymlucas says:

    Certainly sounds like you know what you’re doing! And “Just Got Laid!” What a great name!

    • katechiconi says:

      I know! I couldn’t have come up with a better one myself! I’ve kept chickens for years, and I’m a great believer in using up what you have rather than going out and buying stuff, hence the anachronistic results… Next stop is banging in the next two star pickets and putting up the wire.

  8. anne54 says:

    Kate, it made me smile to see what a scrap-happy project this is! i would love chickens too; I love their clucking sound. Not to be though, so I am looking for ways to increase the insect and bird life in my garden.

    • katechiconi says:

      Not even a small chook tractor on a patch of grass with 3 bantams in it? Ah well, I’m hoping our chooks will reduce the green ant and giant grasshopper life in ours…

  9. Marty K says:

    So excited for your chooks! My neighbors over the back fence have chickens and they (the birds not the people) pop over the fence to forage in my yard from time to time. Turns out my orange tree has the perfect branch for a chicken highway.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’m rather hoping ours won’t stray too far, as the back and side fences are rather low – fine for a lazy dog but not an adventurous chook. I may have to do a small wing-feather clip till they get used to the idea of not flying anywhere.

  10. Very cool. Looking forward to seeing your new babies.
    * “exactly 4 tools” cracked me up….

  11. nanacathy2 says:

    How wonderfully exciting. I shall watch with interest.

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s very exciting, but will have to be a pleasure deferred because we have a trip coming up next month, and I don’t want to leave them so soon after installing them. So it’ll be the end of October before they arrive.

  12. Caroline says:

    The highlight of a visit to my uncle when I was young was going to help him collect eggs and choosing one, preferably a double-yolker, to have for tea. Not much scope for me in a first floor flat in London.

  13. excellent. Barry’s talking about reinstating chickens, but this time, rather than keeping them in our (small) back garden, at the allotment 🙂

    • katechiconi says:

      I hope you don’t have a fox population in that area? I’ve saved my Girls in the past by hearing a commotion in the chicken house and going out to investigate… having them at the allotment might be a bit too remote, maybe?

      • we do, but we also have them in the gardens here. We managed to make the bunny and chook pens pretty secure from the foxes (and the neighbourhood cats, who took the first 3 of our bunnies before we secured the fencing) so I’m confident we’ll manage to keep them safe (but thank you for the prompt) x

      • katechiconi says:

        Sounds like you have it sorted 👍

  14. Going Batty in Wales says:

    How exciting! And very ingenious of you to make such good use of stuff you already have.

  15. claire93 says:

    eggsciting times ahead Kate ^^
    I was wondering how hens fare, in your part of the world, during your really hot season? Ours “suffer” enough as it is during our summer, but it gets way hotter when you live.

    • katechiconi says:

      They seem to do OK, so long as there’s enough water and shade. I suppose they were jungle fowl originally, and heat would have been the norm. Also, if they’re bred in this climate I think they probably are acclimatised from the start. I shall have to see if they enjoy a bit of a light misting with a soaker hose when the back yard starts to look a bit crispy 😉

  16. Dayphoto says:

    YAY! Chickens! I feel lost with hens. I have two now. Two is just right for Terry and I!

  17. Nothing like having your own hens! It does my heart good to feed them kitchen scraps that would have otherwise gone to the compost. In cooler weather, I even cook potato peels for them (as they don’t do well eating them raw). We’re (slowly) reducing our flock from a high of 70-some chickens to a more manageable dozen, although some old biddies are well into their teens with no signs of flapping off to fowl heaven any time soon. Wish you lived closer, as I’d gladly hand over some of the feeders, waterers, and roost boxes we’re no longer using.

    • katechiconi says:

      I have a big stockpot to throw all the chook scraps into for an occasional boil-up. I don’t peel potatoes much, but when I do, the peels will go in there, together with carrot ends, sweet potato skins, pumpkin rinds and seeds and anything else too hard. I’ll also be asking the neighbours to keep vegie scraps for us, and we’ll make occasional trips to the beach for shellgrit. We have a local feed supplier for the whole-grain I prefer to feed chickens (not a fan of mash or semi-processed food). I’d gladly accept any equipment you were passing on; we have two waterers and a feeder but spares are always useful!

  18. craftycreeky says:

    Ooh, I do miss my chickens, enjoy!

  19. Susan Nixon says:

    Congratulations on getting your chicken coop and yard! I have a friend here who starts with 6 because something always happens to one, or one turns out to be a rooster! She loves her chickens, too.

    • katechiconi says:

      A rooster would be a bit of a problem, since we’re not allowed to keep one on a lot our size. Up to 6 chickens is OK, but roosters are consider a noise nuisance. I’m looking forward to having my Girls bustling about taking care of the bugs for me!

  20. cedar51 says:

    Love, love, love – both the scrap happy enclosure and the soon to be new chicks – I see a renewed spirit in you since the new health issue and your magnificent way you’ve dealt with it – congrats

    • katechiconi says:

      It’s just so lovely to have the energy again! Also, I’ve been missing my Girls, and now is just the time. Today we got the rest of the pickets in and grubbed up the random bricks, and I installed the solar shed light for early morning feeding time 🐔🥚☀️

  21. That’s AWESOME! I would come to help, but I am kind of far away. 🙂

  22. tialys says:

    I miss keeping chickens. We have the perfect place for them too – a really well constructed large cage thingy that was used to grow strawberries in. It would be totally predator proof. We’d just need to put a coop in there. However, we’ve decided against it for the moment. I see you have applied your usual expertise and knowledge to preparing the ideal conditions for your future flock and I look forward to future updates and the hen blog. Will there be chookuccinos?

    • katechiconi says:

      It sounds as if you’ve given it some thought… I’d put money on you getting your own flock at some stage! I’m pretty sure the Girls will not demand their own blog like Mouse did, and no, they wouldn’t be enjoying chookacinos, they much prefer hot chookalate, which of course dogs can’t have… Wait till you hear their names, hehehe!

      • tialys says:

        We let the girls name ours – we had ‘Nugget’, ‘Princess Leia’ , ‘Darth Incubator’ and ‘Dark Sun’ among others. No wonder I insist on naming the dogs and cats.

      • katechiconi says:

        Oh, wonderful! I’m particularly taken with Darth Incubator! I briefly consider rude names (Cluckin’ Obvious, Cluckin’ Ridiculous, etc) but have settled on Eggatha, Eggnes, Egglantine, Eggneta and Egglaia, with Hendoline or Henrietta as fallbacks in case one of them demands something different…

  23. tialys says:

    🤣 It should amuse the neighbours when you’re calling them in,
    You won’t be able to shorten them though otherwise they’ll all be called ‘Egg’ or ‘Eggy’.

  24. magpiesue says:

    Thanks for sharing, I learned a lot!

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