Tales of Chookonia #3

The Girls are thriving.

After a slow start, where they’d put themselves to bed in a big squirmy, feathery heap on top of the nesting boxes, I have trained them to use the perches and they are doing it all by themselves now. I go down at dusk to find them crooning quietly in a tidy row on the top perch. They’re also much, much tamer now. We can pick them up, they will eat grain out of our hands, and they don’t run and hide when we tip the kitchen scraps bucket over the fence and into their dish. They’ll weave around our ankles when we let them out in the morning, waiting for the grain ration.

So we thought we’d give them a taste of more space. We put up the dog fence on the lawn adjoining their run. It’s only 80cm/32in high, but it keeps a greyhound in, so why not a few hens? Well, because wings. It worked initially, and then ‘Madam Houdini’ got the bright idea in her tiny brain to see what the view was like up there. I shut that down fast. So, high on the agenda tomorrow is clipping their flight feathers, one side to start with, then both if it proves necessary. It absolutely doesn’t hurt them, but it will stop them flying up on top of the dog fence. Plus you can compost the feathers. By the time they grow back in, the Girls should be convinced that flying just doesn’t work any more.

We have plans for constructing a chicken tractor. For the uninitiated, this is a light, mobile cage for chickens. It comes in several forms: for day use only, for day and night, fully enclosed with predator wire, etc. We want it for day use only, so the chooks can have fresh grass to forage on every day, we get our lawn kinda mown and it stops them wandering too far, whilst protecting them from the only likely predator in this suburban back yard, black kites. We have two potential construction methods. One is made entirely of PVC pipe of various diameters and aviary wire, and the other is made of PVC pipe for the base, plus carbon fibre tent poles, shade cloth and mosquito netting (all of which we happen to have on hand). One is sturdier, one is cheaper (since we have the tent poles and at least some of the materials. Some experimentation, measuring and discussion is inevitable.

“You distract the human while I work out how to open this gate!”

Meanwhile, the Girls chook on…

31 thoughts on “Tales of Chookonia #3

  1. Hahahahahaha just love how one tried to escape. They look so lovely grazing away & so at home 🏡
    Can’t wait to see the home away from home once made. I’m enjoying living vicariously through you & your ‘chookies’ 🥰

  2. jmcheney says:

    I enjoyed having chickens during my country years. Such colorful, amusing characters. Your girls are lovely, handsome.

  3. The soft chicken lullaby they sing in the evening is incomparably soothing.

    We’ve used plastic webbing over a fence top to keep hens in, especially when we’re restricting their range due to predators. Hawks around here enjoy the occasional chicken dinner. The webbing also helps to break up sunlight, keeping them a bit cooler.

    • katechiconi says:

      I wanted to see if I could find camouflage netting to put over the chook yard, but no luck yet. We currently have a shade sail for both shade and predator cover. The dog fence is in a nice shady area, but at on 32 inches high and covering a wide area it’s not really feasible to net it, particularly as it’s just temporary. I favour the chook tractor idea, especially as it’s not their permanent home, only a ‘vacation cabin’. They’re not really fussed about it yet, there’s still plenty of green pick and bugs in their home yard.

  4. knitnkwilt says:

    Very attractive, the girls.

  5. Chooks are intrepid adventurers… when it comes to seeking food. We’ve had to clip wings just once each time we got new chooks.

    • katechiconi says:

      They started out rather nervous of the big space, but once they realised there was endless grass and lots of juicy bugs, they were hard at it. It’s not as if they’re actually short of food in any way, but some chicken personalities just have to see ‘what’s on the other side’, don’t they? Some of my previous ISAs had to be redone because their first trim was quite early, and they were a good bit older when the new feathers came in.

  6. You don’t do anything by halves, do you? Very impressive chicken-parenting! I’m sure the girls would never have been happier anywhere else on earth

    • katechiconi says:

      There’s a large dose of ulterior motivation in there! By putting them in the tractor daily and giving them a fresh patch of lawn every couple of days, it means that the lawn will need a fraction of the mowing. In a humid tropical climate, that’s worth having, since left alone grass will grow knee high in 10 days. But I do concede there’s also a large dose of besotted soppiness about my Girls…

  7. cedar51 says:

    Lots of entertainment for you now, along with using your creative nodule to iron out any rough spots … they will living in a palace before we know it!

    • katechiconi says:

      I have already suggested to the Husband that a viewing seat should be installed under the big tree, so that we can watch them go about their business. I’m sure there will many many ‘Chook Mahals’ in their future, whether it’s beautifying the existing set-up or creating newer and better variations on the tractor…

  8. nanacathy2 says:

    There’s always one! Bless Madame Houdini. Where was Mouse when the escapologist made her bid for freedom. Glad they are settling in so well.

  9. Going Batty in Wales says:

    I shall be interested to see what hubby constructs. I would love to have hens again but unprotected they become fox food and in a run they create something out of a movie of the Somme.

    • katechiconi says:

      It will be a joint effort. We were going to go the full PVC version till I spotted the old tent bags in the shed and had a moment of revelation. We don’t camp any more, so sacrificing some poles seems like a good way to recycle them. Let’s see how it goes, and I’ll certainly post if it works. We avoid the wet quagmire effect by putting down a deep litter of leaf/branch chippings, which keeps them out of the mud, absorbs some of the excess water, and combined with chook poo and kitchen scraps, turns into most excellent compost over time! They love the stuff: it’s highly scratchable and full of little bugs and tasty greenery.

  10. I remember Cecilia had a chicken tracker.. Good plan.

    • katechiconi says:

      I’ve had chicken tractors in the past, predator-proof but not really light, and if they’re heavy you don’t want to move them often enough. This one will be very light as there’s no predator problem (apart from snakes after the eggs).

      • Oh, Golly!!! Snakes. I’m a goner with snakes. I’d never get and egg for the life of me. You are made of hearty stock, Kate. You have my deepest respect.

      • katechiconi says:

        These are carpet pythons and non-venomous, so not too scary. They also help keep down the rodent population, so not a totally bad thing.

      • Yes, I get how we need them. I got used to the garden snakes in my back yard and gave them all the room they needed for the same reason. I spent 4 years in the south with every snake being venomous. I found out I could fly a great distance there. 🙂

      • katechiconi says:

        Yes, I do get that. I give great respect to the ones that can kill you, but we just don’t see them that much, luckily. Also, I’m pretty sure the Girls will raise a racket if they see one, so I hope things will work out.

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