The New Tales of Chookonia #1

Finally, the Girls have arrived.

On perhaps the hottest day of the year so far, we filled their waterers and feeder, put up a gazebo in their chook yard to provide some sorely needed shade, wiped off some of the sweat and went to fetch them.

We’d planned for Point of Lay pullets, but we wanted them this week because the Husband is on leave and we have time. Unfortunately, this week the supplier didn’t have 21/22 week pullets, only 15 week pullets, so we’ve brought the 5 of them home a little early, and will enjoy watching them grow for another 5-6 weeks before they start laying. We were charged less because they’re not full size yet. Bonus!

The cardboard boxes they travelled home in were liberally anointed with chook poo, and will be going on the garden to mulch the forthcoming potato patch in due course. Their chook house has a deep litter of pine shavings which will keep things fresh and discourage bugs and mites, and again, when it’s full of poo, I shall shovel it out and compost it for garden use. They will get garden and kitchen scraps in addition to their grain ration. I do like a self-sustaining system! Once they’re a bit more acclimatised, we’ll let them out on the grass, perhaps using the moveable, adjustable dog fence to ensure they graze the grass area by area and don’t create huge bald patches in one place and leave rank grass in another.

I’ve put the dummy eggs in the two nesting boxes to encourage them when the time comes. There’s a thinnish layer of sugar cane mulch in the chook yard for them to scratch in, which I’ve scattered with a handful of grain and vegetable scraps from the kitchen. So far, they’re ignoring everything except the water, the green weeds and the pumpkin vine, which is providing a shady spot to rest in. I must get some river sand and D.E. for a dust bath fairly soon, or they’ll be digging up the ground to make their own.

They’re pretty calm and docile, and very healthy looking. It’s so good to have Girls in the family again! We brought Mouse out into the garden after they were installed, and he glanced at them and then proceeded to ignore them completely. Perfect.

And yes, of course they’ve been named, although at this age it’s a little harder to tell them apart. They’re Eggatha, Eggnes, Egglantine, Eggnetha and Egglaia.

 

Plans for Chookonia

I’m a woman on a mission.

I have made a startling discovery: it is impossible to buy point-of-lay Australorp or Isa Brown pullets in Mackay. Whaaaaa?! They’re only some of the most reliable layers, placid, easy to care for, friendly, undemanding and healthy chickens around. The Australorps were bred specifically for the Australian climate and Australian conditions.

The Girls. Three Australorps and three Isa Browns.

The Girls. Three black Australorps and three red Isa Browns. I miss them…

According to the feed store where you can buy day old chicks, there’s “no demand”. Everyone these days wants the fancy breeds, for prettiness and cuteness, as pets for the children. I could have as many Silkies, bantams of every kind, Indian Game Hens, quail, guinea fowl and other exotica as I wish. What I can’t get is reliable layers of the right age.

I love my Australorps. But I may have to substitute another good laying breed, and I’ll probably have to buy them further south and have them shipped up here. I want POL birds so I don’t spend months feeding them before they start laying, and so that they’re old enough that I know they’ve had their innoculations. No point in starting a flock with ailing birds.

But first, we have to construct their quarters. In my previous life, I had large and spacious chicken accommodation, a fenced yard under large old trees for shade, and a quarter acre paddock where they could roam freely. It was known as the Chook Mahal. We’re a bit more restricted in the new house, having no old trees in a suitable spot, we will need to construct the chook house, the enclosed yard and a fence for their free ranging area. I’m already planning to grow a passionfruit vine over the enclosed yard for the dual purpose of giving the Girls some good shade whilst at the same time ensuring the passionfruit gets plenty of chickeny goodness at its roots. I anticipate a regular supply of fruit!

The plan is that the chook house (to be known hereafter as Chookonia) will be fairly large and on a concrete slab so it drains well and can be hosed down. Apart from the nesting boxes it will be mostly open but roofed over, so that they have an outside area to scratch around in when the rain is torrential and they can’t spend much time in the yard. There’s no problem about keeping them cosy in this climate. The concrete floor and the ground in the enclosed yard will be thickly covered in straw or sugar cane trash so they can have a lovely scratch, poo over everything and eventually I get to cart it away and put it on the garden. Outside the yard, they can scratch and range in the orchard area and help clean up the fallen fruit.

But first we have to demolish the dilapidated and termite-ridden wreck of a shed that’s already there, lay a concrete slab and construct a carport, lockable store room, and the aforementioned chicken accommodation at one end. And we have to get a water tank to catch the rain off the roof, as there’s no water laid on at that end of the garden, and I don’t want to haul water all the way up there every day.

Just a little bit of work to do, then….