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…