Project Chooks

So on Wednesday, I went to a talk about how to keep chooks (Chickens) in the backyard. This was a free, community information session set up by my local library and I had put it into my diary weeks ago, and then promptly forgotten about it. Such is the magic of having an electronic diary, however. I was alerted on Monday night, which gave me plenty of time to decide to attend.

The woman who gave the talk was pretty amazing, I think she said at one point that she is 70 but she didn’t look much over 50 to me, as fit as a fiddle and very enthusiastic about her topic. She’d been the recipient last year of a local “edible Landscape” award from the permaculture society and was bubbling over with excitement to share with us about how much fun it is to keep ‘chooks’ and what sweet little pets they make.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for years, and in fact wouldn’t be too difficult for me to do at this point. Rosina had to build chicken coops before she could get her chickens, but the house I live at now has some already which we have only used once or twice as a temporary cat enclosure when we had an outdoor cat which we wanted to keep confined during dawn and dusk for the sake of local wildlife. Apart from that, they have stood empty and some of them have grown a lot of weeds of course, from old grain seeds left by the former owners’ chickens and from seeds blown into the coops by the wind.

This image shows the most useable of the four coops we have at present. The others are quite overgrown with weeds and would need extensive work to bring them up to a useable state.

The old packing crate shown inside one of them is a leftover from when it was being used as a cat enclosure. The cat used to lie on top of it to bask in the sun.

There is a mandarin tree next to the coops and some old unused wire frames where there used to be grapes growing. I think one of them now has a passion fruit vine trailing over it.

The two coops shown in this picture could probably be used for housing chickens fairly soon, but would need a tiny bit of maintenance where some of the wire netting has pulled away from the frames. The one on the end would make a nice winter coop because it gets quite a bit of sunshine as shown in the picture. There are a couple to the left and out of frame that would make more shady summer enclosures. Each of them is interlinked by doors inside the coops so chickens can be easily moved between them

We also have an unused bird aviary which could probably use a bird or two to liven it up.

The previous owners apparently housed a colony of finches in this little cage, and some quail if I recall correctly. The tree in front of it is a Banksia and would probably need to be removed to allow access to the door of the cage if we were going to use it. It might happily house a couple of chickens as well with some nesting boxes and a roost installed in the back, but it is a little too open in the front end for winter. The chickens may enjoy it in the daytime but I think it would get drafty at night.

I am thinking that perhaps two chickens for a start would be good. At the talk yesterday, it was said that two chickens can produce up to 600 eggs per year. That’s enough to keep Sandra and I, her mother and my kids fairly well supplied with eggs and save us all some money.

My next problem is to decide what type of chickens to get. I’d been thinking either Orpingtons, or bantams, but Rosina said that she keeps a breed known as “Commercial Red” because they’re pretty tough and resistant to disease, so I might go with a couple of those.

Then, once I have them, I will need to decide what to do with ‘non-working’ chickens that have gone off the lay. It was amusing to hear Rosina say that she’d had big ideas about turning her non-workers into soup, but that when the time came, she just couldn’t do it. I suspect I may have the same problem, even though I grew up in a small town where we kept chickens and I have even helped to butcher, pluck and dress them as a kid LOL!

Maybe with this being a country town, there is somewhere around here that would do all that for me. I know that if you raise a sheep or something you can take it to the abattoir to be butchered for you. Maybe they do chickens as well. We’ll see, but I have a sneaking suspicion that, like Rosina’s ‘girls’ my chooks will be allowed to die of old age, unless I can find the courage and skill to humanely kill and dress them myself.

Or… maybe I’ll just get a pony!

About megleigh

When not busy writing, Meg Leigh spends her time tending to the most pampered flock of chickens on Australia’s east coast. She would really like to have dragons, but has settled for chickens because they come pretty close. If you need proof of this, try offering a flock of chickens raw meat! (Meg would like to advise she accepts no liability for loss of fingers!) Meg also enjoys reading, keeping fit with her bunch of madcap mates at the local park, and spending time with her adult offspring whenever their schedules allow.
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