Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Chapter 5: Fowl thoughts…

Everybody has a chicken experience. Like all experiences, some are better than others. Memories like collecting the eggs at Nana and Pops when you were a child, as the morning sunlight streamed through the mulberry tree leaves like shafts of syrup…ahhh, now there’s a good memory. Or, like the time you were overly curious and ventured deep within the arcades of China Town without keeping track of how you got there, only to find yourself lost and confused amidst the swaying chicken carcasses whose tortured claws still seem to scratch the claustrophobic air that reeks of hoi-sin sauce…bad experience. But, today we would like to talk about the good experiences. To begin with don’t think about lifeless, dangling, white, scaly, clawy, chicken feet. Instead, think of yellow and fluffy, sweetly chirping, newly hatched chicks…that I guess do have tiny, teeny, scaly, clawy, chicken feet, which may or may not find themselves one day dazed and confused in a China Town arcade.

You could be instrumental in giving some little fluffy chicks a map out of China Town.

You are not sold on the idea yet are you? I can tell. You are coming up with plenty of logical counter arguments, like having poo squashed between your toes or being scratched to death by scaly, clawy chicken feet. Is that the best you can come up with? You’re so predictable.

There are loads of great reasons for getting chooks. First of all, chooks are super low maintenance, they make great pets and kids love them. Let’s not forget freshly laid eggs, our girls lay one each a day, that’s a dozen every three days! That’s over 700 eggs in 6 months and if you are type that buys organic eggs from supermarkets you could save $600 a year on eggs, poo between your toes never felt so good. Buying a chook will set you back between $15 - $20, so they easily pay themselves off.

Chickens eat all of our spiders and weeds as well as all of our food scraps that we don’t compost including bread, meat, salads, corn, pasta, porridge and just about anything else that we eat. Their manure makes the best fertilizer you can have for your vege garden (but it is so strong it needs two months to break down). Last of all chooks are great company and very friendly.

Now that you are convinced and on your way to Windsor farming supplies, we should tell you there are a few down-sides to having these little feathered friends. They do have a tendency to dig up your garden so consider fencing them in to their own area, we let ours out of their yard every Sunday for a peck around. They also like to explore out opened gates or may fly over fences (but this is easily fixed by cutting the flight feathers on one wing). If your chooks do escape the best way to get them home is to show them a bowl of food, they will follow you anywhere.

Six months ago we took a family drive down to Windsor farm supplies with a cardboard box and two very excited children. We were on our way to buy ourselves some egg-laying chickens. We chose four lovely Isa-brown hens that were 20 weeks old and put them in our cardboard box. All the way home we thought up names until we finally settled on Henrietta, Billy Holiday, Charlie and Stella. We haven’t looked back!

A few weeks before, we set about building a chicken coup for the ladies. Using some spare wood, corrugated iron and some chicken wire we came up with this.

‘Le Chateau de Omlette’ – it had all the modern features, excellent ventilation, a second story, a comfortable straw bed and a tin roof. We also attached a home-made waterer using an up-side down plastic bottle and tray, as chooks get very thirsty and need to be kept well hydrated. On arrival, the ladies were shown to their rooms and then we locked them in for three days to help them get acquainted with their new home. Chooks are creatures of habit and will always sleep in the same place every night. They prefer to sleep perched off the ground, hence why we made the second level. It is important to position a chicken coup in a shady place that still gets some morning sun but that won’t get too hot during the day. If you are worried about foxes, lay a roll of chicken wire under your coup and attach it up the sides as this will prevent them from digging under.

As anyone about to lay an egg would appreciate, chooks like some privacy for laying. Our chooks either lay in the darkest corner of their coup or behind a thicket of sticks next to the fence. The novelty of collecting the eggs never really wears off. Each morning Joe and the kids feed the chooks and collect the eggs.

Our top 5 egg eats are:
1. French toast with mulberries drizzled with maple syrup.
2. Cheesy, Chili and Basil omlette.
3. Warm date & cinnamon whole meal muffins with a spread of melted butter.
4. Poached eggs with Rocket and Pancetta served on crusty penne.
5. Good old boiled eggs with soldier finger toast, and a pinch of sea salt.

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Anyway, got to go, chickens in the oven.

Next week: Composting - the basics and how to get started.

1 comment:

  1. Guys i love it!!! You inspired me to get a wee pot garden going!! bak choi?! basil, parsley, rocket, sage.. will let ya know how we get on! Stayed with mates down in Freemantle last week.. There place would have made your eyes pop out!! A back yard about as big as Umina days, they had 14 large homemade fish tanks (barramundi/ marrin/ crayfish yabbies.. erm, other eatible fish and clawed things) Huge fruit and veg 'hydro/aquaponics' gardens.. All on solar/wind turbine powered pumps,.. Looked/ sounded lovely.. (smelt a bit fishy thou..) Keep up the fantastic work! I want fresh eggies too!!
    Love yuz xxx