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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Quick Shade

Beat the Heat/Sun
New Shade in the Pen

Our darling girls haven't had a lot of time outside of their pen this last week and we've been having a warm spring, so I decided to organise something for them to do tonight.

First, in went a wheelbarrow load of clean sand so they have something more to scratch around in. I'm hoping they might like to play in it because they tend to go for the bare dirt to dust bath as soon as their let out when I get home at about 6pm. They immediately started scratching around in it so I am sure it will be a hit tomorrow.

Next I found a couple of hessian sacks and laid them out on the roof of their pen. The weather has been very calm so I don't think there is any fear of them blowing away and they just cover the area with the sand to give them some more shade tomorrow. The poor girls are panting so I think we might have to think about something more permanent for some extra shade in the summer. The grape vines don't seem to give much cover in the midday sun, and they tend not to go under their coop, even though there is space and shade there.

So now I'll wait and see if the hessian sacks are still in place tomorrow morning, and hope that they have fun with tomorrow's "chicken entertainment" (aka the sand)

Those big pots in the background are our strawberry bushes in the vege patch. They are the sweetest and most delicious strawberries I have ever tasted. Mark is doing a great job!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Blooming Chickens

Gladys Posing
Gladys Posing for the Camera

Darling Gladys was such a poser today. Noone else was interested in me when I was following them around trying to take a photo, but Gladys stood and looked straight at me for this one. Look at her floppy comb!

You can see in the background that she and the other girls have been busy making a mess in the garden beds and kicking all the dirt over the side. We have to regularly clean up to fill in the holes and tidy up their mess and then it starts again... but they are so adorable, so who can complain.

Gladys is fast becoming a favourite as when she isn't too absorbed in what she is doing to care about you, she is first in line for a pat or food. She is so placid now that when Mark sits with her in the afternoon she falls asleep on his lap! Harriet is still my favourite girl at the moment as she is timid and near the bottom of the pecking order so I try to give her extra treats to make up for missing out on so much.

Yellow Rose - Backyard

Our garden has become an explosion of roses, most of which desperately need a bit of my TLC. Every year I am surprised by my roses because I really don't have much clue how to look after them and they are still doing ok. As soon as they finish flowering I am going to give all of them a good haircut this year, and we're also going to say goodby to a couple in the front yard. Unfortunately roses really don't fit in with my "ideal garden plan".

Well it is time to get back out there and muck out the chicken coop, then I'm off to buy some fish for the new pond.

Pink Rose - Backyard

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where Eggs Come From

Do you know where eggs come from? You'd be surprised how many people don't. I love taking photos of my darling girls and their crazy chicken antics, however a few weeks ago Hazel surprised me by laying an egg when I had my camera nice and handy... and I probably surprised her by shoving it in her butt! Poor girl. This isn't the first time she has been the subject of an egg video.

When a hen lays and egg she likes to find a nice dark quiet place which is why you should provide some nest boxes where they can hide to do their thing. They can sit for up to an hour or more before the egg emerges. They will nest and make themselves comfortable, then just before they lay, they stand up and lower their bottom toward the ground so the egg doesn't have far to fall.

Since this is a rather "graphic" video of Hazels bum... lets get technical!

Chickens and other birds have a common opening for both defecating and laying eggs which is called a Cloaca, however eggs are always clean when they are laid. They actually come out with a damp film which quickly dries and only get dirty if the hen contaminates it with her feet or feathers. The film that covers the egg is called the "bloom" and helps to keep the egg fresh, which is why I don't wash my eggs until I'm ready to use them.

There is an interesting article following the egg laying process step by step on the Domesticated Bird website, or see the process for your self in my video.

Monday, October 19, 2009

How to Build a Fish Pond

Loving the Fountain!
Water Feature

Our front yard now has a brand new pond and I am very proud of having built it myself so we're taking a little diversion from chickens for today. I started off reading a lot of things on the internet and there is so much conflicting information that I thought I would share how I built our pond in case you would like to replicate it yourself.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Back in the Garden

Being Chickens
Spreading the Dirt

Who needs shovel and rake with these girls around. We dumped a wheelbarrow load of dirt from the front yard under the orange tree to try and fill the holes the chickens have dug. They headed straight for it and within minutes they had it spread out nice and flat. Chicken heaven!

The seasons are changing and we have been doing a lot of gardening. I've been in the front garden digging a hole for a fish pond and the chickens have had many chances to cash in on this work. Every time we find bugs hidden under something a chicken is brought to the font yard to dispose of them. White one (Doris) now runs for the gate every time we walk into the backyard incase she is needed.

Pea Flower
Pea Flowers - August 30, 2009

Mark has been in the vegetable patch, but most of his "work" has been eating the peas. In between this important task he has also prepared one of the beds for planting the spring crop. This area is off limits for the chickens even though That Green One keeps finding ways to get inside. The chickens aren't a big fan of the pea plants, but they adore brocolli, and we have been pulling up a plant for them any time we haven't been able to let them out in the yard because they do love their greens.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mad City Chickens

Mad City Chickens

Tarazod Films have created some fantastic promotional images for their film "Mad City Chickens" and I had to share this one as it looks just like it could be one of my girls. She must be an ISA Brown hen.

In their own words the film is "a humorous and heartfelt trip through the world of backyard chickendom". I hope it will help aid in easing the laws stopping many people (especially in America) from keeping some hens in their own backyard. The movie is still making its way around America, so why not head to their website and see if it is showing near you!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day Light Savings

Being Chickens

Here in South Australia we put the clocks forward an hour last weekend. The positive effect to this is more daylight in the evenings so when I get home from work I can spend some time in the garden and with the chickens. In the dead of winter there were days when the girls were already in bed by the time I got home from work at 5.30pm, so it is fantastic to be able to come home and let out some very excited chickens for a couple of hours in the evening.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Gardening with Chickens

Chicken Help
Exterminate! Exterminate!

With this lovely weather we're back in the garden. Stage two (or the second part of stage one) got a bit of a move on over the long weekend last week, and I could barely muster the energy to eat dinner, but it is looking great!

The start of the day we had to move a lot of old garden surrounds, and then start positioning rocks and of course there were a lot of creepy crawlies living underneath. We brought all 6 hens around to the front yard and they had the best time eating everything that moved. They usually eat everything from earwigs and slugs to millipedes, but towards the end they were so full that only the tastiest critters were gobbled up and millipedes were allowed to run free.

Once the bugs were disposed of the hens became a bit of a pest by getting into everywhere we were trying to work on, so back to the back yard they went with full tummies.

Maple and Wall

And the garden? We built a lovely little wall to add some dimension and planted a Japanese Maple tree. The maple is absolutely stunning and has a variety of colours throughout the year from a beautiful green to a gorgeous red.

Japanese Maple
Maple Leaves

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Food Lives In Here!

Where the food comes from...
Stepping Inside

This photo is a bit of an old one, but it is a regular occurance now. I used to prop open the door fairly regularly to take out the washing or when coming in and out a lot, but now if I do that I am likely to have hens wander in. Just today I opened the door up to talk to Mark and had to fend off Gladys and Hazel. Notice again that Gladys was front and centre to do the cheeky naughty thing and lead others astray!

Now regular readers will know by now that I have six beautiful hens, and am regularly getting six eggs. Sometimes we only get five in one day. Occassionally two will slack off and we will get four eggs. Earlier this week we only had four eggs, followed by a five egg day when they were extremely busy in the garden and excited from getting a lot of attention from guests. The next day I collected five eggs in the morning and let them do their thing expecting perhaps one more...

We got SEVEN eggs!

Now either someone held one in overnight, or perhaps laid very very late in the afternoon, possibly just before going to bed. What surprising girls they are!