Monday, 19 September 2016
LEARNING ABOUT CHICKENS
It has always been our intention to get some livestock on this property. And chickens were at the top of our list, mainly because they could ease us into our journey of keeping animals, and also provide us with regular eggs, which we consume at a great rate, especially on the weekends. But we had some clearing and cleaning to do beforehand. And there were some questions we had to ask.
While the benefits of having chickens are apparent. There were other factors to consider too, especially in the country. We had heard that they bring snakes, which come for the rodents that eat the scraps, and foxes.
Although we didn't want to encourage any more snakes - or the deadly kind, we decided to forge ahead. While this place has at least three chicken houses, we actually decided to convert some planting sheds into a chicken coup. The other areas required a lot more work to restore - timber was rotting and more land needed clearing around the sites. Basically they were more ripe for encouraging snakes and foxes. And some of them weren't easily accessible. To get to one of the chicken houses you have to make your way through a bamboo forest. Not an ideal pathway for little hands to collect breakable eggs.
Once the temporary house was ready, we had to find out where to get some chickens. We were told to attend a nearby poultry auction. It's held on the third Sunday of every month. Serious buyers arrive early in the morning to get the exotic birds but that you can turn up from about 11am to see the more common varieties.
It was quite an experience. While we took some cardboard boxes along with us, there was no need as all the birds (and ducks, rabbits, guinea pigs...) were already housed. Each one was also numbered and they moved along tables as the auction proceeded.
We wrote down the numbers of the hens we were interested in but some of them went for more than $70 each. Apparently, some of the club birds are highly sought after by breeders. While we're not at that stage yet we did end up with a couple of them - Old English Game Wheaten Hens. They are not large birds and only lay small eggs - but they are quite beautiful, and a welcome addition to our home.
Afterwards we went to visit a permaculture farmer in a nearby valley. She breeds various chickens and we went to see what she had on offer. It turns out she had several varieties, although not all of them were ready to sell (as she has to wait until they're a certain age before determining their sex). While we found her through the school, she also advertises on Gumtree, which is a good way to buy chickens too.
We bought a laying Australorp (so slightly older than the rest), two pullet Barnavelder (dark feathers with a lace-like pattern on the tips) and a pullet Isa Brown crossed with a Barnavelder. The pullet chickens aren't baby chickens, and don't require that extra care, but they're not yet laying eggs. However, buying them at this stage means you will have them for a longer life, and are good for children as they can become a little more like pets as they watch them grow.
Before we started this process we also consulted what has become something of a bible for us, the book Practical Self Sufficiency by Dick and James Strawbridge. It has lots of advice and handy tips on all sorts of gardening - from inner-city courtyards to landholdings.
images the indigo crew