Chicken Time

I got a chicken house for Christmas, it is one of the best presents I have ever received. Waking up to fresh eggs, you have collected from your own chickens in your own garden is heaven. I had wanted chooks for ages, I had them years ago, but over time the numbers dwindled partly due to an over active fox terrier helping himself to more than just the eggs!

Before we embarked down the chook path, I did my homework, I phoned my neighbours first, then the local council to find out what the bylaws are in regards to keeping chickens. Bylaws vary a lot from place to place.

Deciding what the chooks were going to live in was a challenge. I had visions of them roaming the property. Then reality hit home as I remembered my last mob of chooks were brilliant at eating the slugs and snails, but not so selective when it came to the veggie patch where they paid particular attention to the lettuce, silverbeet and cabbages.

The main challenge was do we get a ready-made chicken coup, or a flat pack hen house. These seem to be the rage but we decided (well I did) to start from scratch and build something free standing and unique. Investing in something pre made is certainly convenient but then why marry a builder?

For the portable fencing, we knocked up three rectangular panels and attached chicken mesh to it. Each panel locks together but also comes apart so we can move it to wherever we want.

Hubby made a very sturdy 1.8 m tall chicken house, with a main door for us to come in and out of and a second small door for the chickens to come and go. 2 broom handles have been used as the perches at different heights and one large nesting box sits along the back of the chook house. The nesting box, where we collect the eggs from, is easily accessible without having to go into the chicken house itself. This is brilliant as it can be hazardous or sticky underfoot depending on where the chickens ‘‘loo’ is that day. A self-watering system sits on the floor, I am amazed by how much fresh water they drink, between 5 and 7 litres every day or two, depending on the temperature, but are fussy and will only drink fresh water.

Hubby bought the cheapest paint he could find thinking I would hate it as it was, a bright street walker pink. However, I love it, couldn’t be happier, it’s superb, my hen house is now a local landmark.

We bought five chickens, as two year old laying hens from Trade Me. After moving the new members of the family in, it took less than 2 days for our first egg to appear, they were clearly happy in their new home. Now we average between three and four a day which is plenty for a household of two. We feed our mob left over household scraps, bread, peelings, loads of weeds and excess veggies.

Chickens don’t have teeth so offering grit aids digestion and supplies calcium to their diet.

My proudest moment so far has been giving away the first dozen of my own home grown eggs. I tied a bow around the carton with a posy of mint and fuchsias as a finishing touch.

So with our newest family members nesting in beautifully, and the fox terriers keeping an eye on them, but just out of paws reach, I would say Chicken Time is well and truly off to a good start.

By Rachel Vogan

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