Building A Chook Fence

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The previous fence arrangement was Not Great. It worked for the most part AKA it kept the chooks on the lawn where they were meant to be and NOT on the concrete pooping up a storm. However as time went on, it began to biodegrade and holes began to appear.

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It was originally meant to be temporary until we built our Queensland room onto the back of the house. Realistically that is a HUGE job and may even require getting council approval depending on what we want to build and how we want to build it.

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Normally the chooks ignore the holes but sometimes one would find their way into the promised land. That was no big deal. But when all 5 of them scratched up my seedling bed – seen above with Grumpy before I planted the seedlings in it, it was time to get to work on something a bit more permanent.

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I never question the how, what, why, where or when. The Other Half just creates a plan and implements it. I am purely there to assist and sometimes this causes problems when I do not understand his vision. But I must say I am usually very fashionably attired to assist. These are my Aldi $15 wellies which originally were gorgeously shiny, several months of doing chook jobs has dulled them a little. They are due for a good clean.

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So his plan involved stardroppers, chicken wire, and wire to tie the chook wire to the stardroppers. That was the time consuming fiddly part of the job.

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It did turn out very well indeed.

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Here are the girls back out free ranging once it was finished. This photo was taken on the Sunday before Purple Comb became so unwell. You can see she seems perfectly fine, free ranging happily with her besties. However it is more likely she was starting to feel unwell and just very good at hiding it.

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I had become very sick of our hose arrangements, and it was time to find a better solution. You know when you change something and it works so well, and you are left wondering why did I not change this thing before? That applies to this hose purchase. It is incredibly useful and has me out watering the plants way more often than ever before. Which can only be great for the plants in the long run.

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Life goes on, for the girls. They do seem to be sticking together in their flock more, just recently. They are still being spoiled rotten with blueberries, baby spinach, corn on the cooler days, tuna, strawberries, and occasionally scrambled eggs as well.

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If we make it through the summer with 4 chooks remaining, we will be very lucky. Rosie and Dark Comb are over 6 years old now. Lizzy and Kitty are expected by our vets to have shorter than expected lives due to the early vitamin deficiencies their previous owner inflicted upon them by feeding the wrong food. We will make their remaining days as great as they can be.

Chickens, country life, Home

Around Here

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It was Saturday morning, and I was sitting in my pyjamas drinking the morning coffee and doing a bit of reading. The Other Half was headed out to the Man Cave, and he said “Shall I let the chooks out?” I said, sure, not even thinking that there were strong wind warnings, because the caffeine had not kicked in yet.

Maybe 20 minutes later, while I was playing Cascade on my phone, I noticed an incoming call from The Other Half on his mobile. Before I could even think what the heck, I answered it. “I need your help out here” he said, out of breath. It sounded like he was fighting spiders, or snakes, or some kind of bad thing was happening, then he was babbling on about the padlock. What padlock, I was thinking? “I don’t understand what is going on” said I.

Rosie has escaped the yard, she flew over the fence and I am trying to catch her, and if you open the side gate I might be able to shoo her in there, but at the moment I am not even sure where she has gone”.

So I raced to the bedroom to throw clothes on, then ran to the backdoor and put on my new gumboots, then ran to the back gate and tried to open the padlock. No go. It had rusted over. I yelled over the fence that I would swap with the other half because I could not open it, and ran around the side of the house. By the time I got out the front I heard this tremendous squawking and then I saw The Other Half emerge from the bushes, Rosie firmly grasped between his two hands.

He was covered in blackberry thorn scratches. She appeared to be fine, other than being very upset about being caught! She is a small chook, and when she gets separated from the other girls she will run like a bat out of hell to catch up with them, and if that does not seem to be fast enough, she will fly. On this morning, being quite windy, she got a little more lift than she expected and sailed over the fence as a surprise to herself.

It will be a few days before we recover enough from this incident to let them out again. I might have to head out down the side lane with the clippers and remove some of those blackberry bushes for everyone’s safety. One night recently, we heard someone using a chainsaw in the dark, the next day I found someone had been cutting up trees for firewood down there. Not a smart move, methinks!

What else have we been up to here, besides chasing chooks?

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Watching – The X Files – we are up to season 8 finally! Plus, Mr Robot is back and it has been amazing thus far. I’m also enjoying season 3 of Murder In The First and The Deadliest Catch.

Freezing – bananas, strawberries, and pineapple for protein smoothies. Namely this Lava Flow recipe with protein added. I am going to try this carrot cake one next..

Ordering – protein in bulk from bulk nutrients, and k/d cat kibble from My Pet Warehouse.

Building – New IKEA furniture – a story for another post. :)

Cleaning – the house like a crazy person as our vet did a home visit for Grumpy. Guess who spent two hours cleaning the bathroom and toilet in case the vet needed to use them, which of course she did not? They are super spotless now though, which is awesome. And that two hours does not include the four or so hours I spent deep cleaning the kitchen/lounge the day before, or the hours we spent vacuuming and mopping the floors the day before that.

Considering – We’ve realised that Grumpy gets very stressed out having to go to the vet, and that was actually making her eye ulcers worse than better. Any progress we would make was wiped out the following visit because she got stressed about the previous visit. On this home visit, we were very glad to find no eye ulcers in the eye, however we are talking with the vet about corrective surgery for her eyelid as it keeps turning inwards.

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Planning – Our Gold Coast – Tamworth – Bathurst trip with Sephyroth, this coming October. In the above photo the pink arrows point to the Peninsula Apartments, where we will be staying, and the blue arrows point to the Q1 which they were building on our trip up there in 2003.

Listening – I made two MP3 CDs for my nephew recently, for his new car. The first two burned wrong for his car, something about folders and playlists, but they work ok in mine, and so I have been greatly enjoying them. It is all 80’s music, all kinds of stuff from I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred to Gold by Spandau Ballet. We burned them correctly on the second try and loaded them into his car as a surprise. He sent me an SMS after he drove home in the car to say how awesome the first CD was, and he was right!

Wondering – just who the heck this person is that I seem to have become. I went to Aqua Aerobics last week but the warm indoor pool was closed. My options were – go home or get in the outdoor pool and do some aqua jogging and swimming in there. It was 17C (62.6F) outside, and the pool is heated to 25.2C (77.36) and normally there would be NO WAY IN HELL I would get in an outdoor pool at these low for Australia temperatures, but I was determined to do my exercise, so I GOT IN.

Playing – Cascade and Tiny Tower Vegas on my phone. I do not play a lot of games these days but I LOVE Cascade, it is a bit more difficult than your average gem matching game

I have been playing Tiny Tower Vegas for probably 6 months now, just when I’m going to bed or waking up in the morning. I have 68 levels most at level 7 and 8 – I believe the game runs out of levels just over 100. I also have 1212 chips – and I did not cheat! I just ran out of time to play the poker games and the chips have been stacking up as a surprise to myself.

Chickens, country life, exercise

Chooky Chore Day

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The time of year is upon us where we do the regular chook pen clean out. This year we added the task of turning over the “soil” – by now most of the actual top soil has been washed away by the rain. What is left is pretty hard packed, and just underneath it is mostly clay. It has been in the shade for most of the day for a few weeks now, and moss was growing on top.

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You know your girls have plenty of better stuff to do and sunnier places to be when they allow two tomato plants to grow from seeds to over a foot high, right in the area where their seeds land every day. I took them from the middle of this area and planted them in a pot. Sorry, I did not get a pic of them! Too busy doing. We’ll see how they do.
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The coop and run were cleaned out, and allowed to air a little. Then fresh sand was placed inside. We used to use zeolite and rice hulls but both of these have become difficult to source locally recently. Sand is a good compromise, because it is easy to scoop the chook poop out of.

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For most of the time while we did this job, the chooks were in their leaf pile far away from us, chasing bugs, crickets, and HOPEFULLY centipedes if they find any, because there was an incident where one got inside and was found after midnight thanks to Happy the cat, chasing it around The Other Half’s office. Then a couple of days later, one was on the front porch.

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Then the two game hens arrived to check out our progress. Shortly after this photo was taken, I turned all that mossy area into turned over soil, and got myself a lovely blister on my palm as my reward. Then I was spraying some essential oils around the feet of the pen – to prevent ants and other pests climbing into the coop – and managed to get some of that inside the blister. The pain was very painful!

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Now it is over to the girls, to beat this dirt into submission. I’m not sure how enthusiastic they will be unless some bugs magically appear in this area, or the sun suddenly reroutes itself and shines here again. We’ll see how they do over the next week. :)

Chickens, country life

Life Goes On – The Chook Version

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It has been nearly a month since Red Comb went to the Rainbow Bridge. The day afterwards, I mentioned in the comments on that post that we had three miserable girls out in the chook pen – her two sisters and Rosie seemed like they were missing her. That is quite unusual chook wise, all our past losses they’ve just got on with life without skipping a beat. I think it tells the story of how special Red Comb was, not just to me but to her chook friends.

Anytime a chook leaves the flock, the dynamics change. Rosie had long been a great friend of Red Comb. They could usually be found within a couple of metres of each other. So to look out at the chook pen and see Rosie on her own the first day broke my heart.

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Lizzy is the current leader of the flock. She gets the best treats, she decides where everyone is going, if someone else finds a treat she will do her best to steal it, she pecks at the lower hens at feeding time. She is a bit of a mean girl.

On the second day, Lizzy was broody, the two game hens were just chillaxing in the new chicken hotspot – behind the BBQ – I noticed that Rosie and Kitty started hanging out. Here they are, dustbathing up a storm.

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In a fascinating development, when Lizzy is broody, Rosie is the new leader of the pack. Rosie does not lead with pecks and treat theft. Rosie is a generous, benevolent leader. I have never seen her so much as aim her beak in the direction of another chicken, not even at Blueberry Treat time. However, she does defend the chook territory ferociously from other birds and will chase them away from the bird baths and the chook pen.

Life goes on for the remaining chooks. Life goes on for me, as well. But I still miss her.

Chickens, country life

Collect Egg Cartons, She Said

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A few years ago a lady at work sent out an email asking for people to collect egg cartons. For what reason I cannot recall. It might have been for a kids arts and craft thing, or because she had chickens, to build a space craft, for soundproofing.. I have no recollection of the reason now. But the request stuck in my mind, and collect egg cartons I did. Visitors to the house have commented on the large amount of egg cartons residing here.

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I remember taking in a stack of them in to the requester a couple of times, then I forgot all about the taking and just kept on with the collecting. Standing there in the kitchen this morning, I realised.. it has been exactly one year and six months since I was last at my place of work. I’m not going back. These egg cartons are never being given to that person again. What the heck am I still collecting them for? Are they just collecting dust up there?

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Yes, they were collecting dust up there. I wiped the dust off before stacking them into a pile. I counted. There were 36 of them. 35 of them belong to Manning Valley Eggs. I am a loyal consumer. I have my reasons, they are extremely great eggs, nearly as good as our own girls.

Letting these collected egg cartons go was a brilliant feeling. :) Kthxbai!

country life, moving on, work

The Chicken Mind

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There are certain things you need to look out for when it comes to chickens. Terry from Henblog writes in her post diagnosing a sick chicken

“The best advice that I can give anyone is this: know your animals. You should be so acquainted with their quirks and vocalizations, their greetings and their eating habits, that as soon as something is off, you know it.”

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But sometimes, odd chicken behaviour has nothing to do with being sick, and everything to do with chickens getting an idea stuck in their mind. Broodiness is one such example. Above you see my two pekins in a broody mood.

The good thing about these broody hens – once I remove the eggs, pick them up and put them on the ground, they usually forget all about being broody and go right back to being normal chickens – until someone lays another egg.

There have been times when one of these two has an extended broodiness with and/or without eggs in the box. It can last a couple of weeks. I discourage it in hot weather, and I always kick the broody out when I go out to collect the eggs, so they can poop, eat, drink, etc. In super hot weather I try to go out every hour or so, to make sure everyone is doing ok.

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You might recall the above photo from a Sunday Selections post – this is when Purple Comb got the idea in her head that she did not want to lay her eggs in the nesting box. This is not a new idea for her – she has done this for at least two weeks every year since we got her. One year she laid nearly 20 eggs in a hidden spot we did not find until we did some serious gardening. We still are not sure how long those eggs had been there!

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Purple comb is not broody with these eggs – she simply lays them and gets on with her day. Once the egg is laid she rejoins the flock. When I go to collect it, she plays the “it wasn’t me, truly, I lay my eggs in the nesting box” game. Here she is, doing exactly that, while I tell her off, because I got dirty collecting her hidden egg!

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She presently has three not laying box places where she will lay her egg – in that garden box, under the lemon tree in the garden, and she made a tiny little nest next to the gate leading out to their leaf pile. Before laying her daily egg, she roams separately from the flock – scratching around, hunting for that perfect item to take and add to her native nest(s).

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Chickens are flock animals and when one removes themselves from the flock, that is sometimes cause for worry. In the case of Purple Comb, she has a purpose in her mind which is outweighing flock time. She wants to build the perfect native nest(s) for her eggs. Why she thinks a spot next to an old wooden gate and a drain cover is perfection, that is yet another mystery of the chicken mind.

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Red Comb has been removing herself from the flock on super hot days, choosing a shady place to sit and dust bathe. She is not enjoying the hot weather. I make sure to give her cool treats and any day where the temperature reaches 30+, I put some cold water with ice spheres in it into the pen. Once I do that, she dust bathes near the cool water, and I see her drinking slightly more than usual. She will get a cold watermelon, tomato or blueberry treat.

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She is still eating, still laying, still doing all the usual chook things. She just takes a break when she needs to. Once the heat of the day passes, she is back out roaming with the girls. I know her well enough to know that her hot day flock removal is not a huge cause for concern with her. She has never been quite the same since the hawk incident. She simply wants to be in the coolest spot possible when the heat is on.

I know Red Comb is still enjoying life and she still runs for her blueberry medals, even on a 40C (104F) day. In fact all I have to do is stand near the back door and there will be a chook frenzy, with all the girls running up to see if I am bringing them a treat. On hot days I only go to the back door if I am taking them something because I do not want them to get all excited without an actual reward.

The day she does not run up, excited to see me, that will be the day I know she has had enough and it is time for that dreaded journey to the vet. Until then, the blueberry medals and treats will be a daily event. Chooks are here for a good time, not a long time.

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Purple Comb was eventually successful in hiding many eggs from me and she got another chook to join in. This is 5 days of 2 chooks laying their eggs in a hidden spot. This potplant was removed from the chook pen once I discovered this – it normally sat in an area I don’t always check, obviously! I only discovered it because I saw one of the chooks standing on the edge of the potplant.

I had noticed the drop in eggs and thought the heat plus mites and/or lice might be the reason. One of the broodies had a few red mites, I found. All the chooks got a dusting with the pest powder that evening, plus a dose of Ivermectin. The treatment is very effective, within 24 hours I checked the broody again and saw no sign of any pests. It was a few more days before I found these eggs.

It is a not so awesome fact of chicken life that chooks will experience these pests from time to time and it is always the first thing I look for when the eggs disappear. Usually dust bathing is enough to keep our girls pest free, except when they get broody because they do not spend time dust bathing. When it rains a lot, they also cannot dust bathe.

Mostly these things are carried by wild birds. While it might be an idea to discourage wild birds from hanging out in our yard, I also enjoy wild birds visiting. We have two bird baths which are quite the bird hangout on super hot days. Even if I took away the bird baths, the chicken wire on top of the coop does allow small birds to fly in, mostly pigeons but there is a willy wagtail who likes to fly in and eat spiders up high where the chooks can’t reach.

Chickens, country life, garden

Our Grande Dame Chicken Rosie

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Rosie Rosecomb is the sister of a prize winning show chicken. When we first got her, she knew nothing about being a chicken. If I had to guess, I would guess she spent her previous life in a small enclosure with sawdust on the ground and a small amount of food and water available. She certainly had not lived in a flock situation before.

You might be able to spot it in the photo – her nails were incredibly long and so was her beak. There was the terrible time I tried to cut her nails – following the correct instructions – which resulted in a bit of a disaster as it was very difficult to spot the quick in Rosie’s nails..

Thank the deities for the internet, where I discovered step number 3. Lucky I had some corn starch handy! That was the one and only time I ever trimmed her nails – soon she was keeping them the right length on her own. The beak is also now kept to the correct length without any assistance from me. Amazing what happens when a chook can be a chook!

When Rosie arrived here, she quickly took up her place at the very bottom of the pecking order. She did not mind being there. She was just happy to be a part of the flock. And so the process of learning how to be a chicken began.

She started out by watching the other chooks. The first truly chicken-like thing she did was learning how to dust bathe. Chooks prefer dirt to any other ground surface, it is a fact. If you give them a grassy enclosure, they will not be truly happy until all the grass is gone.

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Rosie took her time mastering the dust bath. She much prefers it to the *other* kind of bath she was used to, which would have been the water bath with soap and probably a hair dryer, to get ready for shows. Rosie does not enjoy water – she is always the first one to take cover when it rains and the last one to walk into a puddle on the ground looking for bugs.

When Redcomb was nearly taken by a hawk, Rosie was nearby to her. We are very lucky the hawk did not grab Rosie because everything I know about her personality tells me that she would not have put up a fight like Redcomb did. At that moment, Rosie became the look out chook. When any kind of bird appears in the sky, Rosie squawks up a storm.

Rosie was already a very talkative chicken – whenever I would see her, she would be making this little bup-bup-bup-bup noise. You can bup-bup-bup back to her, and hold a real bup-bup conversation. I have no idea what she is trying to say to me, but I always enjoy our conversations.

After Redcomb was lowered in the pecking order due to being injured, the two of them became very close friends for a while. They went everywhere together. They had happy bup-bup chats. They shared treats. Rosie would keep the look out while Redcomb explored the garden, looking for bugs. They are still friends, though not quite as close. Rosie made a couple of new friends once the Pekins arrived.

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It was apparent to the Pekins that Rosie is a Grande Dame chicken. They took Rosie into their confidence and accepted her as an equal, even though she is considerably smaller than they are. This could be partly due to the fact that the three game hens look alike, and Rosie has black feathers like Lizzie does.

Rosie eventually stepped up to third in the pecking order with the three game hens at the bottom. This does not mean a lot to her general lifestyle, though it does mean she will take a treat and hold her ground if one of the Pekins tries to steal it from her. Rosie does not peck at those below her. She is not that kind of girl.

Rosie is always the first one to put herself to bed at night. She has laid one egg in her lifetime that we are certain of. It was the size of a pigeon egg. She is a very small chook so this was not surprising.

She always loves to tell the world one of the other girls is in the nest laying an egg. She is a lovely chook and I paid $10 for her, so she was also quite a bargain. She was worth every cent and then some. Watching her learn to be a chicken while I was learning about chickens has been an amazing experience.

I hope to have many more years of bup-bup conversation with this particular Grand Dame.

Chickens, country life

Kitty VS Chooky

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Little Kitty is still a chaser of chooks if she gets the opportunity. When the chooks are free ranging she will watch them intently and hope someone opens the door.

You can see Red Comb is giving her the evil eye. And her proximity to the cat grass pot with the freshly raised sunflower seeds is why that particular plant pot now resides on the table out of reach of the chookys.

Chickens, country life, kitties