After some feedback that my last update didn’t feature enough chook news, this edition has lots of chook content – but unfortunately much of it was triggered by a terrible event. Let’s start on a happy note though, with the photo below featuring our gorgeous girls – Agnes, Beryl and Ruby-Lou – helping me turn some finished compost (and having a good feast of bugs at the same time!).
A very sad day
As some of you have already heard, these lovely ladies were killed by a neighbour’s dog a few days after this photo was taken, around Easter. The dog had got out and wandered into our backyard, where he found 3 fluffy ‘toys’ to play with – unfortunately with fatal results. I went outside to find the dog (a boxer) still in the yard – he’d got in through a gate but couldn’t get out. We had some issues with the owner being unable to contain the dog (it revisited our backyard a few days after and roamed our street on several occasions), but it seems to have finally have been sorted out now. I feel sorry for the dog (it’s bored and needs stimulation and exercise), but I was devastated by the loss of my girls.
I know that losing chooks is part and parcel of keeping chooks, but that doesn’t make it any less sad. I felt that we should have better protected them. We knew we’d fox-proofed them in the run and house, but while they ranged during the day it was clearly not enough.
What to do?
After putting the girls to rest in the mini-orchard (when I said having chooks would be good for the orchard, this is not what I had in mind!), we set to work.
We’ve made further fortifications to prevent canine visitors getting anywhere near the girls. This included moving the gate, finishing the enclosure of the orchard and creating a fully protected run so the girls can get from their house and run into the orchard. This was always our intent, but we’d become complacent thinking it wasn’t urgent because we didn’t think they were at risk during the day, while ranging and with us at home (wrong!).
In the process, Build-it Bloke created an amazing gate – featuring a cut down old gate for the moving part (or ‘door’) and various bits and pieces from clearance sales and even dug out of our backyard during previous landscaping, all welded together to be both functional and aesthetic. See the pic below – although it’s hard to capture. I reckon it’s a ripper!
The run has a number of little hatches, so we can choose where the girls can go – some former oven trays have lent themselves perfectly to sliding ‘doors’ for these, and largely the materials came from stuff we had hanging around from previous projects.
While we loved the Isa Browns, and it would have been easiest to get some more of these (‘if only’ you may hear Build-it Bloke mutter!), I was keen to consider some other breeds. After much deliberation and then considerable seeking of pullets for sale, we welcomed three Barnevelders. We’ve called them Betty, Jules and Wilma – after the three most recent Queens of the Netherlands (Beatrix, Juliana & Wilhelmina). This might make slightly more sense to those who know Barnevelders are a Dutch, dual purpose breed. (Or not!) They are very pretty, quite large chooks with gold double-lacing on black and brown. The black has a real green sheen in the sunshine.
The breeder we got them from had a great set up, and fed them market-bought greens, mince meat and sprouted grains (only!!) – so I’ve been trying to teach them about eating caterpillars, finding bugs and trying to convince them not to be so scared of us. Surely it’s only a matter of time until they come around to the idea that cuddles are fun!?