lay a little egg for me
We have been keeping chickens for just over two years now. Our first set of girls came from Heritage Poultry and Produce in Richlands (a south-western Brisbane suburb). Of course I wanted the pretty ones…but there were no guarantees with the special breeds that they would be girls (and you are not allowed to keep roosters in suburban back yards). So we purchased the guaranteed-to-be-girls which are also the better layers: two Isa Browns, an Astralorp and a Leghorn, and of course we named them—Georgia and Murphy (the Brown sisters), Cilla Black (obviously from Liverpool) and Blanche de la Plume.
They would have to have been THE most watched chickens on the planet when we got them home—we really had no idea, as chicken keeping for both of us was a distant memory from childhood where we bore no responsibility. Chris had constructed a rather handsome chicken tractor, somewhat to my specifications, but probably twice as big as I anticipated. The idea was to house them within the confines of the A-framed structure, with a grassy area at the bottom, and a quite roomy apartment with six laying boxes and a perch at the top. A drawbridge ramp connected the two and we could secure them at night by bolting the small door above the ramp. Being a tractor, meant that one area of the backyard was not over grazed and we could move it from point to point. Well, that was the theory.
And let’s see, that lasted, oooo…maybe all of 12 hours? It just seemed so cramped in the pen area for feeding and scratching, so on Day Two, they ended up being entirely free range in the back yard…and under the house…and up the back stairs… At night, however, the tractor came into its own, and the girls knew instinctively where to get a good night’s sleep!
I have come to understand that chickens are in it for themselves and are very much directly descended from velociraptors. They think everything is about food and will follow you, and yes, track up and down the back stairs looking for you (and food) and leave deposits of fertiliser for you to step in. In recent times we have installed a fence which my youngest son called ‘The Sovereign Border for Chickens’ apropos recent policy decisions by our new LNP government over asylum seekers (…don’t start me). The fence has lifted the weight of inadvertently stepping in poo where you least want it to be, and has given Maggie, our dog, a larger area to patrol.
I am sad to say we don’t have our original four. We lost Murphy (our best layer) to friendly fire (that is at least a whole post in itself…) and then one of the two replacement birds (Leghorns we called Britney and Lindsay—def. white trailer trash) from an intestinal parasite infection. Currently we have four birds, but the egg production is down from what it used to be, and Georgie is laying very brittle and sometimes ‘rubber’ eggs. We feed them the best quality laying mash and supplement their diet with greens and scraps. We give them extra shell grit and worm and dust them, so we are a little bemused.
I think Georgie is due for a trip to the vet to see what is wrong.
PS: right at the bottom of the blog is a chicken picture gallery (of sorts) 🙂