… a new coup and a new beginning
After the trauma of having to say goodbye to our last flock, and being told that we did not have to wait to restock (if it was leukosis* it does not persist in the environment) I did some research on chickens and suppliers and landed on a supplier only about a 30–40 minute drive from here. Beautiful Chickens (http://www.beautifulchickens.net) is in Samford, a small community in the rolling hills just west of Brisbane. Currently, after much needed rain it is very green and lush out there, and so our drive out on Monday morning was very pleasant as the surroundings suddenly transformed from suburbia to rural bliss.
I had spoken with and emailed Kate, the owner, and had decided from the breeds she stocked we would collect six good, solid common-or-garden Farmyard chickens (Farmyards being crosses of various breeds but solid chickens and good layers). So in crazy humidity with a relentless sun beating down on us (and it was only just past 9am) we ventured into the pens and assisted in the chook wrangling. Chris and Kate were the main catchers, but pretty soon, it was clear that we were happy to settle on taking the chickens that were caught (it reminds me of trying to select goldfish in a petshop and then just giving up and being happy with anything they can throw their net around 🙂 )
As they were caught, Kate wormed each one and also sprayed them for mites and lice, before nose-diving them, two by two, into the cardboard boxes that had had their top flaps interlocked. It was amazing how easily the chickens just slid in 😛
We ended up with three Barnevelders, a New Hampshire, one Farmyard and a Commercial (and no, I am unsure what a Commercial is …)
The discussion on the trip home centred mostly on how we were going to name our new girls. To this point, the naming can be described as ‘semi-democratic’. I had decided that they should be named after women in Shakespearean plays, and having culled the full list I found on the internet down to a manageable (!) 19, it was Chris’s job to select just six. But who should get what names? We had toyed with the idea that we could select a name from the hat, pull out a chicken and pair the two, but then I decided that Juliette certainly could not be named in such a random way!
So, after we clipped one wing on each, and released them into the yard, we watched and then allocated the names. The Barnevelders we decided, had to have the more exotic (poetic?) names and those of more mainstream characters (they are truly beautiful chickens deserving of refined names) and so are called Portia, Ophelia and Emilia. The largest, and possibly most majestic chicken (the New Hampshire), is of course Juliette. The Farmyard chicken we christened Hermia and the Commercial is Maria. Interestingly, each name comes from a different play 😀
I have created a couple of image galleries (see the side panels) on the construction of the coup (known as The Globe—a famous theatre in London where many a Shakespearean play has been performed) and a small gallery on the girls. I am sure I will be posting on their antics frequently in coming months.
* Having joined a FaceBook backyard chickens group and chatted with Kate, maybe our first flock did not have leukosis. We would only know definitively if we had had an autopsy performed, but we figured that would cost a fortune. My understanding, however, is that the original breeds we had were egg-laying machines, which, at the end of the day, means they end up exhausting themselves. I did not know this when we got the Isa Browns and the others (Australorp and Leghorns)—that they would have shortened lives because they pumped out eggs every single day. I get it now, and going forward it makes sense to have less productive but longer-lived chickens. I still have ongoing ethics debates in my head about keeping animals for food production, but from a sustainability perspective, for me at least, it makes sense to have egg production at our back door, with the added benefits of insect control and fertiliser production for our veggie patch. And while we are cutting down on our food miles we are also being amply entertained by these lovely, gentle, feathered creatures.