Monday, September 5, 2011

All things FOWL

Chickens and Ducks…. Who would have thought we’d ever have our own! We purchased 5 Isa Brown pullets (young hens not quite ready to start laying) after our first week on the farm. Frans and our friend John went to the Poultry auction at the Colac showgrounds. Frans says they didn’t bother going inside. Instead they purchased the chooks from a lady who pulled up outside in her ute who was selling all sorts of farm animals. She was obviously well known as a lot of people seemed to be waiting for her. So at $20 each, we were the proud owners of five chickens in various shades of rusty brown. My brother Lionel decided to name them. So we have Roast, Soup, Stew, Curry and Stirfry!
Scratching around in the garden. Free Range!

We kept them in their flash chicken palace for a couple of days to get them used to their new residence. Then Frans let them out for a few hours each afternoon to forage for bugs and tasty bits in the back yard. Getting them back into the coop in the late afternoon took a bit of manoeuvring and cajoling. Frans decided that seeing that we had a dog that was half cattle dog, we would use Nala to help round up the ‘girls’. It was an exciting few minutes each afternoon as Frans issued instructions for Nala to bring the chooks in. Well, mostly the instructions were for her not to eat them! Frans and Nala have got the hang of it now, and together they can bring them in quickly. With me on the other hand, it is a different story altogether. Frans went to the city one day by train which meant he’d only be home after dark. So I had the task of getting the chickens into their enclosure for the night. I thought I’d use Nala to help me. Big mistake. She’s her master’s dog.  She did not know what I was on about. So instead she chased the chickens enthusiastically around the water tanks. Four of the five chickens scooted through the escape hatch and settled themselves back inside the coop. That left one crazy bird and Nala outside. Round and round they went. Finally Nala chased Mrs Soup over the electric fence and into our neighbour’s paddock. That’s where a big bull roams freely, so I was not about to go and chase after her. I called, clucked and begged. No chicken. I gave up and carried on with other chores. Periodically I would go back to the chicken run and see if she had come back. Nothing. I gave up when it got dark and hoped that the foxes wouldn’t get to her. Frans came home from his little trip and I told him I’d managed to loose a chicken.  He went to have a look to see if he could find her.  And there she was. Sitting on top of the food barrel at the door to the coop. What a good girl!
This event led to the ceremoniously clipping of their wings. So now instead of the chickens taking off over the fence in clumsy flight, they will instead do summersaults and shake themselves off in confusion.
Catching the chooks to perform this task is a major excersize in patience!

Which brings us to the purpose of having chickens at all. It’s for the eggs! Free range, organic, no fish meal, no cruelty, just happy chickens giving us lovely golden yellow yolked eggs. So three weeks into having five pullets, we still had no eggs. How much longer? We’re starting to wander if these are going to be very expensive pets! We organised for a friend named Wes to build us a chook feeder. It’s a home grown contraption that allows the chickens to eat their grain without the rats and birds getting to it. Wes is a fountain of knowledge. He told us that we could tell by the colour of the chicken combs whether they were ready to lay or not. Our ‘girls’ combs were still a little pink, except for one who had a deeper red comb. Once the combs turn red, they will lay. And he was right. A day later we had our first egg!
Wes' groovy chicken feeder.

Frans and I went into the coop a couple of mornings later, hoping to find another egg or two, but nothing yet. Frans had called me to come and have a look. One of the chickens was nesting in the nesting box. The rest of the chickens were gathered around her looking at her and hopefully learning! This was indeed a good sign. Soon she stuck her neck out of the box and started clucking madly. Not five minutes later, she hopped out of her box and there it was… another egg. Fresh and warm! And yes, they do come out hard! Us city folk really have no idea about farm life. What we take for granted is incredible. We felt like proud parents. We’d just witnessed the ‘birth’ of an egg. The problem is we don’t know if it’s the same chook that laid the first egg, or if it’s one of her posse.  We check the coop with great anticipation each morning now. Will we have a full quota of five eggs per day soon? We hope so!
An egg is on the way....

Still warm...

We are into egg production!

And then there is the story of the ducks. Sara and Stephen decided that they really wanted some ducks. Stephen has always wanted a duck named Mr Harold. Don’t ask me why… it is what it is. So a couple of weeks ago, they arrived on the farm one Saturday morning with a shoe box that had holes thumped into the lid. Emitting from the box were a lot of scratching sounds along with little ‘peeps’. They presented us with Mr Harold, Martha and Goose. Again, don’t ask where the names come from. The only problem is that it’s almost impossible to tell them apart.
So cute....
They gave us a bag of duck food and a list of instructions. The ducks had to remain warm and under a light for two weeks. What? That meant they had to stay inside. Mmm… not sure about that. All was fine for the first week. They were still small, fluffy and cuddly. Then they started to grow. Quickly. Ducks do nothing much except eat and poop. They quickly outgrew their first box and a bigger one was sought. Not only do they need clean water a number of times a day, they also need clean straw and more food. Lots more food! They finished that first back of food in about a week. When Sara and Stephen returned the following weekend, a new enclosure had to be thought of. The ducklings were getting too big for the box all day.

This is the first box. They outgrew this box within the first week.

So a discarded dog pen was used. The ducklings could sit in the sun in the mornings, and be brought back inside at night. Let me just say, ducks stink. A lot. They have now hit the 2 week mark since they came to live on the farm. So they have graduated to the chicken coop. They spent their first night there last night. Still in the box, covered with wire mesh just in case the chooks feel aggressive towards their new chicken coop mates. Watching the new feathers emerge is fascinating.

The ducks now have their own private pool, complete with ramp.

Frans decided to give the ducks some play time outside. Catching them proved entertaining! For me!

Alan, Sonja and Amelie came for the weekend. The ducks were a bit hit. Duck duty was undertaken by all! Changing water, straw and feeding them.

"So soft and fluffy Daddy"

They grow daily. Before long we will have beautiful white Pekings wandering around the garden eating the slugs. Hopefully.


  1. I am going to so love your adventures. Keep them coming.

  2. WOndreful, wonderful, wonderful. What a beautiful piece of the world, it's just so beautiful. Look forward to hearing all tales from
    Otway Fields Farm!!

  3. Great post, Ami! I'm looking forward to reading more. Rhonda