Thursday, November 10, 2011

Chicken Palace Cleanup

One of the big jobs we have been putting off for a while now is cleaning out the chook palace. This is a task that needs to be done properly at least twice a year. All the old straw and chicken droppings have to be removed and lime has to be sprinkled over the dirt before a new layer of straw or hay can be laid down. The lime serves as a deodoriser and also kills off any mites that may bother the chooks. The stuff that gets removed is added to the compost heap. This stuff is pure gold. In a few months our vegies will benefit from the rich compost that will be created from this animal waste. The main challenge with cleaning out the chook shed is that the dust that is stirred up is a health hazard, and breathing masks have to be worn. So we bit the bullet and got to it! It was hot and dirty work. Between every load of muck, we had to escape outside to take in gulps of fresh air.
Frans shovelling...

While we were creating a sandstorm inside the chook pen, one of the hens was sitting in her brood box. She’d become clucky. She had been sitting in that box for nearly 2 days. Frans had removed an egg from under her the day before, but she’d not moved. The dust and the banging of our spades and forks did not seem to phase her. She just eyed us from her little window.

No amount of discomfort was going to move this hen out of her brood box.

Many, many wheel burrows later, we finally shovelled the last spade of old floor matter out of the chook house. All that was left was for me to load up a few burrow loads of new, fresh hay. I love scooping or peeling off the hay from the big roll that sits in the yard. It’s like peeling layers off an onion, except you’re using a garden fork and the peels are wads of grass. I know why the term ‘hay fever’ is used. Tiny dust particles fly around your face as you load up on the fresh stuff. It smells good. But it makes you sneeze. For days! The chook palace has now got a lovely fresh layer of hay in it.

New hay. Clean house.

Nala always close to the action

We had an ‘over the fence’ chat with Graham from next door while we were busy in the yard. We mentioned our broody chook. He said to come over and get some fertilised eggs and to let her sit on them. We don’t have a rooster, so our eggs will never become little chicks. So we wandered over to Graham and Lorraine for a drink and a chat. A while later we came home with a carton of fertilised eggs. I drew little smiley faces on them so we would not confuse them with any of the regular eggs that could potentially end up in the same brood box. 

Could these twelve eggs improve our production statistics?

As it was dark when we stepped into the chook palace, we had to use a torch to fumble our way about. It was funny to see three chooks sitting high up on the perches with their heads pointing towards the wall. It was as if they were in the ‘naughty corner’.

Chooks high up on the perches after dark

Our broody hen, Roast, was still in the box. So Frans carefully placed the twelve eggs into a straw lined box, then gingerly manoeuvred the hen from the box she was sitting in onto her new potential family of chicks!

Smiley eggs... Smiley chicks?

Frans coaxing Roast out of the box she'd been sitting in

Roast sitting on her new clutch of 12 eggs

We were reminded by Graham not to count our chickens before they hatched! But gee, it will be so great if Roast manages to be a good surrogate mum and keep those little babies warm for the next 20 days. In the meantime, we need to ensure that she leaves the box once a day for 30 minutes or so to eat and drink. The eggs also need to cool down occasionally. If these eggs do hatch, then we (I mean Frans) will have more work to do. A separate enclosure needs to be constructed as the chicks and the hen need to be separated from the rest of the brood for around six weeks. Only then will the chicks be ready to be introduced to the rest of the gang. I still can’t help myself from counting our chickens…. We could be going from four to sixteen…. But we will wait and see!

Our text books are being thumbed through constantly. Lunch times are spent researching answers to our bucolic challenges! Next we will be looking at designs for moblie chicken coops....

1 comment:

  1. Clean the chook palace out more often so it isn't such an arduous job, also give the floor a mist of water to keep all the dust down.
    If any of your other three girls go clucky and you don't want to start a chook farm then dunk her into a bucket of cold water. Harsh, I know but age old trick that really works.
    Perhaps your clucky chook will go back into the end nest cos she likes that better and leaves her smily eggs behind. If so, just gently move the eggs in under her and leave her be.
    You wont need to stress about her getting off the nest for eating and drinking. She has 20 million years of evolution speaking to her - she will just do what she has to when she needs to...
    Also, bear in mind you may end up with one chook and eleven dinners...
    You really don't want to keep a rooster, he will bully the girls, and probably you as well. Chop their heads off and eat them before they eat you.. PS DO NOT ask me to do that, I can't kill chooks (roosters). That was always Mum's job when I was growing up. Actually still was until 11 years ago when she went to A Better Place. (Buderim)
    Hugs, Jasmine