Counting Chickens

March 16th, 2011

  

I start my day as a gardener, counting chickens.

Since the arrival of 20 black Australorp hens a few weeks ago, I have turned into a broody mother, doing everything I can to protect and welcome these beautiful young girls in their new home.  The Australorps are big birds that at first intimidated me with their large feet almost the size of my hand, but I quickly realised that they are gentle giants, easy to handle and fascinating to watch. However, as with everything else in this formal fruit and vegetable garden, beauty and entertainment are not enough, it is about production.  The chickens are here to give eggs for the restaurant and manure for the compost.

To keep them happy and fit for the job, the chicken house has an outside area where they can scratch in the soil, take a dust bath or enjoy the shade under a chestnut tree .  Along the perimeter we planted hedges of aromatic wild sage to provide some wind protection and attract insects.  The chickens find these shrubs irresistible and we had to protect them with low wooden fences.  I have tried to distract the birds offering them bunches of spinach from the vegetable garden, but they prefer to pick their own sage leaves.  Another favourite is the stone channel where they go to cool down and a drink when we open the tap.  The hens moved here during one of the hottest weeks this summer, but they remained calm and tough, settling in without much fuss.

A regular visitor to the chicken house is our chef, Simone who loves the challenge of “catching a chicken a day” to relax.  I suspect she hopes to find the first eggs, but the hens have not shown any interest in the nesting boxes which we specially placed in the darkest corner of the house.  I am planning a special Easter egg hunt next month, when the chickens will be 6 months old and hopefully ready to give Simone a nice surprize.

Groetnis

Liesl

  

(Interesting reads – www.chickencoopsdirect.com and www.keeping-chickens.me.uk)

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