This time I'd like to tell you about more benefits to owning chooks! They lend themselves so well to improving a property, large or small, simply by good management. They can be penned or free ranged while still working on property improvement.
If you put heaps of chooks in one spot indefinitely, the soil will become compacted and nothing will grow. There are a couple of ways to deal with this. You can cage them and run a couple of separate pens from the cage. You let them out into the same pen daily until it starts to show signs of wear and tear. Then you rest that pen and start letting them into the other one. Using this method ensures they always have grass and weeds to pick at. If you only have a couple of chooks you won't need much space for this system. If you are running heaps of chooks you either need these pens to be very large or you need more than two pens to run them in.
|"Why are you taking my photo?!!!" One of the Australorp hens.|
If you don't have enough room for more than one run there is another method you can use to still benefit from added soil fertility. Put heaps of straw, weeds, paper or anything organic that will break down, into the pen. Feed the chooks on the heap so that they scratch around in it. It breaks down in a few weeks and turns into fantastic compost to use in the garden. Sometimes I specifically build a heap of straw and weeds on the one day, but most of the time I just add weeds bit by bit as I garden. If you use this method, you'll need to make sure you are feeding greens of some sort (grass, lettuce, silverbeet...) to your chooks.
|This girl is moulting at the moment so she not at her most attractive!|
Free ranging your hens is very useful too. As long as you have the space and fencing to keep them away from your veggie gardens, this is a lovely way to keep chooks. I keep most of my chooks in the orchard and they wander around fertilising my trees (ie. pooing) and keeping insects under control. The citrus trees don't like a lot of chook poo so by weighting some chook wire on the ground around the roots, chooks are discouraged from scratching under them.
|It was a lovely drizzly day today. Look at my hen shaking the rain off her feathers!|
We are going to use our chooks as a very useful tool in our new orchard. At the moment the orchard is a bare and infertile paddock. It is on a steep slope and doesn't look useful for much but we plan to use the chooks and slope to our advantage. By placing the chook shed at the top of the slope and using the roof for collecting water, we will be able to use gravity to get water to our plants. Because the chooks will be living up hill from the orchard, a lot of fertility will wash down the hill when it rains. If I use the system of heaps of straw in the chook pens, they can turn it into compost which I then wheelbarrow down the hill to the fruit trees. Again the slope will work in my favour as I easily push the heavy barrow down the hill and it will be empty for the harder work of pushing it up the slope!
We plan to put gates at the bottom of the pens so that we can take the barrow on the most direct route. It will also allow us to let the chooks into the orchard when the trees are mature enough. Then they can scratch and eat bugs to their hearts content!
We'll keep our Australorps in the existing orchard and use the Dorkings in the new orchard, or vice versa. That way we will be able to breed them without mixing the two breeds.
|A Dorking hen who has just come into lay.|
Could you find a more versatile critter?! They give me eggs, meat and compost. They fertilise my orchard, keep pests under some control, reduce my rubbish AND manage to entertain me while they go about achieving all of this!
|They love wandering around searching for bugs.|