Saturday, August 24, 2013

Introducing....

I have spent the last two days observing the hens, trying to work out differences in both their behaviour and appearance, so I can tell them apart.  It is important that I do this, as they need to be named.  About six months before I left Perth, I promised my Perth besties Angie, Anne, Leanne and Wilma that I would name our chooks after them.  I have now got the hens sorted and thus the naming has occurred.  Allow me to introduce you to, in alphabetical order,.....
ANGIE 



Angie is the friendliest bird, she is always the first to come to me and spends most of her time around my feet.  She is also the most talkative, always chattering away quietly.  Her distinctive trademark is her floppy comb that jauntily tips over her left eye like a cool coiffure.  Angie also has the most beautiful plumage on her neck, she has lots of bright white stripes that cascade down her neck which splay out around her head like an Elizabethan collar.  I get to stroke Angie's back quite regularly, and she doesn't mind as long as I move slowly and carefully.  I've managed one cuddle with her too.
ANNE



Anne is the largest hen, and the lightest in colour.  She has beautiful scalloped feathers and the base of her neck is ringed with what I would call snowflake feathers, they are edged in white in a sort of crystalline pattern.  Anne has the most magnificent tail, by far the best tail, it is full and fluffy and Anne - well, basically what I think I am saying is Anne, you have the best bum.  :-)    Anne is a clever hen, she is ever so quick with grabbing a yummy snack.  And she was cleverly following Steve around yesterday, we couldn't work out why at first, but she was actually watching what his feet stirred up in the grass, and was catching any tiny hapless insect that moved.  Anne is fairly docile and will consent to being stroked.  I managed to pick her up this afternoon and put her on my lap, where she stayed for a minute or two.
LEANNE


Leanne is a cool dude, she just moseys around doing her thing, close by but not too close.  Leanne has the most magnificent set of bright ginger feathers around the base of her neck, they look superb in the sunshine.  She also has a few white stripes down her neck.  Leanne has the smallest comb and oddly, has very long claws on one foot.  Leanne might need a manicure!  Leanne had a lovely time today standing at the fence watching Steve weeding the vegie patch.  She was excited about this because every time Steve found a bug he threw it through the fence, and because Leanne was being very alert to this, she got to gobble up most of them.
WILMA



Wilma is the smallest hen, and the darkest.  She has the biggest and reddest comb of them all, but also has the most embarrassingly small and spindly tail.  Wilma is an independent miss and a touch highly strung, no cuddles for Wilma yet, she would squark and run a mile if I tried.  Wilma is a cheeky girl, and a bit naughty - she is the one who wouldn't go to bed the first night and had to be chased around the yard.  Wilma struts, she has the most beautiful streamlined stance, with her chest puffed out, head up proudly, stumpy tail as high as she can lift it, and, struts.
 Here we have Anne on the left, Angie in the middle and Wilma on the left
 Here is Anne on the left and Angie on the right
 Clockwise from the left: Anne (note the marvelous tail), Leanne checking for missed bugs on the ground, Angie (watching Steve in the vegie patch) and Wilma strutting at the front
 Four bums
 Leanne with her beautiful ginger neck on the left, Wilma with that little tail in the middle, and Angie with that floppy comb on the right.
 Leanne on the left and Wilma on the right, waiting for grubs from Steve

We spent this morning putting a protective lid over their yard.
8 metres by 4 metres of bird netting, stretched over a framework of thick, black poly pipe and attached to the top of the fence all the way round.
Thank goodness we did  quickly as yesterday I spotted the biggest fricken wedgetail eagle I have ever seen, flying leisurely past.  And today, not long after the netting was finished, we watched a big kite circling round and round checking it all out.  A few crows hopefully flew closer then realised there was no chance of getting in.  Sucked in big birds, go and find something else to feast on!

And on a final note, we have had seven eggs!  Already!  Three today and two the previous two days.  I can't say who is laying them at this point as they are usually just waiting in the nests when we unlock the door in the morning, but Angie, I can tell you that you laid a 62 gram egg this afternoon, while we were working on the bird netting.  Well done!  One of you excelled yourself yesterday and layed a 71 gram egg, the biggest yet.  I wonder who it was?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Girls Girls Girls

The final touches are taking place in The House Of Chic....
This is the roost.  It runs the length of one wall, about 2 foot up from the ground.  We have put lightweight boards beneath the roost to catch the poo, so it can simply be scraped off and removed.  Steve has cleverly made the roost so it slots into a gap in the wall supports, which means the roost can easily be removed for cleaning.  After reading many differing opinions on the best type of roost, ranging from tree branches to dowel rods to 4x2 beams, we chose to go with a 4x2 beam and rounding the front edges so when the birds roost they have a wide, flat surface to rest their bums on, and a comfy curved front to wrap their toes over.
Apart from the netting over the top of the yard (which we will put up in the next day or so), and moving some sand to fill some holes, The House Of Chic is ready for residents!  Here is the builder extraordinaire, the most relieved man in the world that this is finished.  Job well done darling. :-)
Here I sit in the chook cuddling chair in front of the house.  Note the artwork, looks cool eh, thanks Mel and Sheila.  Above that will be The House Of Chic sign when it is made.  To the left of me is the 'under the eaves' area, which houses the big bin containing chook food, and a metal trunk in which I'm thinking of storing some straw or chaff for changes of bedding. 
Anyway, getting to the exciting part, have a guess what is in the box?!  Yes, they are here!  This morning we drove to the other side of Albany and collected four 16 month old HyLine hens. 
And here they are!  They were very quiet in the car, all we could hear was the occasional tiny chicken sounds and the shuffle of feet.
We carefully tipped the box on its side, facing into the house, and after a minute or so, the bravest souls tentatively ventured out.
They all finally entered The House.  They were very cautious until they spied the food container, then they charged over there and started pigging out immediately!  They were all making quiet little bwark noises, it was lovely.  Once they were settled we moved the box away from the door so they could venture out into the yard.  Two of them started exploring whilst the other two, presumably shy, stayed inside.
Finally all four ladies carefully started looking around outside, all the while being quietly vocal.
It was at this point that I discovered the reason for tardiness of the two ladies that stayed in the house, they had both laid an egg!  Within an hour of coming to a new house!  Steve was most impressed that his nesting boxes had been given the seal of approval.
How about that eh, two 60 gram eggs.  The brown one was really warm, straight out of you know where!
The ladies were very tentative at first with their foraging, leading me to believe that their life up to now probably didn't involve being on grass.  They pecked at the seed I threw around but not much else at first.  Within a couple of hours they well and truly had the hang of free ranging and were having a lovely time.
Everything was inspected, pecked and scratched.  They finally decided that they liked eating grass and began the serious business of cropping it.  It will be interesting to see the battle between kikuyu grass and four hens, we suspect the hens will win eventually!
I sat in their yard for hours today, I couldn't take my eyes off them.  It's amazing how good their eyesight is, I watched a hapless little spider a good couple of metres away from the nearest bird, crawling through the grass.  Needless to say that the spider did not last long!
This is the smallest girl, but she also has the biggest and reddest comb.  I like how she is strutting her stuff in this photo.
This one has a floppy comb and white sort of stripes on her neck.  She seems to be the friendliest of the four and spent a lot of time around my legs while I sat in the chair.  It is amazing actually, how docile they all are, considering they are in a strange place with people they don't know.  It started off with me managing to get a quick stroke of one's back, to being able to pick this one up a few hours later.  I don't think she was absolutely thrilled about it, but I was! :-)
The last task of the day was to put them to bed.  I kept waiting and waiting around dusk for them to head into the house, but they were having far too much fun free ranging outside and had to be herded inside in the end.  The littlest one has to be chased around the yard, cornered, and carried inside in the end!  Once I had them in the house with the doors shut, two of them got the idea straight away and jumped up onto the roost.  The other two I picked up, got in a quick stroke or two, then put them on the roost.  I peeped in the window a little later and they were all still on the roost, so good, everyone is settled for the night.  What a day!  It was wonderful and I am so happy to have some living creatures again.

On a final note you might like to see this.  This is what happens when you spend 8 weeks building a chook palace and neglecting the vegetable patch.  Happily it is very productive and we are eating plenty of potatoes, peas, broccoli, cabbage, celery, spinach and turnips, but look at that grass!  That's what comes of not doing any weeding for too long.  Next week's job!!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Lions Could Live Here

The icy wind is howling as it has all week and we are enjoying keeping the fire going all day, lovely.  We've had hail the last couple of days too, as evidenced by the build-up from the inlet pipes into the water tank.
We had one fine day amid the storms so on that day we put lots of effort into progress on The House Of Chic and surrounding yard.
Steve has done a magnificent job of making a double door from scratch.  He came home from Bunnings with a dozen timbers and proceeded to make this natty door, stained a lovely mid brown to blend harmoniously with the existing colour palette.... :-)
He also built the fence section to the left of the house, and is making a big gate to go into the gap to the left of that bit of fence. 
I love the double door.  We can have just the bottom chook door open as demonstrated above, or we open them both up, as seen below.  I am thinking the weather will predict what we choose to do each day. 
In saying this, as we are about to become virgin chook owners, we have yet to experience the 'down to earth' aspects of chook raising, things like the smell and the poo, so both those doors may end up open nearly all the time!
 
I dug trenches so we could start dropping colorbond into the ground.  I think its in the ground 350 mm and above the ground 450 mm.  I can't see anything digging its way in after this, and the above ground part will give the girls some wind protection.
Pop riveting the fence.  We are thinking that we could quite adequately house lions in this yard, with no chance of escape!
We want our ladies to be comfortable, and enjoy the decor of their house.  Thus they have freshly painted walls and Steve installed the (just to look at, not to use) chandelier that my buddies from Perth gave us as a present for the chook house.  Anne, Angie, Leanne and Wilma - look, it's up! I just hope we don't have some smartarse chook that decides to try and roost way up there, about 1.5 metres up - we shall see.

I can't wait to finally show photos of the actual chooks, instead of just the getting ready for them.  It's getting exciting, not too much more to do now before we are ready to take the plunge.  I am using my time inside whilst the rain pours down to read up on looking after one's chickens.  The current debate is what to put on the floor of The House Of Chic.  Sand, straw, wood shavings, a combo of all these, not sure.  I suspect we shall observe and modify as time goes on.
 
Progress continues on the pinkiest pink pink pink quilts.  Riley's quilt is almost finished, the quilting is all done, I just have to trim the edges and attach the binding, then do a label with a little poem to be sewn on the back.  I just hope Riley, who is the pinkiest pink pink pink little girl I know, doesn't decide that she no longer likes pink! 
 
The wood ducks continue to hang around, funny, I just can't quite get used to the idea that some ducks like to be up in the trees.  See this one above, he/she spent ages up there, quacking incessantly with its mate.
Look how high up that duck actually is, at least 10 metres off the ground.  Don't you think that is just plain wrong for a duck?
 
I took this shot of the entrance into our place a few weeks ago.  It struck me that it is actually beginning to look like a settled in little property, not just a few acres of virgin land.  We get frustrated sometimes that we are not doing things fast enough, but we need to remind ourselves that the photo below is what it looked like when we bought the land, so yep, we've done stuff.  Once we get the chooks sorted and then get the orchard fenced and planted, I think we will be satisfied.
And a final shot for today, I happened to see this beautiful spider's web just after some misty rain, then with the sun shining on it, I thought it was very pretty.