Finishing touches

It has taken me a while, some near professional level procrastination. But I fixed the roof line of the chicken house.

BEFORE:

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AFTER:

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Initially I was going to use a jig saw and cut a fancy pattern into some wood to cover the roof supports. When it became evident that this was unlikely to happen. I decided to take the lazy person path. I took the already cut pieces off the old dog kennel, cut them to size and put them on the chicken house. Don’t look too closely as they are not even. I neglected to measure anything.

They are fragile bits of wood, they have been out in the elements for years. I pre-drilled the holes but still managed to split the top bit that covers the join of the 2 nice side pieces. A bit of glue fixed that. I have decided to leave it unpainted. Less work, plus it seems like closing the gate after the horse has bolted. Not much life left in the wood to bother protecting. As it is non structural and should suffer no weight on it I am hoping it lasts quite a long time! Job done!

Now for the bunting, I think every chicken coop could use some bunting…

Taj mahal makeover

I bought a chicken home online, it took me an hour of frustration to get it in the car. I was so sure I could make it fit, I didn’t want to have to drive the 40 minutes home, defeated, and return with a different car. Perseverance pays!

I got it home, quite difficult to get out of the car, not suprising really considering I ended up using brute force to get the last bit in. Took it out of the box. Looked at the instructions. Got my screwdrivers ready. Realised the instructions were for a different thing altogether 😦

Quite proud of the fact that using the image from the internet I managed to put the thing together. It looked like this.

IMG_0747Thankfully I had the brilliant realisation that once fully constructed it would not fit out the back door. Quite a great realisation! I finished constructing it outside.

This was used for about a year before the chickens were killed. Then my friend turned it into the Taj Mahal! I wanted a run attached as now the ladies were going to be locked up til I got out of bed in the morning. I wanted them to be able to stretch their legs a bit. Once he had finished with it, including a wire floor so the foxes cannot dig their way in and a pretty new roof my sister and I painted it.

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Curious Duchess wondering what I am doing.

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The chickens are locked in before dusk and are let out when I get up, around 7:30. They wake me up a fair bit earlier than this but I refuse to get out of bed and cave to their bullying. They are quite noisy when they feel they are being hard done by. I am suprised no neighbours have complained.

This is the pot that I am attempting to grow nasturtiums in, I am hoping that they will sprawl out and cover the roof and the side of the coop and help keep the hot Summer sun off their roof and out of the run.  May be wishful thinking. Probably should relocate the strawberry that is also in there.

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This is their food and water. I check it every day but I don’t have to fill it up that often. The water once or twice a week, the food about once a week.

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I think they are pretty lucky! They get to free range the whole back yard (minus the vegetable garden area, they have such little respect for my food!). They do have their own area that is prettily picket fenced but I rarely lock them in there. They prefer to have the whole backyard, more grass, more bugs. Lucky ladies 🙂

The path that led me to chickens

We had chickens growing up. Then there was a decade or so of no chickens. Then my dad got 4 chickens. Life happened, stuff changed and I inherited them. The coop and the ladies were transplanted to my backyard. I had not intended to get chickens. Now I had 4. Speckles. Boss. Runt. Vanilla.

Speckles and Runt after a flooding rain.
Speckles and Runt after a flooding rain.
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Boss
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Vanilla, Runt in the background
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Of course Speckles isn’t inside…. That would be unhygienic….

Sadly Vanilla died of natural causes after about a year here. Runt mysteriously vanished into thin air. I felt the backyard could take a few more ladies. So I went to get 2 more chickens (apparently you shouldn’t introduce just one as it will be picked on). I came home with 3. Bobby. Hugo. Priscilla. I learnt that it is hard to tell brown chickens apart.

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Bobby and Hugo
Priscilla with Herbs in the background
Priscilla with Herbs in the background

I loved having chickens!! I did little to keep them. I didn’t lock them up (I live in the city). They gave me eggs and so much entertainment.

One morning, about 2 and a half years after they arrived, I went into their area to find them all dead. Decapitated. Foxes had moved to the city. I was beside myself. Rage, Guilt, sadness, emptiness. I couldn’t believe the hole they left in the backyard. It was too quiet. I had no one to give the manky kale leaves too. What in the world was I supposed to do with the caterpillars now??

I have a friend who can fix or make anything. He offered to fix their home. So an extension was put on and it was fox proofed. I got 5 new ladies. The backyard is better again. 5 different chickens, unique in appearance and personality. I can’t imagine not having chickens. I still think about my old ladies frequently. I still accidentally call Bella Speckles. I love my new ladies (now almost 2 years I have had them) but I miss the old too.  I am somewhat paranoid about foxes (there are pictures of them everywhere, cute cartoon pictures on every childs backpack, sweater, coffee mug, everywhere! They Are Not Cute, apparently I hold quite the grudge..) . Even if I wake up super early I won’t let the ladies out til well after dawn. They are locked up by dusk, with out fail. Luckily for me my brother lives next door so if I am running late or plans change he is happy to lock the ladies up for me. Payment for thanks is in eggs.

Next I want baby chicks… I have started the research for this.

Bees

Over the weekend I went to a free bee keeping course. I really wanted bees before, now I REALLY want bees. They are such cool little creatures!

My aim is to have them by next Spring (one year away). If I miraculously won the lottery (certainly would be a miracle as I don’t buy tickets) I would get them tomorrow. They can be a little pricey to set up but once you have everything there is very little ongoing costs (so I am led to believe).

I love love love honey, I have honey nearly every day. I adore the flavour. It would certainly help in my low waste efforts if I would no longer need to purchase honey. I do buy it in glass jars that I reuse over and over again but there will come a point in time when I feel I have reached that mythical place of having ‘enough’ jars. So being able to get the honey from my back yard and store it in the jars that I already have would be amazing.

I need to put some more research into Winter flowering plants for the bees to get pollen from. I am not really a flower gardener at all so this will force me to broaden my horticultural repertoire. I am trying to plant more flowers every year.

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Last week I planted a heap of different types of sunflowers and cosmos. Then there was a mass invasion of earwigs. Yuck. They are really thankful for all the tender little plants that I put out specifically for them to dine on (or so they would have you believe!)

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Quite rude! You may wonder why there is ugly wire behind the plants. This is why…

IMG_3811The chickens can fit their heads between the pickets on the fence and feel that this just extends their hunting ground.

I have planted quite a few Queen Annes Lace, Zinnias, Buckwheat, Sunflowers, Cosmos, and Salvias. None of these flower in Winter.

I have no real plan for where I want everything to be planted. It all looks so miserable now, so much dirt on show as all the plants were trimmed back at the end of Autumn.  Once everything starts growing and flowering I will have a better idea of what space I have left to put flowers in.

IMG_3800This is my flower area. Quite an eye sore. It does look better when the plants are flowering and the apple has leaves. None of it can hide that massive white monstrosity that is a seat with arch. A massive miscommunication between my sister and myself. I plan to grow some sort of creeper over it. Not sure yet what it will be.

The bee man was quite passionate about bees, his knowledge was broad and his enthusiasm infectious. I have a couple of apple trees and a couple of pear trees, he assured me that I would have apples and pears coming out of my ears if I had bees. They pollinate every single flower! I hope to do a lot more research before I get them so that I feel like I could handle it if (when) they swarm.

Bees are so precious and I would be honoured to host them in my backyard. I am pretty excited about it even though it isn’t imminent. I will have to settle this Summer with luring them into my backyard. Bring on the flowers!

IMG_3802The first sweet pea variety has just started flowering. It smells sublime.

This gives me more joy than I can put into words, the pear tree is going to be first to come out of dormancy.

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A Spring in my step

Yesterday Spring arrived with a bang. Beautiful, sunny, warm (ish). It was just a sampler as today is back to overcast, I don’t mind. The sampler reminded me just how glorious the weather can be. Spring arrived as per the calendar, but there are signs in the garden that it is here too. The tree out the front is sprouting leaves, the days are feeling longer. I don’t lock the chickens up til around 5:30pm, in the depths of Winter I was locking them up just after 4pm.

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My seeds are sprouting, each day I check them and see the changes and get a flutter of excitement. I am in the process of acquiring some concrete reinforcing mesh that I am going to grow my cucumbers and beans up. A friend of my brothers was going to get rid of it when he found it in the house he just moved into. Free for me!

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Future Pesto!!! Basil.
Future Pesto!!! Basil.

IMG_3769The first sweet peas are so close to flowering. They smell heavenly when they open.

My Spring cleaning is continuing (albeit at a leisurely pace) I have taken a large amount of clothes to the thrift store. I also visited a different thrift store and exercised all my powers of inner strength and only came away with one book and one cardigan. Considering the amount my sister purchased this is incredibly modest.

Got some slow cooker baked beans cooking now, my Spring clearing moved to the kitchen and I found dried beans that really should be used. Hopefully they taste good.

The ladies are enjoying the burst of sunshine.

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Could have handled that better….

There was an incident.

I would like to say that I handled it well but I did not.
I was in the back yard. Herbie (my sisters cat) walked up to me looking for pats (fairly standard so far, I know, but wait!)
I looked at him, I thought, holy fruit bats what the hell is that on his side?
Is that..? could that be..? it is a flippin’ dirty great spider. I backed away (step mother of the year!) Herbie followed, totally unaware of the monstrous thing on him. I was unwilling to brush it off (WAY too big for me to have contemplated for even a moment!) So being the responsible adult that I am I grabbed a stick.

I tried to get it off with that, still unsure if it was dead or alive (it was approximately 4 or 5 cms big but not black and shiny, more like a young Huntsman [I thought about googling that to make sure I spelt it right but am absolutely unwilling])

I got in a swipe before Herbs knew what was going on. It moved, but I couldn’t tell if it was from the stick or evasive tactics. I was worried it would bite Herbie. I was worried it would spread its wings and fly at me (recurring nightmare of mine). I went with decisive action, sure I could swipe with a stick and precision. Sure. So i did. Half its legs fell off. The body disappeared into the grass. I think it was dead to begin with.

Herbie sleeps in the other kennel in the back yard. He rarely ventures from there. It came from that kennel I am sure. His kennel. But it totally smashed my delusions re no spiders in Princess Leia’s kennel. Luckily she hasn’t laid yet today as that egg would have been staying there. Now she can lay there no longer. I have decided and I am resolute.

This is the action I have taken.

IMG_3737Mean I know, she hasn’t done anything wrong. But there is no chance that I am sticking my hand in there with the image of Herbie’s friend fresh in my mind.

Herbie does think I was swinging a stick at him with wild abandon. No idea of the danger he was in. Doesn’t know that I fought some very strong fleeing inside instincts to deal with his situation. Lucky he is super forgiving, I am not ready for him to sleep on my lap yet but those issues are from my end…

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Chicken antics

All Winter I have had one chicken laying. Only one out of 5. Not great, but I knew when I got the others that they weren’t amazing layers. This lady is though!

IMG_2560So when the others stopped, Princess Leia was a prized lady, the only non free loader. When there was no eggs for a few days I thought she had taken a break from laying, turns out she decided she was too cool to lay in the spot that they had all layed their eggs in for the last year. She had moved to a sheltered spot under the trees. A new nest.

IMG_3699I was unimpressed with this as it meant I had to go under the tree foliage and get wet (if it had rained) to get her offering. I made a decision. This wouldn’t do. I tried letting her out later so she would lay in the house like she was supposed to. No effect, turns out she can hold that egg in. Upon release, she sped across the yard to “her” spot.

I took things to the next level. I put a brick in her nest. What a horrible person I am. I suffered greatly with this. I felt like the worst owner. She took the hint and went back to laying in the house. A semi win, the guilt was large, the eggs were where they were supposed to be. For a few weeks.

Princess Leia raised her game. I came to the conclusion that she hadn’t taken a few days off but had created a new nest, a massive search followed this. We used to have a small dog, who had a small kennel. We no longer have the dog but the kennel acts as a barrier to the chickens getting on the verandah where all my potted plants are. She chose the back of the kennel. I did think it was kinda cute, chicken in a kennel. Less cute when I have to get down on my hands and knees and reach in to the back of the kennel to get the egg. Obviously there would never be a spider in there (right??? Ah the lies I tell myself) but it crosses my mind every time I collect her egg. Please please please lay the egg at the front! She never does!

Due to the guilt over the brick and her special status of “only laying chicken” I allowed this to continue. I thoroughly regret this. Luckily she has not taught the other ladies who are restarting now. They are laying in the house like they always have.

She is a funny thing. If the cats stick their face in to see what is making all the noise they will get a swift peck to the face. Suprisingly they still look occasionally.

Not sure what to do about this situation.

Oh well!! Not a bad problem to have.

Here are a couple of today’s pics.

Beautiful Bearded Bella

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Curious Beatle. Checking out what is under the branch.

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