Monday, October 22, 2018

One week chicken update

Hi Friends!

How has your week been?

I know many of you were excited to hear how the chickens were settling into their new custom-designed moveable chicken coop, so I'm thrilled to bring you this update on how the first week went.
My friend, Anna, delivered the chickens to us last Sunday evening. Thanks Anna!
We deliberately chose to move them after dark, when they had settled down for the night, because it was easy for Anna to lift them from their coop into a travel box and drive them over to our house. The chickens were so sleepy, they settled really quickly into their new coop.

We have apparently inherited a White Bantam and a White Silkie. My daughters have named them Saffie and Fluffles. (Fluffles is the fluffy Silkie.)
The chickens were very nervous their first full day here, but they've gradually got used to us and their new home.

What has surprised me most is how much I love the chickens. I didn't think I was much of an animal person, but I spend loads of time out in the garden, observing the chickens to see what they like and don't like. It brings me so much joy.
It's like my own personal Garden of Eden out here. Especially when the ducklings wander over to say, "Hello."

We've even had two eggs already! (The little white ones in the carton below.)
According to Anna, only Fluffles lays eggs, and she's a bit sporadic about it, but I'm hoping we can change that. We've been crushing up egg shells and dropping them into the run for the chickens to eat so they can replenish the minerals they need to form their own egg shells. I'm hoping this will encourage Saffie to start laying again. Can you think of anything else I can give her to help her lay?
We've been feeding the chickens some of our food scraps and I've also been throwing a few handful of slightly aged lawn clippings into their run each day. I found the chooks weren't really digging through the wood chips the way I'd hoped. I think the chips too big and heavy for them.

Saffie and Fluffles really love scratching and pecking at the lawn clippings though. They eat the aged grass and look for grubs in it, spreading it around the run, which helps cover up their poop and keeps the odour down. This was exactly what I'd hoped they'd do, because I want the chickens to build up the soil in this garden bed before I move them onto the next one.

I'll need to do another layer of wood mulch over the lawn clippings soon, otherwise it will end up a sludgy mess. I think I'll sprinkle wood mulch first and then seaweed, because apparently that's a good food source for chickens and it will also help build up minerals in my soil. I'll try to remember to collect a container of sand when I'm at the beach too, for the chickens to peck at.
Anna gave us her old chookateria and waterer for the chickens. The waterer has been great, and my daughters take turns filling it up with fresh water every few days. I placed it up on the wooden corner of the run, which is a good height for the chickens and helps keep the water clean. It is also shaded by the wall of the coop for most of the day, which keeps the water cool.
The chickens didn't seem to be using the chookateria though. I wondered if they were too light to open the lid. It also took up a lot of room in the run, so I removed it and have been using the pipe feeder my brother-in-law, Ben, made instead. It's perfect because it's mostly vertical so it doesn't take up much ground room. The chickens can easily come along and peck at the food whenever they get hungry.

It hasn't rained since we put the pipe feeder in the run, so I'm not sure what will happen to the little bit of exposed food when it does, but at least most of the food is protected by the sealed pipe.
I threw in a big handful of fresh grass that had gone to seed this morning, and the chickens seemed to enjoy eating the seeds off that. I like adding new things to their run each day, to keep things interesting for them, since they will be confined to one garden area for a few weeks.

I had hoped the chickens would eat all the old kale down in the chicken run area, but they only nibble at it and tend to use it as shade cover instead.

They're not as destructive in the garden as I thought they would be. That's actually a good thing though, because it means I'll be able to put the chickens in my asparagus garden eventually, and they shouldn't destroy the asparagus like I had feared they might. It gives me more options for moving them around my various garden beds.
The flap I designed for the end of the run works really well. It's super easy to open to throw grass clippings into the chicken run.
To access the other end of the run - for changing the water and throwing in grass clippings - I just swivel/slide the coop on it's platform away from the run to create a gap.
Anna gave us wood shavings for the coop, which forms a lovely soft nesting area and absorbs the wees and poop. I remove the poop daily and put it on other gardens. It's a great fertiliser, and the main reason I wanted chickens.

I saw on a recent YouTube video by Darci Isabella that she uses pine needles for her nesting boxes, so I may try that as a free resource underneath the wood shavings. I can't imagine pine needles absorbing liquid in the same way the wood shavings do, but they'd smell nice at least.
I've also been sprinkling Diatomaceous Earth on the chickens' bedding area, to help kill any flees and mites that might try to harbour there.

The whole system Ben created is working beautifully and is so easy to operate. Even Paul has been pleasantly surprised. I think he's coming around to the chickens!

That's about all the chicken news I can tell you for now.  Let me know if you have any other questions.

Emma xx


  1. Go you Emma!!! You are way more pro-active with the chickies than we ever were!! They are so lucky. It is so nice to see how they are enjoying their new home. That feeder looks great! They did use the chooketeria at our place but I did worry the lid might knock them on the head. Your one looks much more accessible. There are lots of pine needles on the ground at Kowhai Reserve around the corner from your place xxoo

  2. Thanks Anna. I just went and picked up two bags of pine needles from there and have laid them under the wood shavings. They’ve made a nice, springy bed for them. I hope they like it!

  3. I'm so happy that you finally have chooks! You have a very productive backyard now, well done! Do you think you will need to put some shade over the run in summer?

    1. Yeah, I've rigged up a tarpauline that I can move where I need to for shade or rain cover. At the moment they're shaded by a tree for most of the day, so they're in a good spot for summer.


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