Not a great photo but I’ll try to do better next time. We’d planned to get some hens around Xmas time but with the run and coop ready, we thought – why not! Having a few poultry in the backyard seems to complete the circle for us as gardeners. The art of husbandry, the collecting of eggs, the free nitrogen rich manure and the sheer joy of listening to the birds chuckling to themselves as they scratch around in the soil looking for tasty tidbits, all feeds some deep centred need within us.
Man has kept livestock, of some description, since Neolithic times (12,000 years ago, however, the keeping of fowl (Gallus domesticus) is slightly more recent. They were originally bred from a wild junglebird (Gallus gallus) around 8,000 to 10,000 years ago. Researchers are unsure where the domestication began and may have several origins South and Southeast Asia, South China, Thailand, Burma and India – the jury is still out it seems.
We bought the young Point Of Lay chooks from a local supplier who tells us he sells 200 birds every month and struggles to keep up with demand. He’s not the only supplier in town and these are predominantly egg laying fowl not the meat producers. Just goes to show there must be a lot people out there getting into backyard poultry.
These young ones have obviously been reared as part of a big commercial enterprise, thus were incubator hatched and then left in a huge barn before being shipped out. Therefore, they have not had any older hens to show them the way things should be. They may have a natural inbuilt instinct to scratch and peck but seem to have no idea how to roost!
Instead, when it comes to bedtime, they huddle up together in a small area between one of the outer walls and the side of the coop and just sit on the floor. No amount of coaxing will get them to change their ways it seems.
In all other aspects (I know, I know, – an aspect is what you get when you bend over in a chicken run!), they show a natural curiosity in all areas of their run and within a few minutes of arrival had sorted themselves out an area for their dust bath. At first they turned their noses (beaks) up at anything which wasn’t store-bought feed but have since settled in to pecking at the various weeds and grasses in the run and even any left over fruit we have offered.
The photograph shows the trunk of a Blackbean Tree, it’s an evergreen and cast some much-needed shade, especially as we head towards out subtropical summer. In the foreground to the right I have hung a wire mesh basket. When available, I will place unwanted or leftover cabbages, broccoli and lettuce etc., inside thus giving the girls reason to exercise their leg muscles in having to jump up to eat the goodies.
It’s early days but I think they’re settling. Fingers are crossed. If anyone else is interested in keeping some backyard chooks, I can recommend:
For setting up and looking after your chickens Guide to Keeping Chickens – Housing Your Chickens
For the fun and games of keeping these little darlings as a business enterprise
Both the above sites offer a wealth of information and some fun too. The first mentioned covers gardening too and both are also WordPress bloggers.
Finally in a belated salute to Halloween, I offer you the following quote:
“I’ve never met a pumpkin, I didn’t like” Jack O’Lantern