Saturday, 25 August 2007

Birds in the Air

There was a major event in the chook yard yesterday when each of my five hens laid an egg - so for the very first time, I collected three big fat brown eggs from the white chooks and two white eggs from the classy Gold Campines. This burst of egg laying is a welcome reward for months of diligent feeding over winter when only two of them provided the occasional egg and the rest were total freeloaders. I now have too many eggs to use so family and friends share the bounty and I love being able to give them away or make endless sponge cakes - a skill I have now mastered and which I believe probably qualifies me for membership of the Countrywomen's Association - should I wish to join!

These birds live in the Hilton of hen houses that was here when I arrived, but required a fox proof run before occupation. Chooks being chooks who love to scratch, they have now reduced what was a grassy enclosure to a bare patch of moonscaped earth that becomes muddy when it rains and dusty when it doesn't. Despite this now boring enclosure they appear to be thriving, including Gladys a geriatric refugee from inner city Melbourne with the reputation of being an inveterate excape artist. This is Gladys.

I have watched with interest the activities and politics of the chook yard, the individual characteristics of the different breeds and individual hens, their behaviours and their preferences. I noticed that a couple of chooks liked to stand on the edge of their water bowl as it is about a foot off the ground - this was fine but the water did not stay clean for long. I added a taller wire box nearby to prevent this happening, and the chooks loved sitting tall in the sun at the end of the day. Yesterday I had the bright idea of placing a plank of wood across the whole run supported on the existing frame, about a metre from the ground to give them all room to sit there if they wanted. It was hilarious watching them inspect this new installation from the ground, with soft inquisitive clucks and mutterings before one launched herself airborne to try it out. Then all followed suit and for the rest of the afternoon they strutted their stuff along it's length cleaning off the bugs that had been living under it when on the ground, or leaping off and flying the length of their pen like kids enjoying some new playground equipment. A joy to behold - chooks make me smile.

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