Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Backyard chookies...

(NB:  I wrote this originally as a comment on an excellent post on Pundit, which was about the new proposed welfare standards for battery hens... but I've borrowed it here to introduce you to our girls... three ex-battery hens, brown shavers, good layers (mostly - more on that later...), and both our pride and the sometimes scourge of our garden.  I've had requests to write stories about the chooks - so this shall be your introduction to them, I have plenty more chooky tales to tell!)

As someone who  names all of her cars, I have yet to name my chickens... they are 'the chooks', and I am at once fascinated by them and exasperated by them.

We got the chickens days before the September 4th earthquake last year. The quake must have shaken the eggs out of them, because they began laying the very next day! 
The bloke has had to be very creative to come up with ways to keep these chooks out of our vege patch. This girl is standing on what was a pallet for fruit and veg, and various trips to the beach to collect driftwood have helped with the fence behind - they are super 'breakers and enterers' though... constant vigilance is required!
Once we got around fencing off various bits of the garden to keep them out (we have re-engineered the classic 'taranaki gate', to a series of 'taranaki fences' in our suburban backyard), I find the chooks to be a daily source of interest and amusement.

The bloke reckons they are like the chickens in a Gary Larson cartoon, somewhat sinister, and always appearing to be planning something. The dog takes this suspicion one step further and simply refuses to set foot in the backyard if they are out of the chookhouse.  Somewhat embarrassed by Nemo's sookiness over chookiness (perhaps not helped by his wussy name!), i once left him out there as an experiment. To my astonishment, I watched all three chooks work in formation, to appear one from each side of him, and one (the smallest and gutsiest) in th front, fluffing up her feathers and stomping towards his face while kicking her claws up in front of him. Needless to say, I don't subject Nemo to this kind of trauma anymore!
This is Nemo's usual stance when he has to have anything to do with the chickens... he's also afraid of sheep.

Despite their vegetable snatching, dog-terrorising tactics, I do love our chooks. I love the simple pleasure of watching them scratch and peck their way around the garden, and I too am amazed by the sight of a hen turning herself almost inside out in a dust bowl she has spent the morning meticulously creating. 

I have only purchased freerange eggs for some years now (even as a broke student), and moving to having your own home-grown eggs is something that you can't put a price on. The taste is incredible, the deep orange yolks are divine just to look at.  That said, I reckon they've saved us quite a bit of dosh.
Happy eggs indeed. The richness and quality of our chooks' eggs, makes all the 'eggsasperation' worth it...
To my chookies, you drive me crazy, and the bloke too, but we love the energy you bring to our place.

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