Hens 2010 ~ In the Beginning

The girls are here!
Today is 15th Jan 2010 and I have just picked up three brown shaver pullets (18-19 weeks old), a rather bland name for some really cute, well coloured birds. They come from a local lady who breeds a few different birds for selling. There were hens - several different breeds, geese - young ones with that gorgeous soft fluff down as well as older, sleek, stroppy ones, and ducks - cute ones with pretty colours. There were baby chickens just hatched and still puckery looking having not quiet fluffed up fully, very hard not to sneak some of those home too! My three were very well behaved on the way to their new home, no doubt wondering what the box, rumbling noise and swaying was all about.

Once home and popped into their new henhouse I notice one has a bit of a bung eye so we will keep tabs on that otherwise they have settled in quite quickly, so far. They are yet to be named although there are already a few favourites being tossed about. I have spent the last 2 weeks of my holidays building a cozy hen-house, hereby christened 'The Bum Nut Factory' - in anticipation of lots of fresh eggs.

Splat has just had her first meeting with the 'head' girl and I think she has an instant respect for the beaky thing, time will tell. A relatively succsessful introduction? Below is a photo of the hen-house or BNF, please note the quality white-wall wheels, for the discerning hen. The unpainted timber bits are a handles to transport house to new location (promise they will be painted soon) and are removeable. There are two roosts - one on the inside of the covered section and one out in the open for stargazing at night. The nest boxes are at the back and are accessed by the top section of a split back panel, the bottom half opens down to the ground to become a ramp when the hens go out for romp.

*There has been a ramp added to aid entry to the nest boxes since the intial build.

The house has been designed for use in the vege garden as well as the open paddock. The size and shape measured to fit onto the beds so the hens can do their thing between plantings and finsh off any leftovers and to add a bit of special fertiliser.

Heads up for Hen #1, 1st photo-shoot. She is not too sure about the new surroundings or the silly person sticking the camera in her face. She should get used to it!

And bottoms up for Hen #2! Ha! The girl has absolutely no interest in the photographer or the fat cat who was by her side, I like her style. And a very pretty colour!

Hen #3 was more interested in what was being popped through the backdoor and was very obliging. Note the decent size tillers on the end of those legs, also of note, the house builder actually got the base dimensions correct to allow the house to sit on the existing vege garden edging. This will be great in Winter as the beds are raised up and will keep those feet a lot drier than the paddock will cos we do get wet here. Spot the tree-cabbage growing to the right of the photo, a new trend maybe? Pickable leaves just like those fancy lettuce.

January 23rd
The first week has been hilarious! No-one ever told me that hens tipped upside-down and went utterly goofy when they were having a dust bath, I thought it was having a fit! Watch as a pea is flicked into the pen, absolute attention! Lol, I never knew how funny or nosey they were. They start chatting to me as I come down the path to feed them, so excited they are, waiting to see what is on the menu today. They have been eating pellets, corn, bits of wholewheat bread, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, peas and garden scratching. They do not care much for courgettes or apples and this week they will get to sample kitchen and table scraps.

One of the great advantages to having the girls in the vege garden is that I am making daily trips there, which means I get to empty the counter-top compost bin into the big one every day! This is good mainly because it means there will be no more of those annoying little fruit flies in your face in the kitchen as a result of being lazy!

Friday afternoon I get home from work, go out to say hi and...AN EGG!! One week on and there is an EGG! HA! Success! ... the $180.00 Egg! So pretty and speckly and very little! Of course they are only pullets.

January 30th
Hens rock! They now have names, Henrietta, Harriett and Hilda. Hilda has the bung eye, not that it slows her down at all, Harriett has a slightly crooked beak, looks like she is smirking at you hmmm.. and Henritta is just pretty. Over the last week all three hens have got into the egg production routine, three eggs a day! They have proven themselves to be efficient gardeners and have rotary-hoed 3 sections of the vege garden, yippee, more time for me to play :)

If you ever want to see totally crazy hen behaviour forget the peas, give them grapes! omg! Their little brains go into overdrive and they whizz all about the run, flopping over each other, scrambling to climb the netting, and that is just when they see them! Stand back when you drop a grape, time slows down as it falls and six beady little eyes are glazed over watching its descent. Just before it hits the ground there is a unanimous squark of delight and three balls of feathers tumble over each other with beaks ajar. I swear the successful one grins! Funny thing is, they were like this from the 1st grape, they sure didnt get them before now. How did they know they like them? Will they get drunk if I give them a whole bunch :) hahaha!

They are great fun to have around and have become very tame, happy to get pats and hand-fed treats, anything for treats. They love mashed potato and will eat most things that come out of the kitchen (unlike the picky bloke).

The eggs have grown larger as the days go by with Henrietta (she was the first to lay) laying quite full size ones. These are the best eggs! The whites are perfect and firm when cooked and the yolks are so creamy and delicious ... mmm eggs!

The girls are fabulous. They are so much fun to have in the garden, food is everything to them and they are so inquisitive. When I am out in the garden they need to know what is going on and if there is anything yummy coming their way. If I do flick something to them they study it for a split second to see if it is food and then in the blink of an eye (literally with Hilda) it is gone! They are very quick and show no mercy!

They have new feeder that I bought from the man who makes them and lives locally. The girls worked out how to use it really quickly. Strangely enough it was Hilda who got in there first, then the other two cruised in for a munch.

There are always chores to be done and the girls are great at scratching up the ground to find goodies. I move them about and enclose them in a makeshift pen wherever I am working or want a bit of weeding done ;) They get really excited when I pick them up (can do three at a time) and take them for a walk, they know we are going on a treasure hunt :) I get scrummy eggs for their effort, works good all round.

The girls now have a new pen. The bnf is parked in there and if I want to move it around outside I still can. The idea was originally to have them in the little orchard and be able to let them into the veges to clean out the beds. Having the bnf in the potager all the time was a bit hard to do. The problem is the beds have flowers as well as vege and the girls don't give a toss, if it tastes good it's food. Hopefully this will work, they are loving it so far, new bugs everywhere.

Happenings mid June

The Great Escape!

Arrived home from work to find no hens in the hen house! Oh fabulous. Just what one needs after a day at boring work and its raining cats and dogs and getting thundery dark. Hmm I wonder if they will come back on their own or get lost. My sook judgement gets the better of me and the girls must be found so I pull on pink gummies which have not been worn since last winter. One of them feels a bit wrong so I whip it off only to find something had been using it as a toilet! This is apparent as I shook out a quite considerable pile of mouse poo!

I pull it back on and scoot out to the hen pen - gate has fallen down (have been telling myself to build a proper one for ages) and the girls have sensed freedom! OmyGoodness, I have to save them from getting lost and lonely (sook), to never have a warm dry bed again (the thought of having to pay for eggs helped).

Calling the hens while shaking their little red tucker bucket, I head off around the paddock. 'Hills, Henniet, Harri' is a bit of a mouthful so reverted to the 'took, took, took' thing. Red! I see red! One red head pops out from behind the big leyland hedge and clucks back to me. Yay, found them! Well ok, so it was only 100 feet from home but with little legs it must have felt like a country mile. Harriett. She comes running and flapping over to me, totally drenched from the continuing downpour and looking for her evening snack.

I scoop her up and paddle and squish back to the hen pen, pop her in, close the gate and go out for the other two. Away dowm the end of the hedge I see another splodge of red. Calling again and hearing a return cluck on the building wind I head off towards her. Hilda! I could tell it was Hills cos she was making her way to me but had to stop and turn her head to see where I was with her one good eye ( well it was getting dark and the rain was powering down). I get to her, bend down and she jumps into my lap! Safe! Tucked under my arm and with a babble of clucking she tells me all about it on our way back to the pen.

I figure Henrietta will come back as the others hadn't been too far away so I come inside to change trousers and wait for her. 10 mins later, she is still not out at the pen. By now it is absolutely bucketing down with rain and it is darkening for evening so I grab my coat and umbrella and am out the door, hoping that she hasn't wandered too far and got lost.

Over by the neighbours I go to see if she had succumbed to the randy rooster and his harem - no, she is obviously too refined to become just one of many. Down below the pond by the beligerent pukekos, no not there, in the pond? No, not there. A thought occurred to me that maybe she had followed the fenceline in which case she would end up down the driveway! Argh! The road! I quickly pop up to the pen and check that she hasn't circumnavigated me and arrived back there. Nope, so it's off along the fence and down the driveway. Nope not here. I will go just a little bit further and out on the road, crossing back over the quickly filling 3 foot drains and onto the grassy verge (thank goodness for my pink gummies).

By now it has gone from windy, drivning rain to dead still. This is great except now the neighbours could possibly hear my 'took, took, took' calling and will think I have lost my marbles... I am begining to wonder too as the first lightning flash flicks down in the not too far away distance! EEK! I count 1...2...3 ..... Kerbooom! Oh, thats not good as I am scooting along the road and around the corner. The 2nd flash, 1...2... Kerbooom!

Now at this point in the road the only thing higher than me is one manky hedge and my nice, shiney steel umbrella tip. Oh I can see the headlines now... It is dark and the rain is back, heavy and hard, so I figure the darn stupid bird has probably found a roost somewhere and quite frankly if she has wandered off and found better lodgings then so be it. I am soaked, muddy and getting hungry cos it is past dinner time.

I make my way back home and go out to close the pen for the night and there is the b**ch hen, sitting at the door of the BNF waiting to go in and take her place in the communal soft pine-shaving filled nest box. I pick her up, give her a quick 'welcome home hug' and open the door. In the darkness I can just make out 2 sets of beady eyes, glaring at me. 'Can you hurry up and close the door - you are letting in a draught!' I toss her in.

How Rude!