Sunday, January 16, 2011

A week on...

This blog is a diary for me to reflect back on and track what happens with the chooks and in our garden. We have a modest vegetable garden, worm farm and small flock of bok boks! 

A bit of background, last weekend we picked up 5 bantam chickens, a buff wyandotte (Sophie), a grey wyandotte (Little Grey Grace), an astralorp (Astrid), a buff pekin (Primrose) and a buff/grey silkie (Bok Choy) - all bantams about 8-10 weeks old.  I brought them home and put them into their pen, they milled about uncertainly.  Astrid started pecking at the others to firmly establish that she is Top Chook.

They are in a store-bought pen house with run, predator proof, which we'll modify over time (plan to add battens and more roofing over the existing roof for insulation etc).  During the day we open the run door where it attaches onto a longer run until they get used to going back to their roost at night, in about a month I'll remove the longer run entirely and they can have the backyard to roam in during the day although I'll lock them in at night.  It's an odd hen house/pen, it's made from a material called 'eco - something or other' and it's a combination of polymer and recycled timber which is meant to be insect proof.  I don't know about that so I've been spraying anyway.  I've sprayed the pen thoroughly with avian insect liquidator (and sprayed them too as soon as I got them home!  you never know!) as well as listerine and I clean it out each morning and evening to keep it smelling good whilst sprinkling the bedding with eucalypt and lavender.  If Mr Bok gets a whiff of 'foul fowl', the chances of them staying will be slim!

They are on wood shavings but it's too far to drive to get the shavings from the place I got them from (untreated) so I'll be ordering a delivery of rice hulls from the local stock feed place, they only sell it in 125kg bags! which is why I need it delivered! Mr Bok is a bit nonplussed by all this activity (and expense!) over 'a bunch of fowl' and is currently gazing at them as he bbq's a few snapper. He better not be getting any ideas!  They are for eggs & cuddles not for eating!!

When they first came home:

A week on and the Bok Flock have settled in nicely. We've opened a bit of the garden to them so that they can explore, the intention being to allow them eventually the full run of the garden once they know how to find their way back to the roost. So far they are loving the space, although my plants are being just a little too well loved!

I've had the pleasure and luxury of being able to sit out here on a picnic rug in the sunshine today and watch them dust bathe, all pushing each other out the way to get to sophie's dustbowl before squishing up against each other and spreading wings in the sun (Sophie is the best dust bowl maker). They are so entertaining before I know it an hour has gone by.

I got some centrigen this morning and that seems to be stopping the bok boks from pecking at the now-bare tails of Sophie (buff wyandotte) and Bok Choy (bantam grey/buff silkie) although Little Grey (wyandotte/astralorp cross maybe?) still pecks sometimes. Not out of meanness but just because bare tails look like the tomatoes they love. Our tomatoes split in the rain so I've been feeding them to the Bok Flock, they love them if squished up slightly but oddly don't look at a tomato if it is whole and unsquished!
Sophie (buff wyandotte) has been vying to be boss chook with Astrid the astralorp so that's why her tail was pecked in the first place but now they've got it sorted out, just want the tail to grow back quickly so it stops looking so appealing to the other chooks!!  You really only get the meaning of 'hen pecked' when you've witnessed it first hand! 

Whilst I was spraying Sophie with centrigen (on my lap on the picnic rug in the sun next to the chook run), she managed to get away (with a very indignant squawk) and was running up and down the chicken wire run trying to get back in again, she managed to knock a post out of her way and squeezed in again. I was mildly alarmed to note that they can get out if they want to, but plan on slowly letting them get used to the garden so that they can have the whole run of it eventually anyway so am not too worried. The vegie beds are all raised so hopefully the vegies survive the Bok Flock...they put themselves to bed (come in from the chook run through their pen into the roost/nestbox) every night at dark (~9pm).

On Friday night I introduced what I thought was another bantam Silkie but have since realized that she really is a standard silkie! She is twice the size of the others although she is a few weeks older than they are...

Never mind because she fits in so well - we've called her Cloud Zen because she resembles a big white floaty fluffy cloud and is incredibly serene. When she first came home she was so calm and when I put her onto the roost with the others at night (hoping they would all wake up together in the morning and be best friends), she sat calmly without making a fuss at all. She never rushes about her food either, lets everyone ahead of her and just dreamily waits head held high until she gathers herself together enough to wander out of the roost into the pen. Although I am now starting to wonder if she really is just zen, or just very vague and a bit...bird brained? :) Just that she seems to be very behind the ball in everything other than size.

This afternoon I put out half a chilled mango and the gals romped over and demolished it, Cloud Zen wandered up belatedly (after me gently taking her over so she wouldn't miss out) and whilst she did have a look, she started pecking at a twig in the general vicinity instead of said mango. Then she got bored (get a feeling she only pecked around the area so as to appear to fit in) stood tall again and did her whole serene zen master pose again! Is this a common Silkie thing? The other silkie, Bok Choy, isn't as zen at all but is noticeably calmer than the other chooks. Maybe Cloud Zen can't see properly because of her pom pom? I actually think she is just on another plane to the rest of us.

Today (a week on):

A question about roosts which seems to be common ...the bok boks all huddle together in the nesting box to sleep at night, none of them use the roosts. I think maybe this is because the nesting box is so secluded and as far as possible from any entrances (other than the nesting box lid itself which pops open). Any ideas? Maybe I should block off the nesting box to encourage them to roost? Maybe they don't like the perches?
The garden has handled the recent wet, hot and humid weather better than I thought although the zucchini and squash are all mildewy!

We've been picking what we want to eat each night which has been lovely.

Going to plant a green harvest for the lots of comfrey, buckwheat, etc.  Now to find the time!!

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