Thursday, July 28, 2011

Out on the range

Before we got our chooks, I had every intention of letting them free-range around our place, except in the wallaby-proof fenced house yard. Then we heard the tales of quolls and devils decimating our neighbours' flocks and saw the wedge-tailed eagles soaring overhead, and I chickened out (no pun intended). Since they arrived as half-grown pullets, they've been inside their fully enclosed yard and hen house.

But to stay healthy, chooks need access to grass, insects, minerals, stones and so on. If the land is over-grazed, there's none of this left and they are likely to get sick. I hadn't realised just how quickly they completely decimate vegetation and soil in a given enclosed area. That's why permaculture systems rotate chooks through three or four separate yards during the year. Pity I didn't do the poultry course BEFORE I got the chooks.

In fact, most chook disappearances happen at night, when something breaks into the hen house. Thanks to the solid timber pickers hut that is now the hen house, and David's hard work fencing and reinforcing it, that's relatively unlikely. So for the past week or so I have been letting the girls out into the unfenced area, and gradually increasing the time they are out.

I still feel a bit nervous about it, with my main concern being our own dopey dog Baerli who has shown an interest in them (and anything else that moves) from the other side of the fence. But despite being agitated, so far at least, she has not jumped the fence to chase a wallaby or to chase after us when we walk down the road. And at least we have no foxes here... oops, contentious assertion, that one :-)

I also feel happier, seeing the girls out there kicking up leaf litter and foraging for tasty snacks. And in the late afternoons as it starts to get dark, I get to feel like the Pied Piper leading a line of happy hens back into the shed to roost for the night.


  1. We can't wait to have chickens also!
    Hoping yours will all be ok How many chooks do you have and are you getting a rooster? Our neighbour lets his free range and has not had an eagle/hawk prob yet as far as I know.
    We just purchased a metal chook house for our place which we will dig out underneath and put down metal mesh to stop quolls/devils and anything else digging under hopefully. Our first lot of chooks got eaten by quolls - got in via a 4cm gap in the house I built. We knew they were quolls because the poor birds were hollowed out - it was very sad :(
    We are going to let our new ones free range, so we are trusting they will be smart enough to find a good spot if any eagles/hawks come near - if not then I guess the birds of prey get an easy feed :)
    We can't wait to see our little dog "Sammy" boss them around - they'll probably be twice his size hehe. I guess a bit different to yours!
    It will be nice to finally have some of our very own eggs Free! and Free Range :)

  2. We only have four chooks, am thinking about getting a rooster next year as they are pretty good at protecting their ladies :-) Also just beautiful to look at, and maybe we'll even get some chicks.

  3. I think I am going to perform a review of security at Camp Cluck.
    All this quoll talk has me worried.

  4. I've now got 7 chooks and am feeling a bit more like an experienced mummy now. We don't have a dog but most of the books I have read reckon that a family dog will actually protect rather than attack chickens.

    We have neighbours' cats wandering through our garden and noone has had a go at our ladies yet. I think they look a bit of an intimidating bunch and they are probably capable of getting away from domestic beasts.