Life in Tasmania's Huon Valley, by a blow-in from the mainland
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.
Escaped Sydney in 2010 for a piece of paradise in Tasmania's Huon Valley. I'm a keen walker, remote worker, incompetent gardener, Bernese Mountain Dog owner, fan of almost anything German (food, language, cars, beer), amateur linguist, chook fancier, childfree.