Remember when I rambled on, at length about how excited I was for my new Hen House? After a few months in, I thought I would share some highs and lows.
Without a doubt, the best highlight has been the eggs. I got the ‘pullets’ at around 18 weeks, which is supposed to be point of lay. It was the middle of winter, so we had to be patient, but we are now, well and truly in supply.
Poo has been another positive aspect of my backyard chickens. Each week, I ‘muck out’ the hen house. I take out the sugar-cane mulch, shredded paper, any uneaten scraps and of course, the poo. This is added to either the compost, or the veggie patch. I also add some camphor laurel leaves to the nesting boxes, once I’ve raked up all the muck, to deter any bugs.
See that ‘igloo’? At first, we didn’t need to worry about the garden when we free-ranged the ladies. They were shy, and tended to stick close to their coop. As time wore on, they became bolshy, and we spent most of out time shoo-ing the ladies out of the veggie patch! My husband was determined to have a hen-free patch, so he created this beauty, which keeps the ladies out of the veggies. For this creation, most of the items were purchased, but it was a necessity and my husband points out, this is only igloo stage one. Igloo stage two will have a door, and be re-strung with clothesline for a more even tension.
My husband also made a shade-house while he had all the materials and equipment handy. Most of the materials for this one were re-purposed and salvaged, just like the hen-house. This is also in stage one of development. My husband was quick to point out, there will a floor for the shade house.
I also had to hastily make some guards for some individual plants. This was a contentious issue in our household, so I would call this part a low-light. My husband was quiet stressed about the ladies digging around in his garden, and I clearly didn’t plan for keeping them out of the garden. I knew they would make a mess, but they went to town in the veggie patch. I would STRONGLY recommend hen-proofing your garden if you don’t want it dug up.
Another low-light was finding a dead chook in the middle of the lawn. One Saturday, we found one of the hens had died, but there were no warning signs, and there were no signs of distress. It was upsetting, because earlier this month, we had to put down our surrogate dog (We dog-sit with regularity for my in-laws.). Last year, we also lost one of our own dogs as he was attacked by an un-identified animal, so we buried the feathered lady in the pet-cemetery in our back yard. It wasn’t pleasant, but it is a part of life, and we all die at some stage. It also brought back memories of the death of my grandparents that I hadn’t dealt with, and earlier this week, a friend also lost a loved one. Death is just another part of life. It is inescapable but we spend out lives trying to ignore it’s certainty. Death death death. Dead. I know it’s not the end of the world, but Hermione’s death was a sharp reminder of the banality and certainly of death.
On a more positive note, I’ve really enjoyed having the hens in my life. It gets me out of the house, and I spend time chasing the chooks and dogs around the yard and feeling the sunshine on my skin. I spend far too much time behind a desk, and the gym isn’t my thing, so the time I spend outside with the ladies and my puppies is precious. It’s also drawn my husband and I closer together. He is very much an out-doors person, se we now spend time outside together, which feel like a rare treat.
I would absolutely recommend getting some hens for your back yard, if you can spare the time and space. Our eggs are plentiful, and sharing them is a joy. Getting outside, in the fresh air has helped me break out of my comfort zone, and given me something else to focus on, other than
impending doom the mammoth task of my PhD.