October 30, 2011

The Truth About Chickens

It's not pretty, but it's chook proof

So Ginger, McNulty and Lemmy have been resident at Helston Heights for five weeks. And what a five weeks it's been. Before I got chickens, people told me:

- chooks love to eat wandering willie and will devour it

- the eggs are amazing

- chook poo is great for the compost

- that having a chicken tractor would mean we could move the coop around the section where the chooks could scratch up the ground and work over the garden beds.

Sounded ideal - we have an overwhelming swathe of wandering willie and I wanted to get the rid it without resorting to Roundup. So we got chooks. We love the supply of eggs, their gentle clucks in the morning. I love watching them on a sunny Sunday afternoon walking as a group around the backyard, pecking at the grass, dust bathing in the sun. And I'm a gardener, so I think chook poo is gold. However, there have been many moments in the last five weeks where I've fallen deeply, deeply out of love with the chickens.

First of all, let me dispel some myths about chooks:

- yes, they love wandering willie leaves. But they'll ignore the stems. Which, if you are trying to get rid of wandering willie, is the most important bit to eradicate.

- they will dig over sections of the garden, but only bits they like. Unless you erect Fort Knox over your garden beds, say goodbye to your lettuces, but not your weeds.

Twice now, we've rigged up fences that we thought were impenetrable only to have the chickens perfect the science of teleportation and appear outside their run. They have:

- dug up my garlic bed (I managed to get there in time, I bet the neighbours thought me running across the yard yelling at Ginger was hilarious)

- pecked apart a blueberry bush

- eaten my lettuce crop

- dug up the tomatoes I coddled and planted out last weekend (I was able to save them, I think)

So if you are thinking about getting chooks and have a vege or fruit garden, don't even think about having them free range. Building a run should be the first thing you do for them. And don't expect chickens to be a magic bullet in the garden.

Lucky for the girls they're laying like chickens possessed.


sas said...

but do the chickens knit? like in chicken run?
please dont crush my fantasy if this is not true!

Helen Heath said...

Sas you are mad! :D
Yes, our chickens drive me insane too. We had to put them in a permanent run with extra wire on top of the fence. They watch me with their beady eyes and I think they are plotting something ;)

Kirsten Matthew said...

Which chicken tractor did you get? And do you like it? Trying to figure out what exactly to construct/buy for the chooks!