happy hens

Our crazy Barnevelder chooks are now nine years old. Two died last year in their sleep and the remaining duo hadn’t produced an egg for many months. We don’t have the heart to despatch them and so, we welcomed four newcomers instead. This time, we veered from any particular breed and sourced them from a local “farm”. I didn’t realise the state they were in until I got them home, many feathers missing at the back end, they obviously had worms and possibly lice. We treated their ailments and have become very attached to these lovely red hens. They are intelligent (for chooks), inquisitive and each has her own personality.

Winter has been wet and dismal, our poor girls have endured without complaint. We took to the internet in search of ways to make life more interesting for them and made it our mission to cheer them up. Having seen videos of chooks playing on a swing, we were inspired to make one. Unfortunately, our girls haven’t seen the videos.

We then fashioned a couple of hooks on string to hang vegetables from (silverbeet is prolific in the veggie patch) and that was a hit, though they make short work of it.

At least the swing is getting some use, for hanging long grass over.

Next came a forage cage so the girls can nibble the greens that grow through without scratching and ripping them out of the ground. Someone was eager to try it out, adding her own brand of fertilizer as a bonus.

We gleaned from our search that chooks find mirrors fascinating, this was more successful than the swing.

So, they now have a playground in the secure pen.

They also have a larger uncovered area that is fenced to prevent the destruction of our garden. We created another forage cage and the same cheeky chook couldn’t wait to check it out.

Last weekend, we added another novelty for them, a chair made out of old fencing posts.

I’m pleased to report, spring has sprung and we are now having more sunny days than wet ones. The forage mix is starting to grow

and the girls have all recovered their health and fluffy bums.

The two old girls are going strong and one has even started laying again.

The ultimate indication of chook happiness is indulging in a dust bath in the warm sunshine.

crazy chooks

Two and a half years ago, we decided to get some chooks. We had chooks for many years before moving to Tassie. Always the ‘domestic reds’, purchased as point-of-lay from the local fodder store. They even had names, Satay and Tandoori were the first.

1.Satay & Tandoori

Then we moved to the country and had four, named after my mum and her three sisters – Jean, Doreen, Mavis and Susan.

Lovely chooks, they’d sit on our laps, knock on the front door,

4.Jean

help with the gardening,

go to bed when asked, give us eggs in return for a comfortable home, food & water. We thought we’d do a bit of research for our Tassie chooks, something to withstand the harsher climate yet provide us with the eggs they were intended for. The number one recommended all-purpose fowl for a cool-temperate climate…..the Barnevelder.

Adaptable, sedate, calm, quiet, easy to tame and train to the hand. Not to mention the lustrous satin-like plumage and glorious dark red-brown eggs. We built a house and a run, making sure it was impenetrable to lurking quolls (we don’t have foxes in Tasmania but the native quoll will do the same damage). We went to the local poultry show and agreed they were a fine looking specimen. We sought out a local breeder and brought home four, supposedly ‘point-of-lay’. The first morning, I opened the door to the chook house, greeted them with, ‘good morning girls’, and was met with a face full of feathers, dust and chook poo as they bounced off the walls in sheer terror. I thought to myself, ‘hmmm, that went well’, as I spat out the detritus. As time progressed, we realized the chook house wasn’t going to be big enough for these large birds. We built a new one

11. house

and decorated it with curtains and memorabilia designed to encourage normal chook behaviour.

It has had the desired effect, to a degree. They are happy to free-range around the orchard

15.orchard16.orchard

and dust baths are a regular treat.

21.dust bath

After seven months, they starting contributing toward their keep in a very sporadic manner.

22.eggs

We haven’t named them, apart from one we call Broody, a reflection of her habit when she should be laying.

23.Broody

The others have a few chosen nicknames but I won’t repeat them in print. After all this time, our dream of civilized chooks still eludes us. Their first instinct is to flee

24.run away

and the look of panic in our presence is never far away.

25.terror26.terror

If anyone would like four deranged hens, let me know. If you can catch them, you can keep them.