Since arriving in Australia almost ten years ago, I have longed to have some backyard chickens. After several house moves, including across the country, and renovations on our current home, which turned the garden into a builders dumping yard, we finally felt ready and took the plunge last September.
I grew up on a farm in England, and we always had chickens running around, so I think the Rambles boys were all thinking I must be a chicken expert. The real truth is I remember having fun playing with the chickens and I enjoyed collecting and eating their eggs. I only occasionally fed them, and I wasn’t the one who managed their health, cleaned them out, got up early to let them out in the mornings, and shut them up at dusk every night before the fox came. That was mainly all done by my mother. I told Master and Junior Rambles that we were all going to be responsible for looking after the chickens, but in reality history soon repeated itself!
Before we could get the ‘chooks’ we needed a coop for them. I had great intentions to design and build one ourselves, using recycled materials, but the longer it took us to get around to it the longer it was going to be until we could get the chickens. Eventually we found a bargain priced coop on the internet, which looked like a good start for us. The coop arrived flat packed, and orange!
I wasn’t too keen on the bright orange wood, so decided it had to be painted. A friend of mine laughed a lot at this and was also concerned that I would think the coop would stay looking this lovely and clean after the had moved in. I knew it would looked ‘lived-in’ fairly quickly, but I was really pleased with it, a beach cottage coop for our beach side living!
We bought the 8 week old chickens from a great local business, New Leaf Nursery
, who specialise in sustainable living ideas. After doing our research on different breeds, we decided to get ISA Browns, which are supposed to be friendly and good with children as well as being great egg layers. They travelled home in a cardboard box and seemed very pleased when they were let out of it into their new home.
I had been reading up on predators other animals who might attack or bother chickens in our area, but hadn’t heard anything about magpies. If you live in Australia in an area where magpies breed you will probably have experienced being ‘dived bombed’ by one when too near their nest. There was a magpie nesting in a tree outside our property, who obviously saw our young as a threat. To begin with they wouldn’t leave our poor young girls alone, they were constantly stomping around their coop and squawking at them loudly.
After a few days we let them out to do some ‘free ranging’ in the garden. Apart from being swooped by the magpies, they seemed really happy and settled. After several changes, we all finally decided on their names, Tilly, Billy and Milly. The magpies generally ignore them now, or perhaps the chickens have got better at standing up to them now they are bigger.
Of course one of the main reasons that we, and anyone, keeps chickens, is the eggs. How great to have a pet that supplies us with food. We weren’t expecting them to start laying until December but they surprised us in late October with our first (tiny) egg. We think it was laid by Billy, she looked as amazed as we did! The other two followed soon after, and all have been good layers ever since.