We love our eggs

We love our eggs. People all over the world, including Australia love their eggs. In Australia, people are eating more eggs. On average in Australia adults eat 5.77 eggs per week.

Since we settled in Toowoomba 20 months ago we have not found an egg to match our Princess Eggs. This is what I called the eggs laid by our chickens at our previous home in Maleny. Our chickens got only the best, the royal treatment. It was only right that I gave them the title of Princess Chickens. When we moved we had to say goodbye to these Princess Chickens that consistently did their royal duty, laying eggs for us each day. They were rehoused. It was far too complicated for them to move with us. Now in Toowoomba we buy free range eggs but still they do not hold their structure well. If you take notice when you next crack an egg for breakfast (from the supermarket) more than likely you will find that the white of the egg spreads all over the pan. Very little substance to the egg. We have driven all around Toowoomba looking for good quality eggs. When we think we have found what looks like good quality eggs, we buy another dozen. After 20 months of this behaviour it was time to grow our own!

Early on, I did not think it was possible for us to have chickens in our urban garden. However, after we put up a privacy screen and enclosed our vegetable garden we found we had the perfect space for a chicken coop. The project of growing our own eggs, that is, caring for chickens, began several months ago with a flat pack chicken coop. Next came painting (two coats) and modifications to make the chicken coop a suitable home for Princess Chickens. The project went on for 2 months, though it seemed like four months! As we love our eggs this provided good motivation to keep going to finish the project that was interrupted with rain and time away! The week finally came when we were ready for chicken shopping. However, to find Princess Chickens, ones that were willing to live at our place, we had to go to another rural municipality.

We went on the long journey and our young Princess Chickens, happily sitting in boxes in the back seat of our car, arrived one week ago today. On the second day they arrived, we unexpectedly got our first egg. Just as well the nesting box was ready and waiting. The first egg was not laid in the nesting box but by the second day Princess Lucy had found the proper place, the nesting box.

Enjoy the photos that tell the story of our “we love our eggs” journey that turned into us welcoming four lovely Princess Chickens (pure breeds).

The project begins. MY O&O measuring up after we had put together a few panels of the coop.

 

The chicken coop is almost finished. It included a wire floor (a modification). The bamboo blinds (another modification) on each side are to keep out the rain and heat. Only needs straw and feeders.

This is Princess Lucy, a Plymouth Rock (origin USA)

Princess Sophia, a Light Sussex (origin England)

Princess Carmella, a Buff Sussex (origin England)

Princess Lulu – she is the youngest and also a Plymouth Rock like Lucy.

The Princesses settling in and keeping busy

This is the privacy curtain on the nesting box I made from a burlap bag.I was surprised the day after the Princesses arrived we had our first egg! On the second day Princess Lucy found her way into the nesting box.

At last, two days after the Princess Chickens arrived we enjoyed our first two eggs for breakfast. And yes, we love our eggs!

 

Chickens are contagious

This is a warning – chickens are contagious! No, it is okay, you will not catch something from them or find that they are a health hazard. If you decide to have chickens you will catch the “bug” of living with chickens and very soon you will find it is hard to live without them. It could be your new hobby and if it is it won’t be long before you will be passionate about your “girls” or maybe you would prefer to call them “ladies”.

Chickens are such entertaining and amusing pets. On the ABC radio the other morning the announcer mentioned that he whistles a particular song to his chickens and they come running. I may sound a little vague about who the announcer was and what song he whistled and that was because I was still half asleep. But at the mention of the word “chickens” my ears became alert to hear his story. It was the same when I was the lady-in-waiting for the Princess Chickens they knew my voice, they learned routines and were very amusing and inquisitive.

If you have read any of my earlier posts under the “living with chickens” category you will know that I am a big fan of having backyard chickens. Unfortunately, I can’t have them at our new home as the space inhibits us. Could I possibly squeeze them in and if so would we meet Council regulations? I would not like to get off side with any of my neighbours because they were too close to the side of our common fence line. I have found a few brands of great “free range” eggs and I will just have to be content with that until such time I can purchase fresh eggs from someone else’s backyard.

What I discovered when we had our Princess Chickens the eggs were sensational. They were actually three dimensional. They had two layers of white (albumen) and a thick yolk. The eggs also took longer to cook due to their substance and the shell of the egg was harder to crack than most store bought eggs. If you, like me, wonder how fresh your supermarket eggs are try the test below.

You can check the freshness of an egg by placing it in a glass of water? The fresh egg will sink to the bottom of the glass and remain flat lengthwise whereas the older egg will float. The egg that is not as fresh but still okay to eat will stand up on one end and not lie flat at the bottom. Now you check the freshness of your store bought eggs! Perhaps you would like to share your story with me if you try this.

Matt has new "girls" in his life

Matt has new “girls” in his life

Matt's "girls" free ranging and enjoying the "good life"

Matt’s “girls” free ranging and enjoying the “good life”

As I mentioned chickens are contagious. Two of my siblings have chickens and now my adult son has caught the bug. He recently took home (he lives in a remote part of Western Australia) four day old chicks. Under his expert eye and care, even in the hot weather, they are thriving in their new home environment. I have had the pleasure of living with chickens and I will always have the memory to recall and enjoy. If you have never lived with chickens, think about it, but be sure you are prepared to take all the necessary steps to keep them adequately housed, fed and watered and always provide clean bedding every week. If you do they will reward you with an egg every day and very soon you to will find that “chickens are contagious”.

Note: photos taken by Matt.

Chicken Antics

I thought it was about time I reported on the Princess Chickens antics. It would be very difficult to answer them if they asked me when did you last mention us on your blog? Yes, chickens do talk, and after a while you begin to understand what they are saying!

I am working on a topic that is not as lighthearted as chicken antics but with all of life, it has to be balanced. It is important to have fun alongside thinking about the deeper issues of life. As I mentioned in an earlier post laughing is good for us. It is not good for us to be serious all the time. While I talk about a simple approach to life and stepping lightly on the planet it is also good for us to “lighten up” that is, not be so gloomy about what life deals us and look on the bright side. If we continue to search for the silver lining sooner or later it will turn up!

When I was away recently for a week my “One & Only” (O&O) got the job of caring for the Princess Chickens. Even though he said he would never look after chickens, if I went down that track, he is very interested in their welfare. So while I was away he did the daily routine and made sure they had their daily fruit and/or veggie snack, cleaned out the Princesses Palace, made sure they had plenty of their fine dining pellets and  spring water that comes from our bore. After a week of sole attention from my O&O I was concerned the Princesses may turn their backs on me, but no, all good, they did not forget me – kindness has its rewards!

The good news from Cluckingham Palace is that the Princess Chickens continue to do their royal duty and lay an egg most days. While other peoples chickens have stopped laying due to the colder weather the Princesses continue to lay. Yesterday, we had five eggs and four the day before. More than likely the Princesses will stop laying when they moult (shedding old feathers and growing new ones) but it hasn’t happened yet. I have seen a few feathers lying around but the egg laying continues. Making sure chickens have protein in their diet when moulting is important. At the moment I am supplementing their diet with sunflower seeds which they love. So what about their antics?

Egg laying antics

The Princesses will not lay anywhere else but in their nesting box. This is a problem for them at times because when I let them out in the run I lock them out of the coop. This happens to protect them from unwelcome visitors such as snakes getting into the coop. If a snake slithered it I would not see it as the floor is covered in straw and sawdust. While any snake left to the beaks of the Princesses would more than likely come off second best I don’t want to risk them getting hurt. Two of the Princesses are laying later in the afternoon so I either have to listen out for their call or put them back earlier into the coop. As I mentioned chickens do have a language and they make this clucking sound that goes on and on which gets my attention. On turning up at the coop I find a Princesses walking back and forth in front of the coop door. I get the message and let her in and immediately she takes off up the ramp into the nesting box. Again, more clucking talk, yet different this time which tells me she is about to lay an egg. This week for the first time I saw two of the Princesses sharing the nesting box, laying at the same time, about 3.45pm.  I spy through the small window which gives me a good view right into the nesting box on the other side of the rest area. I am pleased that the Princesses early training of laying their eggs in only one place, the nesting box, has been successful.

Eating weeds

Chickens love to eat weeds. Near their Palace are plants that we have propagated. We have lots of Clivia’s we have grown from seeds. My O&O does most of this work. We also have other plants we are growing in pots and occasionally weeds grow in the pots. The Princesses are very obliging and will eat the weeds out of the pots. Most times they leave the plant untouched but it pays to keep an eye on them once the weed has been consumed. Taking photographs is challenging as chickens are always moving but I have managed to record some of their antics.

The Princess Chickens enjoying a few weeds

The Princess Chickens enjoying a few weeds

The Princess Chickens look forward to their fruit and or veggie treat every day. They really enjoy their greens and this must be part of the reason they are keeping so healthy.

There is no decorum when it is time for their daily treat. As you can see there is a bit of pushing & shoving!

There is no decorum when it is time for their daily treat. As you can see there is a bit of pushing & shoving!

At times when the Princesses get hold of something they particularly enjoy they will run away with it and hide. If the other Princesses have food to distract them then they are left alone but on occasions the others will run after the chicken who has the best morsel to try to get it for themselves! Oh dear, all they have learnt at the Etiquette Training School goes out the window. It was rather funny to watch one day when one of the Princess went and hid under the leaves of an Agapanthus clump to privately eat her favourite morsel!

Talking of favourite morsels. There was pandemonium recently when my O&O found a heap of worms in the compost.

Chickens love earthworms which are a good form of protein

Chickens love earthworms which are a good form of protein

The Princesses enjoying the earthworms. There is no chance of distracting them now

The Princesses enjoying the earthworms. There is no chance of distracting them now

This is life at Cluckingham Palace and the antics of the Princess Chickens! Chickens “lighten up” our lives as do other pets.  If you have chickens are they still laying in the colder weather? Maybe you would like to share with me some of the antics of your chickens or other pets that you share your life with?

Show off

On Friday I went to the 78th Maleny Agricultural Show where there was an opportunity for the locals to show off. There were all the animals you would expect to find on the farm, cooking, handicrafts, cut flowers, farm produce, displays, rides, games, food, entertainment and more. Agricultural Shows are a wonderful meeting place to catch up with friends, take the family and enter exhibits whether this is cattle or cakes to prove you are the best, a perfect show off!

The main arena at the 78th Maleny Agricultural Show

The main arena at the 78th Maleny Agricultural Show

My main interest at the show was in the poultry. I wandered around and observed the different breeds of roosters, pullets and hens. I found one dear little hen in her cage who was all fluffed up, eyes closed as she tried to have a nap. Next thing a couple of roosters would crow and she was rudely awakened from her slumber. This happened three times and I then had to keep walking. This is the very reason I would not exhibit my Princess Chickens; the confinement and disturbance. If I had a ‘show off’ experience with the Princesses at the Show I would have had to engage a Chook Psychologist to deal with their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I had planned to show off the Princess Chickens eggs. There was a category in Miscellaneous Produce and ½ hen eggs could be entered for judging. I had been contemplating this for months and examining the quality of the Princess eggs after I became familiar with judging methods. I found out that freshness, bloom and appearance were the three main areas. Fresh eggs have small air spaces and judges use a ‘candling’ method to determine the freshness. That is, they hold a light behind the egg to judge the egg interior. The egg yolk should not be pale, orange or red. I was pleased to find that the standard was a rich golden yellow, just like the Princesses produce. The bloom comes with the last layer of the egg as it is formed. It protects the egg from bacteria getting in so it is best not to wash an egg, but to maintain its natural shine and protective layer.

The shape of the egg is of utmost importance. The perfect shaped egg is broad, having a large and well rounded dome and greater length than width. The sides should be equal and symmetrical, rounding off to a smaller end, not too pointed. As the eggs are graded the ‘show’ egg should be free from porosity, muscle indentations, lime pimples, bulges and feel smooth all over. With all this information to hand I set up a preliminary judging panel (PJP) including me and my ‘One & Only’ (O&O). We rigorously went through all the elements of the judging criteria and decided that as the Princesses eggs had imperfections it was best not to embarrass the Princesses by going public!

For part of my time at the Show I volunteered at the ‘Busy Needles’ Knitting Group stall. We sold knitted items to raise money for more wool. The group knits for hospitals, aged care etc. When I had a break I wandered off to find who had success with exhibiting their hen’s eggs. As I could not find any I asked one of the officials in the Poultry Pavilion only to be told there were no entries for eggs this year. I thought ‘WHAT’ – no eggs, maybe the Princesses could have done well after all. If they were the only ones to ‘show off’ then I could have accepted a Satin Ribbon on behalf of the Princesses or better still we may have been conferred with the Grand Champion for egg ‘show offs’.

Did the PJP make a mistake by not showing off the Princess Eggs

Did the PJP make a mistake by not showing off the Princess Eggs

After I got home I did more research on the standards for exterior quality of eggs. This was the area the PJP, being almost expert egg critics, concluded that the Princesses were not quite up to the mark. However for an AA or A grade egg another ‘expert’ said that it is fine for the shell texture to have rough areas and small calcium deposits that do not affect the shape or strength of the egg. That seemed to be the problem with the Princesses eggs; small calcium deposits and small specks or stains. On reflection, did I let the Princess down by not exhibiting their eggs!

I also had the opportunity to enter a Cookery exhibit with my Boiled Fruit Cake but decided not to be a ‘show off’ this year. I have been making this cake for decades so it could have been a strong contender! Never mind, my decision and I let another year and another opportunity slip by. I will just have to be content with the quality of the Princess Eggs and my Boiled Fruit Cake by the feedback I get from others.

KJ's Boiled Fruit Cake - next year I might 'show off'

KJ’s Boiled Fruit Cake – next year I might ‘show off’

What I really liked about the Show was the involvement of children. Many children and young adults entered into the different judging categories. The younger generation are taking a greater interest in the Agricultural Show and this I applaud. Why shouldn’t they compete and ‘show off’. While winning and being recognised is great, participation and being part of a community gives children a sense of belonging over and above learning new skills and learning about the process of being a ‘show off’. Children, like adults gain satisfaction in winning but there is a lesson to be learnt and not everyone can win all the time. We all have to feel okay when we aim for the prize and then someone else walks away with it. Next year I might have to ‘show off’ myself and see whether it ‘pays off’.

Chicken Coop Maintenance

This post is about Chicken Coop Maintenance, following on from my post on “Home Maintenance”. In that post I mentioned I would be cleaning our Princess Chickens food and water feeders to keep their Palace (aka coop) tidy. Chicken coop maintenance for me is as important as keeping our home tidy and well maintained. This includes cleaning out their rest room area, nesting box and keeping the straw and sawdust fresh. Keeping their home maintained in this way makes me feel better, even if the Princess Chickens don’t notice any difference! And yet, I think they may like having a clean home as their “chicken talk” tells me they are happy when the Palace is refreshed with new straw and sawdust.

While I did the cleaning the Princesses were keeping themselves clean by having a dust bath

While I did the cleaning the Princesses were keeping themselves clean by having a dust bath

 

Here are three of the Princesses enjoying a dust bath together

Here are three of the Princesses enjoying a dust bath together

Maintaining a chicken coop is much easier if you think ahead about what type of coop you need and how many chicken will be housed. There are so many varied and attractive chicken coops that people build today. The best way to get ideas is to look at these online. If you inherited a chicken coop when you bought your home you can still make improvements. Don’t just accept the coop as it is, put your own style and personality to it sometime with a small renovation, such as paint or a garden bed. While I call our Princess Chickens home a Palace it does not compare to other coops which are very grand. Perhaps one day I will have a purpose-built chicken coop with all the fancy finishes. But for now, the Princess Chickens seem very happy in their home – their Palace.

The Princesses now have an improved garden view from the Palace. The garden is looking good and creates a welcoming environment when I visit the chickens each day. I or my “one & only” have spent 1-3 hours with our Princess Chickens over the past few days and it is pleasant to look at the garden and concoct other coop improvement ideas. This does not mean that I have nothing to do with my time but has come about due to the second sighting of a fox three days ago. The fox was on our road and in close proximity to the Palace. We were going out in the car and we chased it up the hill until it disappeared into a neighbouring property. We made our second report to the local Council in what have been three sightings now in a few months. While the Princess Chickens are safe in their predator proof coop, their run which they spend up to 4 hours each day is not. Hence, they have a reduced time in the run, under supervision.

The Chicken Palace has its own garden. The Princesses can enjoy this from the moment they awake in the morning

The Chicken Palace has its own garden. The Princesses can enjoy this from the moment they awake in the morning

It is raining at our place today and the Princesses are confined to the Palace where it is dry and comfortable. This means I am relieved of my supervision duty. I was very popular when I visited earlier with a bunch of Kang Kong. It is a Chinese Water Spinach (Ipomoea acquatica). I buy it most weeks from the local fruit & veggie market. The Princesses love it; they enjoy the leaves and every part of the stalk. Only the best will do for the Princesses. We had 5 eggs from 5 chickens yesterday and 4 today; one had a Rostered Day Off (RDO)!

After this rain there will be more maintenance work for me around the Palace. But that is okay, just part of my lady-in-waiting job! It is my responsibility to maintain the Palace to their “Princess Royal Standard” and also to maintain the chicken’s bodies to keep them fit and healthy. In the coming week I plan to write a post on “Body Maintenance” for humans….so stay tuned!

Chicken Talk

There is a lot of chicken talk going on at our place. Chicken talk is when we talk to the chickens and also when they talk to us. Yes, it is a two way situation. You have to listen carefully to what they are saying. After a while you come to understand, happy and not so happy talk. The not so happy talk happens when they hear my voice or even the roller door as I return from a trip to the supermarket and they do not get any attention.

I became more aware of chicken talk this week when I bought hay for the chickens i.e. their Palace (aka chicken coop, for first time readers). I bought this because there was no straw available. There was a caution within me but I put it aside at the time and bought the hay….hey, hey – this was totally the wrong way to go.

Let me explain. When I was first investigating what was required in “living with chickens” I discovered that hay was not the best bedding for them. Hence, since that time I have bought straw and sawdust. The main area in the Palace, until I purchased a bale of hay, has always had straw with sawdust for the restroom and nesting box. The restroom is the area where the chickens roost for the night. However, they also have a roosting bar in the main area of the Palace and this is where three (we have five chickens) have roosted each night in the warmer weather.

 

I found the perfect place for the hay. Great mulch for our trees.

I found the perfect place for the hay. Great mulch for our trees.

What I love about chickens is that they are so alert and interested in what is happening around them. Every time I visit the Palace they are so interested in everything I do and consider what I am up to before they will go their own way, such as having a dust bath. Without delay when I or my “one & only” (O&O) arrive at the Palace we immediately have their attention.

Recent visitors said that the attention they give me, following me everywhere, was because I give them food. Well, in part I agree but it is more than the food factor my Princess Chickens know that they are loved and cared for. They feel very safe with us and respond appropriately. If we were not treating them well I am sure we would not have the same response, food or no food.

The difference at our place in how we care for and feed our Princess Chickens is very telling. That is, they tell us in the way they behave towards us and their chicken talk that they are happy. The good part of their life is that they are not totally reliant on us for their food. We give them their food unrestricted that is they have their fine dining pellets on demand. They can eat whenever they are hungry. They do not need to wait for some “human being” to give them food. At all times they can just go ahead and help themselves. This is very important if you care for chickens. Some long standing chicken breeders have the view that you give the chickens so much food a day. But my approach, after much research on the subject, is that you let them decide how much food they need.

I also give the Princesses additional treats, just to make life more interesting for them, each day. This includes vegetables with greens. They absolutely love cherry tomatoes but now that our home grown supply is out of season there are not so many available. I also grow/buy spinach or kale which they devour in a short time. I found a pot plant the other day that had a lot of weeds so I put this in the run for the chickens. It was not long before the weeds were history. We also pick weeds for the Princesses and this is helping us keep our place tidy and giving them lots of joy.

Meanwhile, time to discuss further the situation about hay for chickens. As hay is denser and compact compared to straw I found that the chickens were prancing around in it and getting their feet caught in it. Not the usual scratching going on. After two days I sourced straw bales and things were back to normal. I could not believe the chicken talk going on once the Princesses were back in the Palace with the straw (sprinkled with a little sawdust). They gurgled and spoke in chicken talk that told me life was totally good in the Palace. I could not believe how happy they were and this went on for hours before it was time for bed.

The Princess Chickens enjoying the straw bedding in their Palace. They talked happily for hours.

The Princess Chickens enjoying the straw bedding in their Palace. They talked happily for hours.

This is another part of chicken talk that goes on. Just on dusk they have a chat to one another and decide it is bedtime. They eat and drink and it is time for bed. It is like clockwork, no changes from day to day, no partying or going out to the movies, these Princesses are seriously getting on with their royal responsibilities and getting their beauty sleep.

Of course the Princesses rise early at sunrise and set off on another day of undertaking their royal duties, laying an egg each before lunch and then spending the afternoon at the Misty Springs Day Spa (dust bath), while enjoying the sunshine. Life does not get much better than this. Such is the life of a Princess Chicken. There is also much we can learn from a chicken if we listen and learn.

P.S. Hay is not the best bedding for chickens. If it gets wet it can create fungal spores that will affect the respiratory system of the chicken.

P.S.S. There is a lot of chicken talk going on between our Princesses and we like to talk to them and they are always attentive. Maybe more so than some humans I know…..uuummm!

As strange as it sounds…

As strange as it sounds…this Easter I did not buy or eat one Easter egg. What is happening you may well ask? I could have been like that woman on the Woolworths advertisement that supposedly bought ten chocolate Easter bunnies for her grandchildren, but she did not have any grand children, they were all for her! Just like me I have no grandchildren but I resisted the urge to pick up a few of those lovely chocolate bunnies calling out to me as I wandered down the supermarket aisle – too much sugar! A certain amount of cacao, found in dark chocolate, is good for us so to ensure I was getting my allocation I made a loaf of rye bread that had cocoa powder in the recipe – delicious!

As strange as it sounds… some people are surprised that the Princess Chickens continued to lay their royal eggs throughout the hot weather. There have been occasion whereby one or two has had a day off, as all Princesses do, but generally we have been getting five eggs daily. I like them to have their greens and buy them spinach each week at a market. But I was cautioned about “too much of a good thing” yesterday when I saw this blob of dark green poo. Perhaps it was from just one greedy Princess over eating her greens. They also have other vegetables most days including carrot and/or pumpkin, cut up into nice edible pieces and cooked in the microwave. Even though they are generally well mannered Princesses when they have their early afternoon treat it is each one for themselves. Not much decorum evident, as strange as it sounds!

Scattered Straws column lives on in the form of my blog 120 years after GEE's column was first published in the Darling Downs Gazette Qld

Scattered Straws column lives on in the form of my blog 120 years after GEE’s column was first published in the Darling Downs Gazette Qld

If you have read “about me” on my blog you will know that George Essex Evans (GEE) the Australian Poet had a column in the Darling Downs Gazette over a hundred years ago. He called his column “Scattered Straws” and it was published under his pseudonym “The Gleaner”. GEE was renowned for using different pen names. I have recently read some of his columns. Today I will share with you some of what he said on Saturday 20 April 1895 in his column titled “The Fowl” and I quote as follows:

“The hen is a plain bird that lays eggs so that small boys may come and steal them. She is not romantic, but utilitarian. She makes less noise than the rooster, but she can keep it up longer. She has aims in life. One of her chief aims is to lay eggs where nobody can find them. She has a keen sense of humour. Nothing pleases her more than to see woman making nests for her where she never means to lay. Nothing hurts a sensitive hen’s feelings so much as to be shut up in a nest house, where she knows she must lay an egg before she is let out”.

Our resident Tawny Frogmouth

Our resident Tawny Frogmouth

Thanks for that George but my hens are different they know exactly where to lay – in the soft wood shavings in their nesting box. It is all about training. Small boys cannot steal our eggs, not that I expect any would, but at our place they can’t as there is a lock on the nesting box. The purpose of the lock is to deter a clever predator who could nudge up the lid. We have a lace monitor lizard, a very large fellow who loves to roam around our property. Last week we found him wandering around the Palace (aka chicken coop). He must have smelt those eggs but there was no way he could get hold of them. Then two days ago I was wandering over to the Palace and to my surprise there was a lovely green and yellow tree snake sunning itself on the brick pathway. We had a look at one another for a while until it decided to take off into the bushes. I noticed that is was our resident tree snake. How did I know that as they all look the same? As strange as it sounds…around 10 years ago a tree snake got caught in one of our sliding security doors and as a consequence it got squashed and ended up with a scar on its back.  Same scar, same snake, isn’t that amazing. That tree snake must really like calling our place home. Similarly, does our resident Tawny Frogmouth. We commonly call it an owl but it is actually a nocturnal bird.

I only have 9,536 more steps to take today to reach my target!

I only have 9,536 more steps to take today to reach my target!

For us “home is where the heart is” and as strange as it sounds…I am keeping a close watch on my heart at home through my new app on my phone. I can monitor my heart rate; record the number of steps I walk in a day; record how many calories I am eating a day; what level of exercise I need to maintain a good weight; record my sleep data, and check my stress level. Just over 9,500 steps to go today to reach my target of 10,000 steps. I also have to make sure I keep my mobile in my pocket otherwise no counting happens. With all the attention the Princess chickens get as I go back and forth to the Palace I am sure before I know it I will reach my target. As strange as it sounds…technology does have some tremendous uses helping us keep a check on our health just by picking up our mobile phone. I just checked my stress level and it is in the low range. It must be due to my retired life, a more and relaxed lifestyle and the choices I am making. Life has its moments but for now my life is “as good as it gets” so I am making the most of it. I hope you are doing the same.

 

 

Laugh Out Loud

It is Friday and for all those Monday – Friday workers, it’s time to laugh out loud (lol). If you are in that situation do a reconnaissance around your office. Are more people laughing the closer it gets to 5pm on a Friday? If not, perhaps your organisation needs a laughing coach. There is evidence to show that a happy and engaged workforce is more productive. But with me and “my one and only” (O&O) we are no longer in the workforce, so not reliant on people we work with to keep us laughing.

It does make a difference to your life if you surround yourself with people who are positive and enjoy a laugh. It can be difficult for ageing people to be around people who make them laugh. Often older people spend considerable time alone. If you take a walk though any aged care facility there are not many people who laugh out loud.  If we all laughed more would there be less people in aged care?

Laughter is good medicine, so I need to make sure I get my daily dose. Have you ever had the experience whereby you connect so well with people you enjoy being together and just having a few laughs? What I am referring to are the times without other substances to change the mood.  Just a good old belly laugh, it is so contagious.

At times I watch “The Project” on Channel 10. The panel are always laughing and seem to be having a good time. It is news with a difference and the show likes to look on the funny side of things. Picture this, we are watching “The Project” my “O&O” says “why are they talking so fast”; me “you have to concentrate on what they are saying” (as he reclines in his chair with his eyes closed); O&O “why are they always laughing”; me “they are enjoying themselves”; O&O “that statement’s not true”; me “no that’s a joke”; O&O “shouldn’t they be telling the truth”; me – “they are comedians, they see the funny side of things”; O&O “they talk too fast”!! LOL!

Laughing starts with a smile. I love laughing with my O&O

Laughing starts with a smile. I love laughing with my O&O

Laughing is good for your health and it reduces stress. There is more scientific evidence today that proves the benefits of laughter. See what the Mayo Clinic has to say about laughing. There is information about the short term and long term benefits of laughing. Also, there are tips on how to improve our sense of humour. Find the information here.

I don’t think it is a laughing matter that we have forgotten how to laugh. The society we are all partners in creating is eroding our happiness. The result is people have set up businesses to teach others how to laugh. Laughter yoga is a combination of breathing and laughing. If you want to know more about laughter yoga, click here. There is also a certified Laughter Yoga Leader Training course you can do to help others.

At this time of my life I am on target to simply my life. It is not a competitive life in comparison to others, but it is about “my personal best” competing only with myself. I want to find happiness in simple pleasures, such as the joy of holding a warm chicken egg, just laid, in my hand. I certainly need to laugh more as it is good for my physical and emotional well being.  My next task is to work out more ways to have a couple of doses of good belly laughter every day! As I do I must remember that it is not a good idea to laugh at the expense of others. Join me and start laughing – LOL!

“With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come” – William Shakespeare.

The Battery Hen

Most of us love to eat eggs, but do we think much about the life of the battery hen? In years past I knew how hens were treated when caged but I did not think much about it. Chickens are called battery hens due to the way they are caged in rows and columns. Their world is about the size of an A4 piece of paper. It does not sound like much of a life and it isn’t. My “egg epiphany” came during the period I was contemplating having backyard chickens. Once you know about the characteristics of chickens and their behavioural needs could you continue to buy caged eggs? It is my view that caged eggs should be shelved (pun intended)!

In thinking about the battery hen let’s start with a few facts. There are approximately 4.93 billion egg laying hens in the world today. In Australia there are around 16.7 million layer hens. About 12 million of these layer hens are caged. Overall in Australia 70% are caged; 30% are cage free including barn laid and free range (source RSPCA). Australians on average (as of 2012) eat 215 eggs per person, per year. So you can see the demand for egg production is high.

Commercial egg production was just getting underway in North Queensland in 1949 (Cairns Post, 3 December). BJ found the article titled “Poultry Notes”. It discussed the ambition of commercial poultry farming and battery hens. Due to the cost of laying cages and a shed to house the chickens the author concluded that it was doubtful caged hens would be a profitable venture in the North. How things have changed over the past 65 years!

It seems we have reached the tipping point and the debate about the inhumane treatment of hens is underway. To my knowledge the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in Australia is the only State or Territory that has banned caged eggs. New South Wales is moving in that direction and so is Tasmania.

Woolworths made a decision not to sell caged eggs or use these in their own brand products by December 2018. The Australian Egg Corporation Limited (ACEL) response to Woolworths on 4 October 2013 said “Based on scientific research, the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd believes all egg production systems have their own advantages and disadvantages in relation to hen welfare. Recent scientific research undertaken by the University of Sydney demonstrated that hen stress levels are similar across cage, barn and free range environments, with the key determinants on hen welfare being hen husbandry not the system used.” Many would disagree with this statement.

Caged hens are unable to express their natural behaviours such as walking, stretching, flying, perching, nesting and dust bathing. Caged hens have physical and mental problems. Battery hens are confined in a small space, spend all their time on the floor and are not familiar with sitting on a perch at night or finding their food and water source. They become frustrated by their confinement and can peck or bully other hens. To protect the hens factory farmers de-beak or beak trim the hens, sometimes when they are young chicks. De-beaking is banned in the ACT. It can cause immense pain for the hen. There are no laws in Australia that require pain relief during such a procedure.

As battery hens are rescued and rehabilitated they learn quickly and readily adapt to their new environment. If they have lost their feathers they require warmth in the colder weather. Knitting the hens woollen jumpers is just the thing to keep them cosy while their feathers regrow. My friend Rita, from our Busy Needles Knitting Group, is knitting jumpers for ex-battery hens in the UK. Soon she will visit Wales taking with her a supply of knitted jumpers. There are a few patterns online that you can print. The one that seems to be most popular is Nanny North’s version (you can find it here).

Princess Poppie modelling the "green" knitted jumper

Princess Poppie modelling the “green” knitted jumper

When Rita visited our Princess Chickens the other day we got Princess Poppie to model a green jumper. I am sure once this post is published every ex-battery hen will want a green one! Thanks Poppie for being our model. When looking at the photo I noticed that Poppie had a beak injury. It was fortunate she was chosen for the modelling job otherwise I may not have seen this. Fortunately, it has not stopped her eating, drinking or foraging. But now that I know I will keep a close eye on her welfare and health until it grows back.

If you are an animal lover you will not want to look at the this link but then maybe you should so you can tell others about the battery hen and animal cruelty.

Countries can systematically address the cruelty to caged hens however given the high demand for eggs this is a challenging task. Germany banned battery cages in 2012. This has bought about positive changes but now Germany is the world’s largest importer of eggs. It is evident that along with banning caged eggs alternative methods of egg production that are more humane need to be phased in.

As strange as it sounds you can make a pledge to refuse cage eggs see the Animals Australia site here. You don’t have to make a pledge but by refusing to buy caged eggs you can be part of the revolution. You can also grow your own, i.e. have a few backyard chickens. You can also adopt a battery hen. If you live near Brisbane here is information about the Battery Hen Adoption Project.

The Princesses eating passion fruit leaves as I try to clean their rest area tray

The Princesses eating passion fruit leaves as I try to clean their rest area tray

From the photo above you can see that the Princess Chickens love their life in Cluckingham Palace. Yesterday as I was cleaning the rest area tray they all just popped up onto the tray to get closer to the passion fruit leaves. They like being involved in everything I do and don’t seem to have a care in the world – just the way it should be.

One more thing! For all those who can knit we can also get out our knitting needles, just like Rita, and knit a few jumpers and donate these to the cause. Knitting a jumper is a very worthwhile part of a bigger picture to address the woes of battery hens. The hens can then be re-homed and enjoy the “good life” of a free range chicken, just like the Princesses!

CHICKEN’S ROYAL ADVENTURE

The Princess Chickens, when they get the opportunity, like to have a Royal Adventure. As the Princesses are from a regal family they expect the best of everything in their daily routine.

The Princess Chickens have their own exclusive brand. One of their tiara's in the shape of an egg.

The Princess Chickens have their own exclusive brand. One of their tiara’s in the shape of an egg.

Recently I updated their egg label to be more fitting with their royal lineage. It is only proper that the Princess Chickens should have their own brand.

I was chatting to my “one and only” two nights ago and saying how pleased I was with our effort to make the Princesses home a safe place for them. It is entirely predator proof. So what a surprise yesterday to find only three chickens in the Palace (aka coop). I looked around and then discovered, to my shock, I had left the lid of the nesting box open overnight. I had intended to add more sawdust but got sidetracked.

This is the nesting box which is off the rest area. Only two chickens roosting in this area currently. The other three roost in the main coop area where it is cooler

On my arrival the two escapees’ came scampering up to me and in my bewildered state I let them into the run. I have no idea how long they were out and about on their royal adventure. It could have been all night! After I let the other three Princess Chickens out to join the royal adventurer’s, I put a food and water feeder in the run for them. This happens every day and allows them to help themselves if they get hungry or thirsty before returning to the Palace at night. The door of the Palace is closed while they are in the run to keep out any predators that might disappear underneath the scattered straw!

The two royal adventurers’s immediately after having their afternoon treat went to the food feeder to have their fine dining pellets. I could see they had not eaten for a while. It may have been fun on their royal adventure however they had to fend for themselves rather than getting waited on. Fortunately, it did not rain two nights ago, like last night. I can’t bear the thought of what might have been. The lady-in-waiting was close to losing her job! However, all is well and everything is back to normal at the Palace. I was pleased to say that the chicken’s royal adventure was not leaked to the press and therefore no need for damage control!

Five eggs again today! No after affects from the royal adventure yesterday

Five eggs again today! No after affects from the royal adventure yesterday

If you have chickens let me know of any funny stories about your chicken’s adventure’s.

A few chicken facts:

Chickens love to play. They enjoy running and having a dust bath (similar to sunbathing).

Chickens communicate with each other. They have their own language. They let one another know if a predator is around and where to find food.

Chickens are very inquisitive and have great personalities.