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!

 

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!

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.

Princesses of Cluckingham Palace

We have had the chicken Princesses of Cluckingham Palace for 4 weeks tomorrow. It has been an interesting and enjoyable hobby having chickens for the first time in my life! I had to wait until I was retired. Why did I wait so long? See the photo of a very happy Princess strolling around the grounds.

Enjoying the outdoors

Enjoying the outdoors

The first week of sharing our lives with chickens was the most eventful. They did not know where to go to sleep. As I mentioned in an earlier blog every night they would be placed in the rest area where the roosting bars are and the door would be closed. After 8 nights they all went up to the rest room of their own accord at dusk. My Etiquette Training School was working! After another week of closing them in rest room each night I was then able to leave the door open. The Princess chickens would then come downstairs in the morning when they were ready. The Palace, upstairs and downstairs is totally predator free. So they feel quite safe in the Palace.

The Etiquette Training School continued in other areas once the sleeping arrangements were sorted. As laborious as it was I would place a cardboard barrier each night to the nesting box which is off the rest room/roosting area. This would be removed early in the morning. This was so the Princesses could not claim the nesting box as a suitable roosting area. My attention to this and training of the Princesses payed off as the nesting box has remained free of chicken poop. Initially, they all slept on the floor of the rest room huddled together. Perhaps they thought they were having a sleepover pyjama party! Before too long they had worked out that the roosting bars are for sleeping. How do I know? The poop in the rest room is all in a row under the roosting bars. They are fast learners!

The next goal was to get the chicken laying to do so in the nesting box. The first two eggs were in different places in the chicken house. I had placed two golf balls in the nesting box so she would get the idea and it worked. The third egg appeared in the nesting box. About a week later another Princess started laying. Whilst at first this was spasmodic we are now getting two eggs a day, both in the nesting box. The first egg was 46gms and today one weighed in at 56gms.

It's a busy life for the Princesses

It’s a busy life for the Princesses

Every afternoon the Princess chickens are allowed out to free range. They love being out and about roaming around Misty Springs. There is plenty of leaf litter to scratch around in, grass to eat and places to create a dust bath. Yes, this is the life of a Princess chicken. Four of the five are very good when it is time to retire into the Palace for dinner before bedtime. They will wander in when I call them. They get a little reward of cracked corn. The fifth Princess at the moment usually has to be picked up and taken into the Palace such is her pleasure at play time. Chickens are very social creatures. They enjoy a chat, to us and one another. Science has shown that chickens can recognise one another by their facial features. When you see a brown/red chicken you might think they all look the same. Well, there are differences. Princess Poppie has a white full and fluffy tail, very different to the others. The colour of their feathers is also slightly different. So with close observation you can tell them apart. Our chickens are spoilt. But after all they are Princesses and expect a high standard of care, dining, sleeping comfort, treats and daily excursions. Long live the Princesses!

Queen Mother of Chickens

Feeding chickens at Helidon

Feeding chickens at Helidon

Now that I am about to be a chicken owner aka Queen Mother of Chickens (Princesses) my life is about to change. My awareness of chickens and their well-being has certainly escalated. It is therefore now time for ‘mea culpa’; confession and forgiveness. It is true, that in the past, I have bought caged eggs. I am sure God does not see this as a sin, I hope not, because I am now reformed. Surely that will remedy what would have been an uncertain future should I have had to account for my treatment of God’s creatures. Furthermore, I am making restitution for past sins by having my own chickens. They will be so happy with life, eating their accredited feed, foraging at other times of the day and enjoying dust baths and sunshine. Then my reward for treating them like Princesses is that they will gift me with free range eggs. They will even produce organic eggs as long as I give them feed that is certified organic.

Is having organic food for chickens taking the whole issue too far? I have two photographs of me as a toddler feeding my great grandmother’s chickens. I know for a fact my great grandmother’s chickens in Helidon were not feed organic food. But perhaps it was just as good. I remember as a child there was a bucket at the side of the wood stove where all the vegetable scraps, tea leaves and other scraps were placed. This is all great food for chickens. I think they mixed mash into this and voila, organic feed. With such memories it is no wonder that I have a fascination for chickens. To think that for years this was hidden under the stress and pressures of living in suburbia, working long hours and travelling a distance to work. It took a long time for me to unravel my thoughts about life and get back to basics. Back to where I can enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life; such as having chickens.

Feeding chickens in serious business

Feeding chickens is serious business

Not only is my dream about to be realised, parts of my life are beginning to intersect and overlap. That must be a sign that I am on the right track. One of the women in my knitting group has a niece who lives in England and is part of a group that rescues chickens after commercial farms are finished with them. Most of them are slaughtered however a few make their way into homes to recover. Due to the stress the chickens have experienced by being caged they become bald and sick. They are in need of warmth to recover and this comes in the form of knitted vests (it is true!). I have the pattern if some other like minded person wants to knit a vest for a chicken. The vests keep them warm until they grow new feathers. Something else I can knit and all for a good cause! Life is good!

My Life with Chickens

The Palace is ready for the Princesses

The Palace is ready for the Princesses

Almost finished!

Almost finished!

The Palace arrives in boxes

The Palace arrives in boxes

The site of the Palace

The site of the Palace


My life with chickens is now just around the corner. This has been a subject I have thought about and researched for years! I know all about the different breeds of chickens, the ones who are the most admired for their looks and the everyday chicks that lay lots of eggs. With all my knowledge I have chosen my favourites. I like the pure breeds. The Rhode Island Red is a breed that emerged in the 1890’s in the Rhode Island area of the USA (this is some old chook!). This breed is good for both laying eggs and for the table. They also lay lots of eggs, about 280 per year. Then there is the Ancona from the province of the same name in Italy. As I love all things Italian this breed is attractive to me. Then there is the Aracauna that originate from South America with their coloured eggs; the Barnevelder’s, a Dutch breed; the Light Sussex which similar to the Rhode Island Red was breed for a dual purpose of laying and for the table. I was told by a woman I met recently that the Light Sussex is the chicken that P&O serve on their cruises. It must be a very good table bird. The list of breeds goes on and on and then there are the Wyandotte. They are a very attractive bird and visually exceptional. I definitely will add these to my flock once I become more experienced. In the meantime I have decided as a ‘beginner’ to go for the hybrids; the chickens that lay well.

Why did I decide to do this? The reason is I have to recoup some of my outlay for the little princesses. The palace for my chickens (whom I will soon meet) cost more than 90 dozen eggs that is not counting the days it took BJ and I to put their ‘wee’ palace together. It took me a great deal of research before I moved forward on the purchase of the chicken house. I wanted a dwelling that I could walk into to replace food, water and clean. It came from NSW via China in a box, actually three boxes. After waiting so long for this dream of mine of having chickens to come to fruition I was over the moon when the boxes arrived. Then there was the exercise of putting it together. While laborious I did not wane in my enthusiasm. All I had to do was to continue to encourage my “one and only” who did so much of the handy work, such as using the electric drill (note to self: learn how to use an electric drill!). All together it was great fun as we worked on this project together. We discovered that the wire floor was just wire without a frame! More work to be done! We had to measure, cut the wire and then nail to the frame. To do this we had to put the frame together and then turn the entire chicken house upside down prior to completing and then attaching the roof. When we were placing the roof on we discovered that there was a major gap all around between the roof and walls. We then had to source timber and then cut to size to fill the gaps so that no predators/strangers could invade the ‘palace’. The gap extended to the chickens ‘rest room’ (their bedroom) and we decided rather than closing off the space entirely we would use some of the chicken wire so that there would be an air flow. This exercise of preparing the palace for the arrival of the princesses took about 4 days. But as we know, Rome was not built in a day. Eventually my ‘one and only’ found the last nail he had been looking for and the job was finished! I am still thinking of putting decking oil on the outside timber to ensure the dwelling lasts for years to come. This will happen before the girl princesses arrive of course.

Given that I am now responsible for princesses I had to buy all the other necessary furnishings and food for the first banquet. The responsibility was weighing heavy on my shoulders! I could not buy just any standard food for the banquet, it had to be Accredited Feed with all the vitamins the princesses need and would enjoy. Then I had to buy other food such as cracked corn for treats. Then there were the straw bales to purchase. When in town and without notice to my “one and only” I announced we have to pick up some straw bales. These were then transported in the boot of our sedan car and secured with an elastic strap. There we were with not a care in the world driving home as straw scattered all over the road! Fortunately we did not lose too much as any of it that came away from the bale was scattered in the boot! Scattered straws are taking on a whole new meaning for me! It took me about an hour to clean it up. Keeping in mind what I said earlier about the overall cost. The cost is adding up at a ridiculous rate. I rationalise the whole event that this is not just about having chickens to supply eggs; this is my new hobby in retirement and these princesses will be my new friends/pets. And so it goes on…..it won’t be long and I will soon get to bring the princesses home to their palace. I am sure with our love and care they will live happily ever after!