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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Backyard Chickens

My Chickens are very happy in the backyard. They have their own new shed and their own scratch garden with plenty of shelter. They also get into my flower garden for three or four hours most days. They are great workers, turning over the topsoil, and keeping insects and weeds down.


Bantams, Chooks and Chickens

My chickens are bantams, that is, they are a small variety of the normal size chooks. Normal sized chooks are called standard. In days past chickens were always referred to as chooks. Chickens were their babies, those cute little fluffy balls that grow up too quickly. Today it is fashionable to refer to your chooks as chickens, no matter how old they are. 

Chickens or chooks belong to a group of domesticated egg laying birds called poultry. So it is more correct to say that you keep poultry. Other members of the poultry family are ducks, geese and turkeys.

Hens and Pullets

Adult female chooks are called hens. Young hens from six to twelve months are called pullets. Pullets start laying from six months old. Their eggs are much smaller that an egg from an adult hen.

Words for the Chook Shed

Male chooks are called roosters or cocks. Young roosters are called cockerels. So we have
  • chickens
  • pullets
  • chooks
  • hens
  • poultry
  • roosters
  • cocks
  • cockerels 
  • bantams
  • ducks
  • geese
  • turkeys
Whatever the name, they are fun to have in the garden. They are great to clean up your scraps of leftover food. They will thank you each time you give them old lettuce leaves. I often collect the leaves that are cut off the lettuce at the supermarket. The hens love these.  

 

Creatures of Habit

Hens are creatures of habit and in my observation they also seem to have a short memory.

My chicken shed has two doors, one for me and one for the chickens. They have never tried to go in or out of my door. This makes it a lot easier when you are going into their shed with your hands full and trying to stop the chickens from getting out with your feet at the same time. I know because I did this with their old pen for fifteen years. 

When I go to open their little shed door, they are lined up waiting to get out. They also know that they are only allowed into their garden at first. They are not allowed to rush out into my garden, otherwise I would have chickens all around my feet and they might trip me up.

After they have had a scratch in their garden for a couple of hours, then they are allowed into my garden to continue their work there. 

I have moved my hens to a few different sheds recently. I am always worried that they will go back to their old shed when I let them out. To avert this, I keep them locked in their new shed for a couple of weeks so they don't get into the garden. In the evening, they have always gone back to roost in their new shed. They only seem to have short term memories. 

Fertilizer

Chickens are a great source of fertilizer for the garden. They add this to the garden as they go about doing their work. The soil in their shed is also good to sprinkle over the vegetable garden or around the roses and flowers to add extra nutrients to the soil. The most concentrated source on manure is from under their night time perches. Once this is well dried it is a powerful nutrient for the soil.