Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Chook Cottage and It's New Residents

The chook cage is finally finished, the chooks in residence...they have been for several weeks but between being sick, tired, finishing study, and starting a new job, I realised tonight that I have yet to introduce you to my 'girls' or their new abode. 

So let's start at the beginning:

Two days before we were due to collect our chickens, I finished their cage.  My amazing Dad came and picked it up with his truck.  Boyo helped.  Munchkin and I supervised.  It was all very exciting!  Carried down our drive, hoisted onto the truck, it's pristine white glimmering in the sun, it looked fit for a queen!  Or three!

Transporting the finished cage to it's new home!

On the garden bed, ready for the chickens!

On Saturday, November 5th, we went and picked up our chooks.  A few folks were rather surprised that we went all the way to Ngatea to get them.  That's an hour and a half from Tauranga.  But the thing is, while we have breeders locally, I couldn't find someone with the birds I wanted, and the level of knowledge that would inspire me to the belief that the birds I got would indeed exhibit characteristics of their breed.  Plus we just decided to turn it into a fun outing (we being Mum and I). 

So many chicks!

Precious Poultry is the place we went to.  They have such a lot of different breeds and it was fascinating talking with the breeder there about chooks, genetics, and egg laying.  I now know that the biggest issue with backyard chooks not laying well is overfeeding, particularly when they are just coming into lay!  Fat chookies equal lazy layers!  Not that you'd know they are fat, as chooks are amazing at only eating what they need, but none the less we are meant to go a bit lean on the food early in their laying lives if we want good eggs.  Which we do.  Also, if you want good gene characteristics, such as egg laying, then the male line is as important as the female.  So you might hatch from a good layer, but not get good laying pullets because their dad's mum (so their paternal grandma!) was not a good layer.  Dad needs an egg-o-matic mother too!  All really fascinating stuff.
Bantam Sussex - aren't they gorgeous!?

I found another breed I want to get.  They are Bantam Sussex.  All the markings from a Sussex but tiny in comparison.  I loved my Sussex but they sure ate a lot and didn't produce many eggs.  These little girls apparently produce around 180 eggs a year.  Not a lot, but not too bad.  I'm hoping for 200-250 a year from mine.  But the trick here is that these little ladies only eat about 50g of feed per day and produce a size 6 egg.  Most egg laying chooks will eat 100-130g per day.  And a size 6 egg is really quite reasonable, not a piddling little bantam egg by any means.  I have had to admit to my husband that I am obsessed with chooks.  Not that he didn't already realise.

Here are my girls when we finally got them settled into their new house (after realising that at 6weeks old they weren't quite up to perching on the roosts and finding a few available boxes to shelter them!).  We were worried about the little brown one, she didn't travel so well, but picked up the following afternoon and has been perky ever since.

Barnevelder on left, black Australorp on right, meant-to-be-New-Hampshire-Red but probably isn't in the front!

Here are my parent's three, though not a good photo sorry (they are a little bit skitish, especially when a small boy keeps banging on their cage!).

Three New Hampshire Reds looking very tiny in their new home - see how rusty red their feathers are?  My one is more tan than rusty red, and is much bigger than they are too!

The chickens have all settled in well.  So far, the New Hampshires seem a bit more skitish than my lot, and also eat less.  My Barnevelder is the friendliest of the lot, especially if you happen to be carrying green things for her to eat!  They all had a lovely meal of worm-farm worms the other day.  It was rather amusing watching the antics of baby chickens trying to work out how to get wriggling worms in small, unskilled beaks!  All the chookies are now roosting on their own.  The New Hampshires had to be 'put to bed' every night for a couple of weeks as they originally insisted in sleeping in the dirt in the corner of their cage.  Outside.  The rungs on my cage's ladder are already falling off everywhere so I will need to fix that.  Grr.  Just when I thought all the work was over. 

At eight weeks old - two weeks after we got them!

They are growing so fast, some days I could swear they grew overnight!  Loving having chooks again, I do miss having them at my house (they are on the Big Garden at my parents) but I feel really blessed to have them.  Munchkin already knows how to feed them.  Although he does insist on holding one small piece of grain at a time, and dropping it through the wire on the side of the cage.  Adorable.

So, any ideas for names?  My last chooks were named for flowers: Mayberry, Rose, Pollyanthus, and Primula.  Haven't thought of any for these ones yet.



MaxineD said...

Hmm how about spring (nearest the camera) Summer, the darkest, and Autumn?

Elizabeth said...

Looks awesome Amy - shame about the ladder.