I’m not sure why this blog has been silent for six weeks, but I do know that in the blogging world, that’s too long. Maybe it’s been the short winter days, some busy weekends or maybe I’ve been chicken or just plain lazy but I’m back to chronicle our garden’s ever changing moods, here on the Mount. I’ll begin by reintroducing you to our chickens – our particular Plymouth Rocks – Long John Silver, his four girls and their Isa Brown and Australorp friends.
Sorry if the title misleads you, but after ten years of having chickens here on the Mount, we have never had success in raising chicks. Even now that we have Long John Silver, our Plymouth Rock Rooster, so aptly named by Colin for his long legs and silver plumage, we have had no success. Maybe it’s the cold, or the fact that our hens don’t get broody for some reason. I don’t know why, really. Long John Silver seems to be doing his best, but the girls are not clucky.
On the other hand, my mother-in-law, Esther and sister-in-law, Maree have always inspired me to tackle the impossible. They do just this – not once in a while, but every day. From sewing, upholstering, inventing and solving intricate problems, they have taught me to give it a go. My mother-in-law has raised many chicks, chickens, peacocks, parrots, ducks and pheasants and nursed and nurtured them in the cold and in the heat. So when she gave four hens to Maree a couple of months ago, little did we know that new life would hatch so quickly. Just today, her broody chicken, Naomi, patiently sitting on four “borrowed” eggs and hand fed by Maree during the incubation delivered her brood. They are the Christmas Chicks – the miracle of new life; the wonderful parallel to the waiting and watching which we commemorate at His birth.
May we not dismiss the fragility of life, the deep care we show for each other, echoed in the most basic of all stories – that of a simple birth witnessed by those simple creatures long, long ago. Merry Christmas – let’s take a moment to appreciate what we all have.
Recently I have been thinking about updating you on the happenings in our “chicken world”. My last post alluded to our duties as chicken owners – weekly chores, feeding rituals and the joy and companionship of chickens.
We currently have seven chickens and one rooster. Mainly Plymouth Rocks, either dark or light barred. They are a beautiful American breed, docile, friendly, albeit slow to grow – we have had our latest batch since January and they have only just come into lay during the winter. Plymouth Rocks do well in a cold climate and here, up on the Mount, it can get to below zero. They survive very well.
Since we received our first Plymouth Rock Rooster, Book-Book, we have had a rather traumatic time looking after our beloved roosters.
Poor Book-Book was taken by a fox one Saturday morning right under our very noses, two years ago. He was a magnificent boy who protected his girls and paid the ultimate price.
With much sadness and anxiety, we sought to replace him. This time we rescued another Plymouth Rock who had been locked up for most of his life. He loved it here on the Mount staggering about in Dick Emery style- shaking his leg to one side. He was quite hilarious to watch.
We waited to see if we could exist without a rooster. By January we could no longer do without one. Venturing far and wide, we finally found a breeder and homeward bound we went with a trio – a rooster and two hens. These little chickens took a long time to grow.
Then it happened. As Colin filled their feed tin this afternoon, Long John Silver lurched and jumped at him! Swung round and attacked again. I could hear him calling out – Colin that is! Our beautiful boy has turned into a nasty teenager! Will he grow out of it?
This week end, while I endeavoured to complete my weekly rituals of checking the chicken house, scrubbing their water trough, replenishing the water and reorganising the straw, I sat for a moment to give a little thanks. I say ritual because these repeated acts, like a garden itself, gives me a sense of order and gratitude. Once completed, I can move on to the other areas of my day in need of attention.
This week end, though, I stopped for a lengthier time to notice how many colour combinations had appeared in the garden. There were too many to commit to one post, so I am compiling them into themes. Today’s snapshot theme is yellow – all that is pale, primrose, amber, golden or creamy has a special place in this post. So, let the show begin….
With all its simplicity in a complicated world, let us give thanks for gardens in all seasons – they are the rituals that soothe our souls.
How does your garden grow – is it a metaphor for how you live?
Out little blue chook house has finally opened for business. It has take us a little longer than anticipated to lodge the girls (and a couple of boys!) in the new structure. Constantly looking for improvements, Colin decided to put in a ramp to connect the old enclosure to the new blue house.
Then there was the matter of enticing the chickens up the ramp! A little bit of hands on coaxing was needed. The Plymouth Rock youngsters were the first to find their way in and establish their places. The old Isa browns had to be helped up into the loft but once there were as happy as “chickens in a loft”.
On the other hand, the older Plymouth Rock girls are the most reticent and sceptical of the lot. Colin needed to show them where to perch after finding a nice two metre branch to wedge in place in the house. For the last three nights he had to bring them into the blue house and position them on the perch. On a positive note they are placid and do not peck the little chooks.
Meanwhile, there was still the problem of how to protect the old wooden floor of the house. We eventually decided to lay a rubberised matting to offer some barrier between the wood and the inevitable droppings. Sarge, our old cat always needs to inspect for quality assurance!
After some research, I decided to make my own special blend of litter. I mixed equal parts of straw, dried leaf litter and sterilised wood shavings and spread it evenly on the floor. The images speak for themselves.
Now, after enclosing their run in heavy duty rabbit fencing – we have had a number of fox attacks recently – we can finally breath a sigh of relief that they are all safe, warm and happy. The little blue chicken house has been dubbed the House of Rock – Plymouth Rock, that is.
The weather bureau has forecast a day of extreme fire danger today. The thermometer is due to rise to around 40 degrees C. Such are our summers on the mountain and indeed in the southern quarter of Australia. The risk of a bush fire is a real possibility in the months of January and February. We have been very fortunate the last few summers with lots of rain both prior and during the summer months. Not so this season. No rain has fallen for nearly four weeks and this is cause for concern. Having spent many days watering to give the garden a head start, the heat is now upon us.
As we are due to go away for our anniversary all of next week and with more hot weather to come we have made a decision to transport the baby chickies and our adult girls to a safer location just in case, about thirty kilometres to caring relatives.
This will have a twofold purpose. Firstly, it will allow the young Plymouth Rocks to assimilate with their older sisters. I actually saw them “kissing” through the wire cage the other day.Secondly, it will relieve my neighbours from their very generous offers to feed them each day in our absence. Given the extremes in weather at the moment, I will be comforted that at least I will not need to worry about the chickens while we are away.
We have been wanting to add to our Plymouth Rock chicken family and so a few days ago, just after the business of Christmas ended, Colin and I took off in the old ute to collect our four new additions. We had to travel two hours to Elmore and City Chicks who had just what we were looking for.
Gorgeous wide open space just out of Bendigo.
There were hundreds to lovey chicks to choose from including a platinum Sussex, very special. But we had our eyes in some dark or light barred Plymouth Rocks and Jane, who runs City Chicks was more than helpful in our endeavour.
Meanwhile our little chickens (two boys and two girls) have been kept separate in their new hutch and little run. The weather has been superb, warm days and cool nights. They have been eating lots of kitchen scraps as well as their special gritty meal. We can see them growing right before our very eyes. Happy New Year everyone!
With Christmas well and truly out of the way, it’s back to the garden and the chicken house. Our Christmas was wonderful with family and friends gathered together. Daughter Number One came down from the sub- tropics to join us and brought with her a delightful bronze rooster. We consumed too much lunch and lots of sweets.
A selection of sweets – I have such a “sweet tooth” – Mango and Passionfruit Pavlova, Summer Pudding, Chocolate Pear Tart, fresh fruit and a delicious Plum Pudding with Brandy Custard were served. The chickens didn’t have too many of these leftovers!
One of my early gifts this Christmas was from Daughter Number Two (I am not much into gifts really) but this was a garden rooster in memory of Pecker who died six weeks ago – a Sad Day post. He is made of tin and shows off fancy tail feathers. He came wrapped in a hessian blanket – just like the one we placed over Pecker to keep him warm.
I made these to celebrate each of our little houses in the bush.
I hope you had a peaceful Christmas. It can bring out the best and the worst in people but it really is a time to stop and take stock of those who are with us and those who have gone before us. This year many of us have been touched in one way or another by loss – for us it was our beloved rooster Pecker. But we cannot be untouched by the unspeakable losses in Connecticut just before Christmas. We must mourn for these poor souls and for their families. Additionally, we must also care for our animals, our elderly, our earth and our selves. Above all else let us try to reflect on what is most important to us as humans, as stewards of our earth.
May we use the tools of our hands to benefit others and bring joy and warmth. Pecker’s Christmas Present is for all those who commemorate the simple life and for those who have left our lives but whom we remember with much joy.
Today we are close to completing the interior of the little blue, chicken house. I can now stand inside and look out of the three little windows which are lined with fly screening. The chicken house is nestled under large trees and therefore is really cool inside given that today’s temperature has just reached 36 degrees! The little house is what I imagine a Virginian cabin in the woods would seem like – will have to revisit “The Waltons”!
Colin decided to create multi storied levels for the girls including an attic. They really love to climb upwards. The orange chicken tubs are secured in place on a ledge. Houdini chicken has already tried them out – maybe she likes the colour! We still have a few more things to do like lay some rubberised matting on the wood floor and some straw for the nesting boxes and find a way for them to climb up to the attic – maybe a walkway to the roosting area. I welcome you thoughts and any ideas we might be able to incorporate. Let’s hope we can finish it for Christmas!