Spring Chicken

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.

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IMG_4069.JPG At this time of year, our friends, the chickens, can scratch around their favourite camellias and hide amongst the hellebores.

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IMG_4067.JPG There’s more to come as we are invited to step into each garden “room” to experience the colours of Spring.

IMG_2735.JPG I won’t be chicken and you’ll see me out in the garden more often.

New hatchlings!

My sister-in-law’s fantastic brown chook has done it again. This time she has managed to hatch one of our Plymouth Rock eggs.

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The chick with the white stripe on its head we expect is a Plymouth Rock from daddy Long John Silver and one of his girls.

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Mum and dad doing just fine!

Tea for two or three?

We have spent much time in our autumnal garden this Easter break. While last year I tried my hand at baking hot cross buns, this year I was not so adventurous.

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And I was quite pleased at the result….

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I had great intentions of baking a special Easter cake – a simnel cake perhaps, but all I could muster was a healthy muesli slice. Taking it into the garden for afternoon tea, I turned away for one second under the arbor to find one piece missing.

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You guessed it, stolen by a cheeky chicken.

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Others joined in quickly, including naughty Long John Silver, the rooster.

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Must have been tasty – even Whitey cat wanted some 🙂

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I hope you had a Happy Easter holiday.

I thought I saw a puddy tat – or was it a mouse?

We are experiencing a heat wave, not unusual for this part of the world in January. However, during this time some strange things are happening. Apart from our broody Plymouth Rock chook who has nestled down to nurture her potential chicks – it always amazes me that hens can exist almost trance-like for twenty- one days.

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We placed a small bowl of water near her just in case she got thirsty. She’s in a cool house.
The other chickens and Long John Silver, the feisty rooster, are searching for a cool place too.

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However, the strangest occurrence today happened this morning. Our oldest companion cat, Sarge, yes, he is quite a bossy cat, had to go to the Vet. After the consultation, I began to rummage through my handbag for a pen to write some instructions, I wondered what the furry thing was in my bag. Then it hit me, it was a little brown mouse. Shocked, I quickly closed the opening and declared to the vet and Colin, “There’s a mouse in my bag”! They both looked at me suspiciously.

Convinced, I wasn’t deranged, the vet took my handbag and after a few minutes returned with this
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He’s a carnivorous native mouse – Dasyurid Antechinus, a relative of the Tasmanian Devil – as the vet excitedly told us, as he pulled out a text book photo. We packed him in a little box and returned this little marsupial to the bushland on the Mount. I wondered why our little white cat, this morning was digging in my handbag. Poor mouse, just wanted to stay out of the heat. A tip, keep your handbags off the floor in summer!

Keep cool everyone,

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I guess ratty has the last laugh! LOL

Christmas Chicks

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.

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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.

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The Christmas story is one of simplicity and reverence – for life, for the wonder of discovery, the hope of the new and the love shown to God’s creatures, great and small.

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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.

Plymouth Rock Attack

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.

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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.

20130910-204312.jpg Colin used to pick him up all the time. But he got sick.

20130910-204515.jpg We took Pecker to the Vet (his name was the source of some amusement!) and nursed him in the laundry out of the cold. But we lost him last November.

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.

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We modernised our current chicken house for them.

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So here they are, the current clutch, led by the beautiful Long John Silver.

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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?

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But we still love him. If you have any advice on how to manage a volatile rooster, please let me know!

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A Very Hot Day

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.

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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.

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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.

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The sun room has now been dubbed the hot house inferno!

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Much to their disgust, the brown chooks now have to share their lodgings with Psycho, the rooster.

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Thankfully, we had this nifty chicken carrier to make the job easier. All we have to do now is pray for rain and relieve us of this scorching heat.

Our New Year Plymouth Rocks

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.

20130101-222059.jpg After taking a wrong turn we arrived at City Chicks.

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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.

20130101-222350.jpg I wanted one of each!

20130101-222447.jpg The platinum Sussex.

20130101-222530.jpg Our four new additions are twelve weeks old and still a little too young to join the big girls.

20130101-222652.jpg Very cute!

20130101-222754.jpg The new chicken house has been introduced to the old girls but this will have to wait for another post after we lay some new hay!

20130101-223119.jpg 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!

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Pecker’s Christmas Present

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.

20121226-155139.jpg I tried my hand at gingerbread stars!

20121226-155238.jpg 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.

20121226-160216.jpg He now sits on my winter wood heater.

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I guess the most enjoyable part of Christmas is in the giving. I loved giving goodies from my kitchen to my neighbours…

20121226-161459.jpg 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.

20121226-164126.jpg 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.

The New Chicken House

As we continue to feel sorry for our Pecker, the Plymouth Rock rooster, we have plunged ourselves into working on the new chicken house. For many years we admired our neighbour’s little cubby which was built for their young daughters’ guinea pigs. His girls are now in their twenties and the house now has a new owner with new ideas for his garden. It was with much delight that we were informed that he no longer wanted the little house.

20121106-201451.jpg A working team was assembled to remove and reconstruct.

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20121106-202749.jpg While the workers dismantled, it was clear that somebody – me – needed to provide food for these hungry builders. The day called for a hearty spinach lasagne, a large salad and perhaps a crisp white wine. The weather is warming up quite nicely but it is still cool enough at night for a substantial meal.

20121106-203357.jpg Now we have the walls and floor stacked up like dominoes and the tin roof nestled under the lilac tree. The remaining chickens scratch and scrape round it and this afternoon’s view from the back deck summons us to dinner after a hectic day’s work.

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