Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Jan 2018 planning

planting plan
-Onions and parsnips in the centre of the central bed, particularly once the chickens are moved off
-Melons and cukes along the fenceline (all fencelines) and in the front garden
-Tomatoes & zucchini and eggplant along the path edge
-Flowers/herbs/ along the path edge and the fenceline (comfrey in particular?)
-Side boxes: melons and cukes up the back, vegies up the front?
-Vege pod: tomatoes, zucch, eggplant in here, too – anything else?

To Do:
-Current chook station: Put up the wicker screen against the current chook station for the crazy hot days, brick it and wire it fast.
-next Chook Station: failed top garden space (zucch, corn, cukes, lettuce asp) – the centre bed ones are probably best for the really hot summer days. Scatter spare seeds of any type?
-Automatic Chook Door installation (Tuesday PM?)

need more compostables
-Coffee grounds
-Vege matter
-Woodchips as pathway (dig out the grass, put the chips down – at least until we can get some sawdust down)
-Horse manure/compost (Ingleside, if going to St Ives for honey/Davidson plums)
-Rabbit straw (Berowra)
-Sawdust

state of the chooks:

Garden January 2018
It's been so crazy hot that I've set up a shade over the coop so they have somewhere to retreat from the heat.
Garden January 2018

Friday, December 29, 2017

Hainan: a chook perspective [guest post]

Hi! I'm Hainan the Leghorn, and I'll be taking you on a tour of the garden I live in today...

Garden late December 2017

The first picture there is me (aren't I pretty?) with my companion Honey Soy, an Isa Brown, in the background.

Here's a better one of Honey:
Garden late December 2017

We run around in a moveable chook 'tractor' which we scratch around in most of the day, connected to our coop/house by a series of tunnels:
November 2017

Our chook tractor is made without a bottom so we can dig up the soil. Our droppings combine with the straw and other clippings that are tossed in, and they fertilise the ground which can then be planted out with seedlings.

Here you can see the patches which have been planted out - the first one with corn and tomatoes, the second one with corn and pumpkin, and the third one waiting. We're not allowed into the planted out patches, which is really unfair! I love sitting on a plant and scratching it into submission while pecking at the leaves and destroying the plant! It's one of my favourite things to do when I escape!
Garden late December 2017

This bed, with the corn, cucumbers, and tomatoes, is the first bed that Honey and I were set to scratch out - look how well it's doing after around 6 weeks!
Garden late December 2017

More corn, and pumpkins. Although, as chooks, we're supposed to love pumpkin seeds, Mummy tossed us a whole heap of seeds and we didn't end up eating them! So they lay in the compost until our chook tractor moved on to the next bed, and then they sprouted. But Mummy is keeping them. (Maybe she shouldn't keep quite so many of them - one vine grows quite long!)
Garden late December 2017

And this is what a garden bed looks like after the chicken tractor is moved off:
Garden late December 2017

Lots of space for planting things!

At night we get locked up in the coop away from cats and foxes and other urban predators, and in the morning we lay eggs and make very noisy clucking sounds to let everyone know what we've done! It's a hard-knock life for a chook.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

more chooks

How much happens in only a matter of weeks!

The girls are still with us, still scratching away, a lot bigger.

We had a dip in egg production for a while - Hainan laid three eggs - one with a weird 'soft' shell, one that came out crushed and bloody, and one that was normal. And then she stopped. And Honey stopped egg production, too. For about a week, I was worried at first that they were egg bound, and then I was worried that Hainan had torn something up inside her laying that broken egg, and then I was worried that I'd hurt them or injured them while checking that they weren't egg-bound...

The local vet where we take our cats was very helpful. Right in the middle of fretting about it, I called the vet and the tech there was so helpful and lovely and encouraging. I needed that - to know I wasn't a failure at chook management. So I'm feeling a bit better about it all now...

Anyway, we got back into egg production about three days ago, and yesterday we had a breakthrough: TWO EGGS! (Okay, so one was weird and long and was shaped like those really smooth river/sea stones, but still...an egg!) Hopefully we'll see another two today. They've sure been swallowing the curl grubs down something fierce...

They sat on the 2nd bed for 2 weeks, happily picking and scratching and grumping and clucking back and forth, although I think at the end of the two weeks they were getting a little bit bored with the space - I haven't managed to grow much inside or around the cages as yet, you see. So it's a bit of a wasteland beyond grass and dirt and the mulch I throw in semi-regularly.

November 2017

So I moved them on from the 2nd bed on Sunday, but I've found the grass isn't as torn up as I'd like, and I'm thinking I probably should have left it there for three weeks at a time, rather than the standard two. But what's going in there will mostly be corn and beans and cucumber and fruiting vegetables.

One of the things about the chook run/pen is that it's pretty small and rather low. It's not easy to climb into and fix things, and it felt kind of poky. So I added another 'level' to it.

Behold Casa de Chook, now about 1.5m tall, with a lot more airspace (even if no more floorspace) and the potential for perches and wing flapping! I can also climb into it without catching on anything, which will be a relief. Fewer scratches (we hope)!

December 2017

I finished it just last night, and while it does need a little more work on it to neaten things up, I'm pretty happy with it right now...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

chickens, setup, and bed prep

One of the principles of permaculture is review and redesign as necessary.

It's been six weeks since we got the chickens and while they're a PITA to have to wake up and feed first thing in the morning, they're terribly cute, excellent garbage disposal, and destroying the grass at a wonderful rate!

My desire for chooks originally stems from Linda Woodrow's 'Permaculture Kitchen Garden' in which she keeps the chickens in the garden , preferably among the fruit trees to deal with the fruit flies and other nasties. And so, that's always really been my goal. The problem the coop that we got the chickens with hasn't exactly been very moveable. It's large and heavy (solid timber) and in spite of the wheels, it's not very moveable across uneven ground. Plus, there's wire across the bottom of the coop, so they can't actually scratch up the ground, dust bathe, or dig for worms. Very frustrating.

Chooks

Also, while I let the girls just forage through the garden for a couple of weeks, my vegie garden was showing signs of exhaustion. Plus, Hainan has a habit of climbing onto a plant and basically scratching it to death. (Ever seen a chicken use a bush as a scratching pole? Seriously.) So I knew that sooner or later I was going to have to come up with a longer-term solution or I wouldn't have a veggie garden.

Cue the creation of a mobile chook pen (not coop) in which I put the girls during the day, locking them back in the coop at night so as to be safe from urban predators. (Cats, mostly, possibly dogs and urban foxes.) I've picked a spot in the shadiest corner of the garden for summer, and in winter, I'll put them either back where they started, or possibly up on the porch step, facing out into the garden. I'll decide once winter gets here - it's another six months yet!

So right now, the coop is here in the north western corner of the garden, almost right up against the house:
Chicken run

The pen, meanwhile, is in the sunniest spot in the yard, where I want to grow the productive fruiting annuals: corn, tomatoes, cucumber, etc:
Chicken run

And a wire tunnel joins the two, which I fashioned myself. I really need to refine it better (and make it neater) because the tunnel edges are kind of scratchy and they don't fit together very well. Right now, when I want to move tunnel pieces around, it's a bit of a production. The tunnel needs better modularity, and possibly some flexibility for getting across the yard...

And, of course, as always happens when wire is involved, there are war wounds...
Garden with chooks

Ultimately, I fear the wire is winning!

But the chooks seem pretty happy - the enclosed pen has some old vines I tossed over, and a plastic mat that serves as a shade against the hot midday sun. And I toss them the scraps to eat and scratch around. And they've happily dug out and mulched the area I want to plant out tomorrow! EXCELLENT!

I put them in a penned area yesterday with a few older plants, and Hainan rewarded herself by climbing the brussel sprout and trying to scratch it dead. On the other hand, they did find a few curl grubs and peck/bash hem dead. (They don't like the big ones, just the smaller ones which they can swallow whole.)

This is a picture of Hainan trying to kill the brussel sprout, while Honey digs for curl grubs:
Garden with chooks

As you can see, Hainan knows how to go about it.

We've started getting eggs - most likely from Honey. The first one was teeny tiny:
Garden with chooks

That's so small, it fits between the 2" wire gaps in the base of the coop!

Comparison with some other eggs.
Garden with chooks
Left is Honey's 1st egg, centre is an egg from a friend's home-ranged chickens who've been laying for nearly a year now, and the last is a commercial size.

She's produced nearly one every day for the last week, except for Monday. And we lost the one on Thursday, because I think she laid it while perching and then someone stepped down onto it, breaking the shell...

We eagerly await the day we discover two eggs in the coop!

Anyway, this morning, I moved the pen over, and the space beneath is pretty much ready for growing (I had to dig up some of the grass - the girls hadn't dug quite deep enough to pull out the runners):
Chooks in garden.

Tomorrow is the installation of an irrigation system, and planting/planting out day, particularly the perennials that I'm growing between the coop stations.

Monday, October 23, 2017

pics of the chicks

Hainan and Honey Soy. (My sister named them!)

Chooks

I don't like the coop much, but working out something smaller and lighter in its place is going to be difficult. I definitely want a chook tractor, but the designs I've seen are very solid and therefore rather heavy. I want something that can be moved around the yard - but it's not a large yard, either!

Anyway, I'm still working out their personalities - and I think they're working out their pecking order. Honey tends to be the first into the feeder, and she hogs it something terrible when I hang it up, but Hainan seems to like prodding Honey - 'scaring' her, so Honey flaps away, or (when it comes to roosting time) climbing all over Honey until Honey gets off the perch and gets back up again. It's this big jostle-and-flutter on the perch, and somewhat amusing from a human perspective.

Chooks

I'm contemplating a 'fixed coop' with a moveable dome, but then, where should the fixed coop go? The backyard is about 6m x 8m - about large enough to swing a cat - and honestly, I want most of it for garden space!

At least the biggest danger to them will be the local cats. Not ours who are kept indoors, but the free-ranging, wandering cats who are about the neighbourhood - at least two, maybe three. There are dogs in the neighbourhood but they're all walked on leashes and it's our backyard. There may be urban foxes, but the chooks are mostly in the coop all day, except for when I let them out to free-range. Not sure about rats, but if we have free-ranging cats in the neighbourhood, then they'll probably deal with the rats. (Plus, our cats may be in the house, but their scent is probably on the underside of the house which is the most likely place for rats to try to make home. At some point, I'm going to need to make some fencing/gates so the chooks can't easily get out without going up. Their wings aren't clipped, but they're not instinctive flyers.

Chooks

Also, I need more fencing for seedlings! Luckily most of the summer seedlings I've got in the ground have pots around and over them. But the chooks have happily dug up the 'centre bed' which mostly housed the wintervege and coriander-gone-to-seed (coriander did AMAZINGLY in my garden this season, which resulted in my sister putting a chunk in the curry - and I do mean A CHUNK. As in, I forked up a bit of green...which turned out to be a lot of green, like an iceberg of coriander, with only the tip showing in the curry sauce...) I need to start collecting that seed, btw. So many things to do, so little time...

Thursday, October 19, 2017

we have chooked-off!

The chooks have arrived!

They arrived on Thursday, bought from and delivered by the very helpful guys at Rentachook, and are set up in their fully-enclosed chook tractor. There are just two of them, one brown, one white and my sister has already named them (respectively) ‘Honey’ and ‘Hainan’. *facepalm*

The coop is perhaps a little larger than I anticipated, which means less chook stations. Also, there’s going to be rather more ‘dead edge’ in the space under the chook tractor since the chooks don’t really go all the way into the low corners, which is going to make those weedy edges just a touch tricksy… Ah well, I guess we’ll see how the first ‘rotation’ goes.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

chooks in the garden

One step closer to chooks in the garden! They’re being delivered on Thursday morning, which means I need to work out where they’re going to go to start the rotation. (and, perhaps, to deal with the fruit flies and slugs!)

I have some planned-out chook stations, which I think will need to be better considered once the coop is actually in the garden and I have the size and scope of it all. In a circumstance that slightly complicates things, I planted out one of the beds on the weekends, and the growing period is nearly upon us (from Saturday for 10 days). It’s also the bed that has the most slugs in it, thanks to the leaf litter that I dumped on it a week ago.

The plus side of parentals moving: they’re not going to need all the mulch they’ve been making for the last couple of years. And I am going to be quite shameless about co-opting it for my garden, thank you!

(Which means woodchips for the paths, I guess. Luckily there’s no shortage of those around the place...)

The fruit trees are being...interesting this year:
all the Nectarines: fruiting really heavily but also fruit fly invasions
all the Peaches: doing pretty well thank you
Apricots: NOPED RIGHT OUTTA HERE
Plums: WHAT ARE EVEN FRUIT
Cherries: *waves a couple of fruit lazily*
Avocados: Three are 'fruit, what fruit?' and one is "I'm givin' her all I can, Gardener!"
Apples: One is "wait, I'm supposed to do WHAT?" Two are "...Oh wait, you want fruit? Come back to us in a month..."
Citrus: "yeah, yeah, we have flowers, talk to us in autumn"
Fig: "you put me in the ground three months ago and you want WHAT?:
Established Passionfruit: "HAHA I'M WILD, I DON'T ACTUALLY FRUIT IN SPITE OF PUTTING OUT REAMS OF FLOWERS"
Still in tubes Passionfruit: "PUT US IN THE GROUND AND LET US GROOW, LET US GROOOOW CAN'T HOLD US DOWN ANYMOOOOORRREEE!"
Sultana Grapes: "Hey, I got leaves, don't ask for more this year!"
Red Seedless Grapes: *dead*

I do wish I'd gotten the chickens a few months earlier, though.