Monday, April 16, 2012

:: The Chicken Diaries :: Our Daily Routine ::

Can you believe it has been almost 7 months since we finally got our chooks, and that they used to look like this?! Well, we are still so glad that we got backyard chooks. I thought I would update how easy it is to take care of them, as that was one of my concerns when we were debating when to get chooks.

They are easy enough to care for, this is the usual daily routine. Each morning, we take them food scraps, usually bread or toast scraps, which have been soaked briefly in the kids leftover cereal milk. We check for eggs then too (though they usually lay later on in the morning) but no other care or maintenance then, as I am usually off to do school drop off, or go to work. Then later on, after school drop off and my second cup of tea (about mid-morning), I let them out and sort their tractor out. If I am at work, The Bowhunter does it in his lunch break (he works from home). The three chooks often get a second period of outside time later on in the afternoon too, though now daylight savings is over, and cold, dark afternoons are coming, they may not happen much!

When they are let out, they free range in our yard, foraging about & eating weeds, grass and bugs. They have dust baths (often on top of each other, with Princess Layer spending the most time rolling in the dirt, kicking it all over herself), and they follow us around at times too. They do get into garden beds (esp. the ground level beds, but Tweet Tweet will jump up into the raised wicking worm beds too), to nibble greens or dust bathe, but as we have no chook barriers (or a permanent chook run) we keep a close eye on them, before they decimate any seedlings or plants. Also, there is a neighbours cat which is occasionally out in their backyard, which comes over to have a go at the chooks, so we always have a close eye on the chooks. The odd time the cat has come, we return it to it's yard, and put the chooks back in their tractor. The chooks will wander around, walking up on the patio/ pathways, and leaving poo everywhere! It's not such a problem, we all have outside 'chook poo' shoes, and we warn visitors where not to walk, or to look out for poo. When we build a secure, more permanent chook run, these won't be issues!

While they are having 'outside time', I move the chook tractor along a long strip area of grass that we are using. I check for eggs, and we get about 2 to 3 a day. Then using the hose nearby, I clean and refill their water containers. Every second or third day, I pooper-scoop the roosting area of the chook tractor, which has a good layer of wood shavings in it. I use a kitty litter scoop, then toss the poo into garden beds (which don't have little seedlings in them, as the 'raw' poo could burn them). About once a fortnight, when I've let the poo in the roosting area build up for a few days, I get an old shovel and do a big scoop of the dried pooey wood shavings. This goes into the compost bin. Occasionally, like when they stayed in the chook motel while we were away, or when a soaking rain has wet the wood shavings, I empty the whole area out and replace the wood shavings in the whole area and nest boxes, with a good hosing, if need be.

When I need them to go back in, I put their grain mix inside their chook tractor floor, on an old plastic frisbee. They get just a few cups each day between them. The reason we put in on the frisbee, is that they broke the hooks on the feeder tubes we bought with the chook tractor, the little buggers. When we started them on the layer mix, instead of growing pellets they had been having, they were trying to scratch in the 'mouth' of the feeders, to get to the good stuff! They seem to love the sunflower seeds, and the rest was pretty much being discarded on the floor. The frisbee means less is wasted, somehow. I think they can see the sunflower seeds and eat those first, then later on, they eat the rest. We still have some of the growing pellets in one of the feed containers in there, but they ignore it. They hold out until their 'favourite food' gets dished out. We generally don't give it to them, though, until they've free ranged a while, or eaten scraps first. When I want them to go back in, I call them, 'Here Chook Chook', and tap the tractor to make a noise, and call out 'favourite food'. They usually come running, esp. if they see their sister take off, the others soon follow. I also put other food scraps, like tomatoes or greens, or cut them some comfrey or beetroot leaves or even kefir at times.

If I needed to do it all quickly, without much 'free ranging' time, it would take less than 10 minutes, with about the same amount of time being spent trying to herd them back in!