Thursday, January 7, 2016

Coop business

With all the hullabaloo normally surrounding Christmas and New Years, it took seven days into the new year, to give our chickens (plus their coop) a new start too. Here is our first, Hilltop, chicken coop, update for the year.

Freshly mulched

David purchased a bale of lurcerne, which I was able to spread around the floor today. I attempted to rake the ground flat, then decided it was too much work. Once I got the mulch down however, you couldn't tell the dips from the ruts!

The hens will most likely scratch it over and mess it all up again, but that's a chickens' life for you.

Helping hands - er, wheels

The process of lugging materials up hill and loading them into the coop however, were made decidedly easier, with the help of our truck/dolly/trolley, or whatever you want to call them. Love this piece of equipment - levers with wheels, what will they think of next?

The new coop renovations I started back in 2014, enabled me to wheel materials into the coop (yay) instead of having to lug them over a step. Believe me when I say, my back and I, don't regret those renovations, one bit. 

Nests x 2

Then there were the nests to attend to. Since the new hens became acclimatised to using their roost at bedtime - or rather, I had to convince the older hens not to boot them off - I hadn't found manure in the nests every day. Subsequently, I didn't have to scoop them out any more, or bring new sawdust to top the nests up regularly.

So they got rather bare, over several months of neglect...

Wait your turn ladies

Needless to say, when I filled the nests this morning, there was a line to inspect everything was in order. Our hens rewarded us with three eggs in the morning. Thank you, ladies. You're doing a fantastic job, being chickens!

It was a rather warm day today, though. I noticed, because I was closer to the roofing iron than the chickens were. Some where panting a little. At least I have the benefit of sweating to cool down. This coop is always a work in progress, so we've got plans to help reduce climate extremes, as we can get to them.

C'est la vie, chokos

This was how we created cooling, before we roofed the entire coop. We grew glorious choko vines, over a small portion of the top. It was fantastically cool!

Changing the roof design however, meant we had to change how we cooled the coop. We are still experimenting and developing our design, but our new measures are still making a marked difference, in the interim.

Southern side (left) and Western side (right)

Our western and southern sides, have new raised beds, which have performed well. Not as well as hoped for, but its still the first year of growing things. There's much to learn about this particular location. The foliage still helps cool the tin and the ground, on that section of coop, however.

I've got some lovely Giant Russian sunflowers on the southern side, with huge heads. Some are already drooping from being laden with numerous seeds. The choko vine on the western side, however, hasn't grown very much. I expected as such, for its first season - as it builds a thick, fleshy tap root, which will sustain it through drought.

Northern side

On the northern side, this is just overgrowth from the passionfruit vines, a few metres over. In the growing season it tends to swallow the front of the coop. We have plans for dealing with this area, but it will have to wait until the autumn and winter. As there is no point pulling out foliage, which is helping to keep the coop, cooler in summer.

Fresh watermelon

I couldn't bare to see the watermelon we didn't manage to eat over the festive season, go to waste. It was huge and it was cold from being in the fridge. I served up some for the family, and at least a quarter, went to the chickens.

Cold fruit, yoghurt or whatever you don't want to go to waste, is good for chickens in warmer weather. It helps to reduce their body temperature.

Tucking in

Our hens were happy to fossick for the black seeds at first, and they will eventually demolish the rest of the flesh, throughout the day.

I was a little nervous the chickens would suffer from heat stress, as we transitioned our coop. We have limited time and resources, so beating summer wasn't going to be an option this year. Though I have to say, this summer has been exceptionally mild. More frequent rain and more overcast days, than I can ever remember here.

This has been a wonderful help, as we work closer to making our chicken accommodation work better for them, as well as, for us. I'm hoping we can fence around the coop this year, and allow our hens access to some of the trees we have growing around the coop.

We will have to see what 2016 brings.


  1. You chooks look happy! We are in the process of re-building the coop here...and giving them a huge run under the almond trees. Currently they are a little cramped, though have plenty of shade from an old pepper tree at least!

    I dont think I have ever eaten chokos, Do you pickle them?


    1. Space can be managed with clean bedding, but shade is most important! So your hens have a good start as you gradually get to the rest. Believe me, I know how long it takes. ;)

      I make Chutney from chokos. That's how I came to be introduced to them as a teenager, when my mum used to make it. I loved them on my sandwiches with cheese, and some deli meat if I was lucky. I haven't shared my choko chutney recipe, though I have with fruit chutney.

      All you do is replace the fruit with 3kg of chokos, instead, and that's my choko chutney recipe. We had some funny tasting sausages last night (spices the butchers used) and this chutney made them taste delicious. It's a staple in our household, so I cherish our chokos. I'm hoping to get some fruit on my new vines in autumn.

  2. Chickens are a pleasure but sometimes they do need more work. We got rid of ours because there was very little we could do during winter for them that made us feel okay about keeping them. I don't miss the work I have to say!

    1. I often wonder how people in snow regions, over winter their animals. Its a far greater challenge than hear. Food is more scarce and the wildlife often intrude on supplies, to survive as well. I've never heard you mention deer (I don't think) so maybe you don't get any where you are?

    2. We don't seem to get deer on our property but they are abundant kn our area. They are drawn to the corn fields so I suppose they dont care for scavenging chicken food until winter but our problem was possums and racoons which our llama pretty much took care of though a couple of times possums managed to charm him. We kept our chickens with the camelids which provided warmth and we sometimes kept a light on on xoldest days. They acclimated. It was us....we got to tired of doing chores in the cold.


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