Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is it worth all the poo?

It is lovely having chickens roaming freely in your backyard, particularly very friendly and bold chickens like ours. They can be great company and an endless source of amusement. But man, is it worth all the poo? If only they did little hard poos like rabbits so you could sweep them up with a dust pan. And possibly it would be ok if they kept it to the ground. But no, they have to do it on the outdoor table and the BBQ. For those reading who have dinned at my house I just made that bit up for effect ;)

So the main activity at the latest rotational garden group meeting, held this time in Brendan and Rosalind's garden, was the building of a chicken run. As they too had grown tiered of poo.

The intention was to build a chook run using the materials from my old run before the mandala. However on close inspection of the wood the ends that had been in the ground had become like sponge and crumbled in your fingers. Considering they had only been in use for 6 months I couldn't see them lasting another six.

My lesson here for the week is choose wood for the garden wisely. Hardwood, the harder the better, is the best option. You can get treated wood such as pine, however I did read that the arsenic used in the treatment can leach out and be absorbed by the root systems of near by plants. A good test for hardwood is to run your hands up and down it. If you get a hand full of painful splinters it's most likely hardwood ;)

So I gave them some hardwood, confirmed using the about mentioned test, that I had spare in the shed. We turned it into garden stakes cutting a spike at the ends. When cutting a spike make sure you cut on both sides, otherwise the stake will lean over as you drive it in.

The gate we made is from a simple design. All we did was to fasten one of the fences to a freely movable stake. To close the gate you rest the pointy end lightly in the ground stopping the base from moving, while you place a loop of wire over the top of it and the neighbouring fixed post. Very simply, very effective.

Brendan and Rosalind showed us their home made chicken feeder made out of scrap PVC pipe and joiners. Again very simple, very effective. I was impressed. Credit to the design apparently goes to a guy called Rob Swalling. Nice work Rob.

While on a role of simple and effective, Brandon demonstrated a very clever compost bin tool. I have found turning and mixing compost in a bin so near to impossible that I don't bother. This simple screw like tool however makes it as simple as opening a bottle of wine. Now that's something I can do, on special occasions. They got this one from a hardware store.

In a very gender stereo typical way, while the men built the chook run the wonderful woman took on the tasks of pruning and potting. They pruned off the lower branches of what we suspect to be apple trees. I have just never seen apple trees growing so vertically before. Anyone got any other ideas of what these trees might be?

Thanks to all the wonderful advice Melanie and Debbie re-potted our leggy seedlings into larger pots. The pots and trays I had found just the day before lying on a rubbish heap. Score! Just what we needed when we needed it. Thanks universe. The seedlings unfortunately didn't look to happy after the move. Fingers crossed they will be ok. Debbie advised that next time we should plant straight into these larger pots to avoid the shock to the plants and void the extra work required by us. What do you do?

On the weekend we also attended the launch of the Magic Harvest program at the Hachem West community garden. They had recently built a wood oven so we all enjoyed fresh organic wood oven pizza. Except someone made a chilli one that nearly took my head off and my son running and screaming for a glass of milk.

The Magic Harvest program is an excellent way for the beginner to get started. It produces enough variety for a whole meal and requires only one square meter of space, and no prior garden experience. Visit here for more info.


  1. We got sick of the poo too, especially the teens who are not really into chooks in the first place. My big chooks now have a run and the Silkies are allowed to roam because their poos are not quite as obnoxious.

    Your seedlings will be fine, I often pot leg ones on twice or even 3 times. As long as you keep them well watered they should be perfectly ok.

  2. At first I was so enamoured with my girls I let them have free rein. They are so attached though, that they spent most of the day on the front door mat looking in through the glass door. Chooks first, then poo, followed closely by huge swarms of blowflies. Sorry girls, it is the back yard only for you!

  3. greenfumb thanks for the reassuring words. I find it nerve racking raising seedlings.

    HAZEL you have got to love them. I never thought chickens would be so friendly to want to follow you into the house. Mine also, when they get the chance, look in through the glass door.

  4. Love that chicken feeder, what a great idea. With those shiney leaves I wonder if your tree could be be a pear?

  5. Hi Jason, The snake has been caught!! Thanks for your comments. Also I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the chicken feeder, I'll show hubby, although i'm pretty sure i can tackle this one on my own ;O) The poo is a problem, I sweep the dirt daily into a pile then add it to compost. My mother in law thinks i've gone batty (each to their own i say)it does make a difference but a run is better- I also have a rule; no feeding on any pathways or door ways. This helps a little. I watch my rabbits expressions when the chooks poo near them, it's priceless. They seem to be visibly disturbed by the chooks, poor little guys. Sometimes Teegee nips the chooks on the back of thier legs to show her disgust! :0) Take care, Yollie

  6. Mr.H. I pleased to hear you like the chicken feeder. I thought it was a great idea too. A pear, I will pass that on to the trees owners.

    Sweetie pleased you like the chicken feeder as well. It gives me great joy to know something I have posted is of value to someone. And yes it does look easy to make. I am very pleased to hear the snake was caught before it caught one of your beloved. And that is so funny about the rabbits and their dislike of chook poo.


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