Welcome to another year of me rambling on about life in the country! As we move into our sixth year of living in the beautiful Otways, we realise that we have become more confident in residing half an hour from the closest coffee shop or food store. In fact, a good week is one where only one trip to town is required. And a very good week is one where I didn’t have to go there at all!
As it’s the beginning of a new year, Frans and I do our usual sit down and map out our ‘dream list’ and ‘must do’ list for the year. The ‘dream list’ seems to get longer and the jobs on the ‘must do’ never end.
We’re feeling a little chuffed however, as we have finally ticked off a very big item on both of those lists. For a long time we’ve wanted to build a ‘chook tractor’. If you’re not familiar with the term, it is simply a structure on wheels that you keep your chickens in. You move them around your paddocks so that they add to the biology of the soil by scratching around in the cowpats a few days after you’ve moved the cows to another section.
We loved the idea of this practice, but in reality, it wasn’t going to be practical for egg collecting as the location of the tractor and chickens would be too far from the house to be watched over or easily accessed. While we pondered on this, Mr Fox has been on the prowl again. Losing another two chickens around Christmas forced some thinking outside the box. Or in our case, enclosing the box! The chook house was housed at the end of a long open shed. So Frans decided to sacrifice the space in the shed that he was using to stack wood, and enclose the whole space.
What followed was a lot of stepping out and measuring to see how many lengths of timber, wire and goodness knows what else was going to be needed for the task. A trip to town to pick up the supplies, a clean up under the space and Frans was ready to start the building of the ‘Chook Taj’. As luck would have it, our young mate who helped us renovate our accommodation cabin came to visit for the day. He so happened to have his trailer on the back of his ute with all his building tools with him.
By the time the young fellow left that afternoon, the new chook house was framed and was starting to take shape. Another mate visiting for the weekend was a great help in getting the fox proofing dug into the ground around the structure. All that was left was to attach the chicken wire to the frame. That was where my contribution to the construction came in. I merely had to hold the wire (still!) above my head (easy! not!), while Frans drilled, hammered and secured the wire to the frame.
The job was done. But not quite. New roosts were made. Quite nice actually. They look very ‘rustic’. Frans used logs and tree branches for a ‘natural’ vibe. He even constructed a chook swing for their entertainment. There are boxes for them to rest in, tunnels for them to explore and plenty of room to run about in. We’re keeping them locked in till late in the afternoon. They get a forage around in the garden for a while before they put themselves back in for the night. Keeping them enclosed for longer has a few benefits. The fox has less time to do his damage. Yes, he’s brazen and comes for the chooks during daylight! The next benefit is that we collect more eggs. We were losing too many as they were being laid all around the garden and we couldn’t find them. Then the final bonus of having them housed for a little longer each day is that they do less damage to the yard. The holes they dig for their dust baths are huge! There have been a few twisted ankles under the washing line! They still get their greens from the kitchen garden surplus. So it’s a win win. The chooks are safe and we’re eating eggs for breakfast!
So it’s one job down. Next….
Here’s to a fabulous 2017 for all of us!