Last night I was awoken to the sound of howling , no not from Michael but the dreaded wild dogs. I quickly sprang out of bed to check on pampered pet 'Bear' to find him safe and sound in his locked up verandah room ,just listening.Thankfully we don't have chooks to worry about right now but it seemed timely to read this story by Chris Donlen.
"Chooks of the Obi Obi" - A cautionary tale by Chris
I live on a "farm". Fortunately for me living ON something is very fashionable these days. Like ON Buderim. I use quotation marks because that is also very in, whether written or denoted with fingers and also because I am beginning to question what exactly I am farming since everything seems to be deceasing from dry, wet, predators or pests and the fact that my mother has more stuff productively growing in her tiny retirement village garden than I do on my farm.
Anyway, because I live on a farm it is anticipated, indeed expected that I should therefore have poultry, particularly chooks. This applies to anyone on a 1/4 acre block or more. If you do not then you have somewhat failed in many people's eyes.
Farms must have an abundant supply of fresh eggs. Home grown eggs are obviously cheaply produced, almost free in fact. They are healthier because the grass is greenier & the air is cleanier. (Who owns that jingle? Is it copyrighted?)
The following is a personal record of chook keeping basics.
Week 1-Build a chook pen. Hunt around for any cast off timbers, wire, roofing iron etc. Build rudimentary pen and house. Buy 4-6 point of lay chooks. Excellent the whole show for under $80.Let the kiddies name the chooks.Oh ,the excitement. What to name them? Welcome Penny, Henny, Fluffy and Speckles.
Week2-F#*@%ing crows have discovered your chooks and are now taking all the fresh eggs. Crows are legally protected .You may not harm them.
Week3-Battle with but do no harm ,mongrel bastard ,legally protected hawks, falcons, eagles that have discovered your chookies thanks to crows. Bury any remnant chook pieces left lying about so as not to upset the children. Note: You can identify a predatory bird kill by the generally headless carcasses.
Week 4-Chin up. Buy a roll of good quality small gauge chicken wire and over head bearer timbers and completely cover chook pen. Bye Bye aerial attacks. Howzat eagles? Buy new chooks and let kiddles name them. Welcome, Sparkles, Cuddles & Dotty.
Roosters: Should we /shouldn't we? Are you freaking insane? Oh yeah, but think of the cute little chickies. And we could sell them to cover costs. Sure idiot go for it! Welcome, Ronaldo, big mongrel crowing, attacking, nasty bastard. Note: All your hens will be regularly decimated ,nothing will touch Ronaldo. You can chain Ronaldo out in the middle of the paddock and NOTHING will touch him. You can hide your chickens under your pillow and they WILL be decimated.
Roosters alone means that you need a certificate 3 in Zen Buddhism. These bastards crow on moonlit nights(all night).They crow when they are happy, sad, randy, bragging, bored or just trying to piss you off.
Week 5 -Small wild birds will always seem to access the pen and they bring with them bird lice. By now you will probably also have mites creeping around the hen house.These critters are particularly attracted to warm fuzzy areas. When you realise that the whole family is in fact scratching and covered in small bites you feel a temporary sense of relief. You must now look very closely at your skin ( a magnifying glass may be necessary) where upon you will notice an entire frantic little world has taken up residence upon you. Don't Panic!
Lice Infestation Procedure 101
Firstly put all bedding, towels, clothes, hats etc in a hot wash. Spray mattresses, chairs, carpet. Soak &scrub all hair items in hot soapy water. Vacuum and mop floor. Spray all shoes/boots that have been near chook pen. All family members must shower and shampoo diligently and finish with a dousing of preferably toxic insect.
repellent. Purchase large bottle of Pestene powder and a respirator for the pen. Week7-Awake to find foxes have dug into your pen. Note: You can identify fox kill by the lack of chooks in your pen and the neat bundles of feathers nearby outside the pen. There may be a remnant beak or two.
Buy more small gauge chicken wire .Attach to sides of pen. base of pen walls so this Buy more chooks. Pestene and name them yourself. Itchy, Scratchy, Shitty & Poo.
Week 9 -You have now discovered that roaming dogs can tear through chicken wire. Note: You can identify a dog kill by the fact that when you put all the strewn pieces back together there is nothing actually missing. It was just for sport.
Buy large roll of dog proof wire and erect securely on top of all other wire. Buy more chicks and name them if you must.
Week 12-Fereal cats eat chooks while they are free ranging. Note: You can identify a feral cat kill by the fact they eat into the body cavity but generally leave the exterior intact. Buy new chooks, name them Uh huh.
Never ever add up the cost of building materials, new chooks, pest treatments, food, grit, fencing, rodenticides and housing. Calculating costs will only ruin the romance of the hen house.
It is imperative that you let your chookies cluster woefully on your steps, verandah, roof shitting, stinking, preening and clucking for miserable hours in wet weather.
Week 16- Carpet snake has broached the pen and snacked. You may feel that this is karma for chookies. Have Chai tea and meditate on this. Remember that just up the road people are relocating their carpet snakes down near you at dusk too. Fairs Fair.
Week 18 -Rodents. Tidal waves of rodents will have discovered your chooks. They are attracted to the eggs, the feed& young chicks . Rodent proof the hen house and rat proof the feeders.
Week 20- Now is the time to truly embrace the road to self sufficiency and all that earthy stuff. Killing your own poultry.
All our forefathers and foremothers and even your frail old Aunty Enid used to lop chooks heads off for a Sunday lunch. Everyone did. Too easy!
Grab Wormy and ignore her pleading screams and panic stricken eyes. Holding her feet, let her little head dangle down to the solid chopping block. Firmly wield the cane knife and behead her in one fell blow. Wham! Wait until headless body stops running and spurting blood and your head stops spinning and you can stand up again. Next, hot water, plucking, removing of gizzards etc. By now you will be coated in feathers, blood and the stench is palpable. The kids have all run crying inside to be vegetarian.
Mean Mummy, Chook Killer! Enjoy Roast Chicken and bottle of wine.