Wednesday, March 12, 2014

All aboard!

Over the years we have tried all sorts of ways of keeping our chooks (fowls for the non-aussies) in a healthy manner.  Our first attempt at a moveable pen was ok, but it was too heavy to move easily, so it didn't get moved enough, and the timber A-frame house was dark and dingy and hard to clean so pests built up.  We built a great little moveable 'chook tractor' which I still use (mostly for mother hens with young chickens), which we built of corflute and protect the occupants with a couple of electric wires.  Its down side is that it can only fit 3-4 full size hens...

Our next attempt was a great big run probably about 1/8 acre with a 'raw' strawbale house.  The house solved a few problems - it was roomy and well insulated but rats also found it comfortable and since it was close to my vegetable garden it has caused me alot of grief with rats eating all my garden....  The yard was supposed to be divided into 4 sections so we could rotate the chooks, but it never quite got finished... Then the crows found the house and well that was the end of the eggs!

Well, it probably sounds like this is going to be another doom and gloom post about things going wrong, but its not (fingers crossed)!  We think we may have now found the ideal way to keep a decent size flock that doesn't harm the soil and keeps the chooks healthy and safe.

The chookshaw!

Just because its practical, doesn't mean it can't be pretty!

We have called it the 'chookshaw' because its essentially just like a rickshaw those Asian people powered vehicles.  The chookshaw is the 'nighthouse' where the hens hop in to sleep and lay their eggs.  During the day they come out into an electric netting enclosure that we move about the paddocks every two or so days (right now we have very little grass after a hot dry summer).  We hope that this method will achieve two goals, giving our chooks a great life (and thus making their eggs great food - nutrient dense - to use the current buzz word) and also as a way of fertilizing our pasture.

Letting out the flock onto new pasture
Anyway, probably the main drawback (and perhaps its not a drawback as such) is that it HAS to be moved every two days.  Rain, hail or shine.  To leave them too long in one place means the paddocks will turn to desert and we just can't afford to do that.  I suppose its good in that it forces us to do it, even if we don't feel like it where as all other systems tend to allow you to be lazy and 'do it tomorrow', now that is not an option.  This is not a new idea (or anything we have come up with) many small farmers are keeping their chooks this way, in fact there is a great book that covers the ins and outs of this and other great chook related stuff, you can read about it here.

The electric net, the horizontal wires are 'live' and serve to protect the flock from foxy.
If you search the internet for electric netting and poultry you will find loads of info and there are sellers of electric netting in Australia too, although our selection is limited compared to what people have access to in the US (I got the 'starternet' by Kencove from Allsun, and we are happy with the quality of the net, although I've never seen the Premier net that everyone raves about).  I want to experiment with using the net for other animals in the future - goats and sheep maybe?  At least kids (goat, that is!) or even calves, who knows?

Flockster in the making?

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your wonderful eggs, they really are golden! Was tidying up the end pieces of different vegies has night, broke over some of your eggs, milk and spices and we had dinner. They are always appreciated when Steve gets them from you.

    Your little baby looks like he is going to be a great helper.

    Best wishes from Christine Nurse