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When I was little I remember looking at my great grandfather’s fingers – he had lost some (in a woodworking accident).  I asked him what happened to them, and he said, he had poked them through some chicken wire and the chickens had pecked them off!  Terrifying!  Lucky I didn’t end up with a complex about chickens really.

As a kid, we used to visit my Dad’s cousin’s farm, and they had chooks.  I remember the gentle sounds they made, the thrill and fright when they flapped their wings, waking up to roosters (the best sound) and the total joy of finding an egg to bring back to the kitchen.  Such treasure! 

It never occurred to me until recently that we could actually have some of our own.  That we could collect eggs from our own backyard chooks and let the kids experience the joys of being around our own flock – gathering treasure of their own.

I built a kit-form chook house, and decided that it was just going to be too small for 4 hens – too small to enter easily and clean, and perhaps too difficult to make fox-proof – which was our major fear.

Did you know that there are 4-5 foxes per square km in Melbourne?  They feast on possums and garbage and hide in abandoned houses, behind sheds, and in parks.  We can’t (not that I could) cull in the city as they do in the country and so the population continues to grow and they need to be fed.  I actually like foxes – they are beautiful to watch, but I don’t want to invite them to dinner.  No.

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My totally awesome, skilled, non-complaining and very patient Dad came to stay, and he made us this awesome A-framed house from treated pine and a whole lot of fence-palings that the previous owner had left under the decking (thanks for the timber!).  We had seen a few A-frame houses around and decided that we wanted something rustic, and recycled and bigger than those we had seen to allow for a bigger flock.

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The floor is missing from this photo – but it’s made from boards screwed together in sections for easy removal and cleaning.

There are 2 generous nesting boxes for 4 chickens to share, and a roosting perch about 1ft off the floor on the other side from the nesting boxes.  Chickens sleep on the roost and poo in their sleep, so you don’t want the droppings on the nesting boxes if that’s possible.  One hen likes to sleep in the nest but the others seem to be doing fine on the perch.

It’s HUGE!  And is intended for 4-6 chickens.  We have 4, but as chickens don’t lay steadily for their whole lives, we may need to add to the flock one day.  6 chickens is the most our council allows without a permit.  

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Here’s the coop in place – with the run being constructed around it.  Constructing the run was the bigger task I have to say, and if I had any idea how big that would be I probably wouldn’t have asked Dad to make it.  It was a HUGE task.  My Dad rocks. 

There is now chicken wire in place nailed every 8(ish)cm to the roof, sides and bottom.  We also dug a trench 40cm deep and buried wire so any digging is thwarted.  We hope it is Fort Knox.  My husband has been very diligent about their safety, which is brilliant.

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We bought Isa Brown Hens, and start up supplies from Craig’s Farm.  Craig was fantastic.  Friendly, informative, low key, and on the way home one of the hens laid an egg in the box.  Way to start!

Isa Browns have a great reputation as a backyard hen – friendly, good layers, and not generally broody.  They are supposed to tolerate kids well and enjoy the odd pat. I think they are really pretty too!

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And they have settled in well.  We have had eggs every day, and the looking after part is no trouble at all.  We check on them in the morning and give them some scraps from the night before or greens to add to their dry feed.  Zara has been picking them up for regular cuddles and is delighted by the whole experience of feeding and gathering.

As the light starts failing, we go down to tuck them into bed – putting them on their roosts for sleep and close off the entrance with a piece of wood that they just knock out of the way on their way out in the morning.

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Oscar – not so much.  He seems to find them terrifying and fascinating in equal measure.  He is total ninja stalker – silent and patient.  I know who would win in that fight…

And the taste of the eggs?    Amazing!  :)

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