Project Chicken!

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I have complained about our free-ranging chickens before and how they cause havoc in my garden without giving us a reliable source of eggs and/or meat (see Home Sweet Home). When I first came to Vastrap the chicken coop was a simple wire structure situated right behind our guest rooms. The roosters would crow loudly at all times of the day and night (not only dawn) and our guests would appear for breakfast with dark blue circles under their eyes having not had a wink of sleep. Anticipating that visitors would be reluctant to return, among them my family, I moved quickly to rectify the situation by asking Quentin nicely to build a proper stone hen house further away from the house. This has helped immensely for the noise problem and our guests sleep more soundly now.

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‘New’ chicken coup under the pepper tree.

But still, the chickens don’t do what I want them to, which is entirely my fault as I have not invested any time learning what makes them tick. Having recently dipped a baby toe into the topic, I realise there are a lot of very passionate people out there who spend a huge amount of time worrying about their chickens and making them happy. So, it’s high time that I learn something new. A few friends have already given me some great advice (thanks Ena and Caryn!), but I’m hoping to access the blogging brains trust to make absolutely sure that Tseliso and I are on the right track. At the moment we have two roosters, about 8 hens and 14 chicks running around the yard. After having had no chicks for two years we’ve recently had a population explosion! In tandem, there has been a complete dearth of eggs.

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Chicken 001 Chicken 002

Over the next few weeks, Tseliso has been tasked with remodelling the coup to include better roosting perches, more comfortable nesting bins and an enclosed chicken run so that we don’t have to let them out every day. At the moment they free range 5 days a week and generally only stay in the coop over weekends. From the advice I’ve had so far it seems the ratio should be the opposite. I’ve printed lots of good ideas from the Internet on how we can recycle things lying around in the yard to make the hens more comfortable.

Through this project I would also like Tseliso to learn how to manage his own chickens more effectively. My goal is to get a more reliable supply of eggs, but his requirement is to have more chickens for his family to eat. This is even more important since he recently became a father to a beautiful baby girl named MaTseliso. I presume that the two goals require slightly different management techniques, but I’m not entirely sure. Any advice would be greatly appreciated! I will report back on our progress in a few months, hopefully with positive results for both of us.

Tseliso, Elizabeth and MaTseliso (3 months old).

Tseliso, Elizabeth and MaTseliso (3 months old).

6 thoughts on “Project Chicken!

  1. Ooh your chicken house looks a bit spartan! My hens free range every day, though we have a large run that they share with the ducks if they all need to be confined. Maybe your hens are laying away from the nesting box; no matter how cosy the nesting box, I hav one hen that would rather perch precariously on a heap of straw bales. In the past we’ve had dual purpose breeds so that if we get lots of chicks, we keep the hens for egg laying and fatten the cockerels for the table. Looking forward to seeing the refurbished hen house!

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    • Hi Anne, yes it definitely is spartan and I’m definitely not proud of it! Our hens lay all over the place so it’s impossible to find the eggs before the dogs and other predators do. I need to investigate having different kinds of breeds. Thanks for the advice!

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  2. What a great coop. I don’t think that I have seen a stone coop before. I have added this story to my Facebook page, which everyday shares the best chicken keeping advice, tips and pieces of inspiration that has been published. I am envious!

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    • Thank you so much for getting in touch James and sharing my blog. Your Facebook site is so useful! I agree the stone coop looks handsome but we need to do a lot of work to make it more cosy in the inside. I’ll keep you posted with our progress! By the way, the stone is from the mountains behind our house so everything is recycled material.

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