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29 June 2007

Keeping chooks in the backyard

These are are Rhode Island Red chooks.

How could you live without chooks in the backyard? Don't answer, I wasn't really asking. ; )

I've been keeping chooks in the backyard since my kids were little. When I wanted to teach my boys about
responsibility and looking after something other than themselves, chooks taught them all they needed to know. When I wanted to encourage gentleness as a contrast to the harshness of boy's games, the chooks took over and taught that it was ok to cuddle, speak softly and to defend the helpless. The chooks also showed my boys they were capable of justifiable anger and if they tried to take eggs from a broody hen, they paid for it with peck marks and a renewed respect for motherhood.

This rose comb Light Sussex hen was at the local poultry show a couple of months ago.

Chooks are excellent foragers. They can turn vegetable scraps, lawn clippings and green waste into compost faster than I can, simply by constantly turning over whatever is put in the pen. We have a compost heap and bin but when we need compost in a hurry we empty lawn clippings, vegie scraps and leaves straight into a small contained area in their pen. The chooks go in and out constantly throughout the day to scratch through it. We keep it moist with some tank water, they add their droppings to it and within two or three weeks we have lovely sweet smelling dark compost.

But overall we keep chooks for the delicious fresh golden eggs they give us. Nothing is better than a fresh egg, either softly boiled with toast soldiers, in a light fluffy sponge cake with homemade raspberry jam gently spilling over the side or in a quiche full of dark golden yolks, freshly picked green onions, red peppers and mushrooms.

This is a laced Wyandotte hen was also at the poultry show.
Having been explained the plight of pure bred chook by Pam, a member of ALS, I will keep only pure breeds from now on. Pure bred chooks are like open pollinated seeds. If we don't seek out pure breeds all that will be left in the future will be hybridised chooks bred for the poultry industry. Many of us who farm our backyards choose open pollinated seeds because choosing hybrid seeds is choosing corporatisation of seeds over the heirlooms that have been passed down over the generations. We do the same if we choose Isa Browns or Hyline chooks over pure breeds like Wyandottes, Plymouth Rocks or Barnevelders. Our last additions in the chook house were pure Rhode Island Reds. I'm looking to buy a couple of Welsummers next.

Hmmm, I
might have scrambled eggs with parsley and chives on toast for breakfast today because even in the middle of winter we are still getting six eggs a day. I'll put the kettle on.


  1. Hi Rhonda,

    I could see that cake as you described it!

    We're intending to get some chooks for our suburban backyard when the Sydney rains clear a little and the temperatures start to rise. A couple of Australorps and a couple of Rhode Island Reds.

    Regards, Gary

  2. Rhonda, I'd love to be able to keep chooks in our yard. We call them chickens of course, but I love that name. Chooks, lol makes me smile. Anyway, I have two major obstacles. One, they're not allowed in our suburban neighborhood, but I could possibly change with some hard work. Two, my wife hates them. She had them as a child in West Virginia and hates everything about the idea of having them again. This problem I might not be able to get over so easily.

  3. I've never seen a more handsome chook than the lacy one- and never thought I'd ever call a chook handsome!

  4. I like my Welsummers ~ my first 2 were called Hanneke & Connie & were named by a Dutch friend. I have 10 hens & 1 cockerel of those. Mine are NOT broody in any way, shape or form, so the eggs have to be incubated or put under another hen. 1 of my Cochins has about 12 eggs under her & I think some of those are Wels. I have 2 Hybrid hens ~ Babcocks ~ that somebody else took after they were released from battery conditions & then rehomed with me. My originals were pure bred, but not having an awful lot of land, they all run together & are hybridising themselves. At the moment they could have just under an acre, but won't go in my 1/2 acre field, so have under 1/2 acre to run over. When they are finally fenced in they will have about 1/3 acre, + their cowshed. I'm contemplating keeping my 2 feather-leg breeds separate, maybe with the goats in their field, leaving the Marans, Wels & Banties in the area behind the cowshed that extends around 1/2 the perimeter of my yard.

  5. Hi Rhonda
    Yay for chooks! I couldnt imagine being without my little chooky friends either! As always, your blog is such a delight. Thank you!

  6. Rhonda,
    I love my chickens too. We raise Plymouth Rocks and Buff Orpingtons. We love them both. Unfortunately, I haven't had a hen go broody this year. I wonder what I have done wrong. I was so looking forward to new little ones this year.


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