DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS

DOWN TO EARTH SIMPLE LIVING FORUMS
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16 July 2012

In the grounds of Chookingham Palace

I wrote recently about having ten chooks free range around the backyard and the problems that was causing us. Mainly it was that they like sitting near the back gate, basking in the sun and clucking to each other in low contended tones, while their droppings were smelly and they had burnt off all the grass there. Making the walk out to their coop was unpleasant and slippery in the wet weather and a bare dry mess when the sun was shining.

One of the pleasures of being grandparents is that occasionally we have our little people here and we like to have them outside in the fresh air and sunshine - but it needs to be safe, healthy and clean.  Over a few morning teas, sitting on the back verandah with the winter sun warming us, Hanno and I devised something new for our feathered friends. We get the backyard and they get a much larger run. Hopefully, it's a win-win situation.

We decided to extend the grounds of chookingham palace so the girls can still wander around, still eat grass, still have both sun and shade, but they'd be confined to their own area.

 The beginning.

Late afternoon, mid-winter, the worker and the chooks.


 Construction stopped numerous times because of the rain.




The last two photos above were taken yesterday afternoon. The chooks are contained now and soon it will be finished.

Hanno used as many of the materials that we had here as he could but in the end he had to buy some fence posts and new wire. The old posts and wire were used to patch up the fence along the new section and also along the back on the creekside - which is potentially where foxes and wild cats come from. It needs to be higher.

There are three trees in the palace grounds - a native fig, a pecan and a Eureka lemon and they all fruit in their own season. I'm sure all of them will do well with the extra nitrogen the droppings will provide. We'll grow passionfruit along the wire fence as a permanent crop in summer then cut them back and grow sweet peas (my favourite) for a couple of months in Spring. It looks beautiful already - incorporating the recycled and the new - a celebration of production, self reliance and ordinary backyard life.

Although it's not quite finished yet, the bulk of the work is complete. There is some wire to go along the back fence to make it higher and we need to move in a large stone drinking pond. We have a couple of saplings to cut down to provide some climbing frames and day perches for them - chooks LOVE to climb - and Hanno will put up a small sheltered area where they can sit when it's raining. Even though they can easily go into the coop to stay dry, they never do. Chooks are crazy sometimes, but I bet you all know that.

38 comments:

  1. That's a Lovely big space for the girls. We have had rain almost solidly for 3 days and our girls still wander around although they have ample shelter if they choose. I suppose the lure of worms and bugs is just to great to keep them indoors!

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  2. I love reading about your various projects and your solutions to various problems. I'm trying to think this way, and find I can create a great variety of work arounds when I put my mind to it.

    Thanks for the encouragement and example!

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  3. Never heard a chicken called a chook before.until I saw the pictures I was wondering what kind of bird they were.....Love the new pen!

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  4. Having chickens demolishing our own back garden I can sympathise! We are going to do the same as you- their current yard is too small for all day but they are destroying the grass from free-ranging. Yours looks a bit surprised to be more contained!

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  5. Hi Rhonda
    I have been in UK for the last six weeks on holiday. Very jet lagged,can't sleep, been awake all night waiting for your blog today. I can"t tell you how much I have missed your blog as part of my morning routine. I loved visiting the UK & often thought I 'd like to live in the area I visited but then I missed my home and your words from many posts ago "blossom where you are planted" kept popping into my head.I think This will do me nicely. Through you I have learnt to be content with what I have and be thankful for it.
    Only the second post I have done but wanted to let you know how much I love reading your blog everyday, Have your book and use it often.
    Love Carol aka forestgirl

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  6. Hi Rhonda

    I sympathise with the dilemma of containing the girls, yet giving them the space to roam. Ours currently free-range over the entire yard but in reality the vegie garden is their preferred option if they have the opportunity. We have the beds enclosed with a variety of materials but have decided that we will fence the entire garden area and allow them the rest of the yard. Ding fencing here is a little more difficult as we have significant slopes in all directions and we will need a small excavator for levelling parts before we get serious.........maybe after our holidays.

    I love hearing about your projects because it definitely gives me renewed enthusiasm.

    Thanks again for your blog.

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  7. Well done! We have had to change and modify our chicken pen many times to accommodate their needs, our garden, the weather, the time of year and convenience. I love that our land is never stagnant - it's fantastic to be able to change things as we need to. Your chooks look very happy indeed - tell Hanno he has done a super job!

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  8. I love that your post is titled Chookingham Palace. My friend used to call her chicken coop Cluckingham Palace and it even had an old chandelier hanging inside.

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  9. Well I have to pick myself up off the floor from laughing so hard about Chookingham Palace. That is hilarious! How awesome that Hanno (and you) got that pen up so quickly. It took us forever to get ours up. I'll be blogging soon about our new "scarecrow"..

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  10. Hi Rhonda,

    Looking good! I'd be keen to hear how the grass goes and whether it lasts very long. We have seven chooks (ISA Brown) and they get to roam among our apple and plum orchard (great for keeping any nasty bugs at bay). At the moment it's just dirt beneath the trees and Melbourne has had a lot of rain this winter so the ground is pretty sloshy and muddy.

    I've been thinking of grassing the area so that it doesn't get all muddy and a more pleasant ground cover for the girls to walk on. Just not sure it wil last that long. So will be very keen to hear how the grass in chookingham palace goes :)


    By the way, we also have a passionfruit growing on the chook fence :)

    Dan from Melbourne

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  11. There's nothing worse than a wet chook... Mine are not only wet after all that rain we've had, but three of the four are moulting also - wet, dirty, half featherless chooks are the most pathetic things ever!!!

    I love the new run - we are planning something similar, although I don't think it'll be as large as yours. One step at a time!!!

    We call our chook pen the "Chook Hilton"

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  12. Great idea. As much as it feels good to let our chooks run free range, they do leave such a mess behind them. I recently renovated my chicken run as I bought a breeding pair of Indian Runner Ducks. They live in harmony with my chickens and are a nice addition to our garden.
    However, I still do let them all out of their run twice a week to rummage through the green grass :-) I am planning some more renovations to protect a couple of veggie plots I have so that when the chickens are free ranging they are not making a meal of my herbs. Sam xox

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  13. My Dad used to call his chook yard the Taj Mah Fowl :)

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  14. they look as though they were taking part in every step of the progress... helping? What a great new area they have.

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  15. Beautifully constructed, as German's typically do. My German father's hen set up was constructed wonderfully well also. I'm sure your chookies will enjoy their new area.

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  16. I love a bit of home made construction, we are always using things that we gather...I have had to rabbit proof our garden beds lately and it looks like steptoe and sons down there now...but we didnt have to buy a thing....I just dont have the room to let the chooks out anymore...so seeing your lovely grassed run is just great...now I made my bread! The new cast iron pot worked an absolute treat..I am so pleased that I went and go the pot...I put some pics up on my blog today of the end result if you would like to pop over and see! Thanks again for posting the recipe, sometimes something that you make all time is great to share, as there are those who may never have heard of it before...Suzanne, Enchanted Moments...Adelaide.

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  17. We have part of our yard fenced off for an area we call Chookie World. I has trees and a grove of bamboo but it's also where we have our compost bins so it's actually chookie heaven. They have a small doorway to get back into their pen each evening and just love it. I think your ladies will be very happy with the new arrangements and you'll be happier too.

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  18. Hi Rhonda, I had to fill the chooks outdoor run with hay, the poor things were wet feet legs and feathers. Eggs were dirty. They were so excited to run out on the hay. I think for next winter we will extend their run as well, because they like to hang on on back door pavers instead of the grassed and garden area, when we let them out a few hours a week. They make a mess. Will have to think about that one. Love washing powder and cleaner. Love your posts Di

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  19. Beautiful, and looks like the perfect solution for your space!
    -Jaime

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  20. I love the new space Rhonda...we have done something similar for our girls recently but i worried they are getting bored as theyw ere used to playing with the twins when we were outside...i like your sapling idea...i don't suppose you (or readers) have any other tips or ideas to keep them busy through the day? We only have 3 chooks but they seem to be pecking each other a lot lately. They have a huge space to roam in for just the 3 of them though!

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  21. what a great idea. Well done for all your hard work.

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  22. I really love this new space for your chickens Rhonda, I think we will be doing something similar soon too.

    Have a great week
    Linda

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  23. You are so lucky to have such a lovely big area in your back yard. The beauty is that you can also up stumps and change the yard area again next year if you wanted with all that space...and fit a cricket pitch in!

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  24. We also used to let our chooks free range. They were so messy and would get in out vegie patch which annyoyed me to now end as I spent my day chasing them out, if they werent in there they were on the back step and path. We fenced the vegie patch off and they still got in, which was very frustrating. The crunch came when my husband, who had said 'don't worry they are no trouble', went to work one afternoon and rang me and said quick can you drop a pair of shorts off to me as the chooks must have got in his car (he always leaves the window down) and left a 'calling card' and now it looks like I have s*** myself!!!! I can see the funny side of it now but at the time it wasn't that funny. So the next time he had a few days off we made them a long run to keep them in. We let them out some afternoons to do a bit of free ranging and everyone seems to be coping with the situation. Louise

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  25. The new palace looks great Rhonda. Chooks are such wonderful pets. Our 10 girls always put a smile on my face. Ours have a huge fenced grassed area (approx 10mt x 20mt) which was the previous property owners dog run. The gate to the area is very close to the laundry door and every morning without fail Miss Cheeky Chooks (the ring leader) flies over the fence (1.2mt high) and comes and pecks on the glass sliding door to laundry - she's saying Morning mum, come see the eggs we've laid and feed us breakfast. So I take their food and she waddles along behind me back to the pen. And when the kids and I get home of an afternoon often miss cheeky is waiting at the front of the house for us! She happily waddles back to the pen with us, and the other girls come running to say hello - oh how cute they are to watch run when they have a long distance to run! They always bring a smile to my face!
    By the way, I finally made the laundry liquid on the weekend - so simple to make and works great.
    Thanks as always
    Sarah from Jimboomba

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  26. Even though the girls now have a much larger area they will eventually turn it all to dirt. Have you thought about fencing the grassed area into two and letting them in half at a time, leaving the other half to recover?
    Best wishes, Missy.

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  27. Our chooks also free range in our backyard for quite a bit of the day and they have demolished my succulents but fortunately have fenced off our vege garden! Because of their droppings everywhere and my 3 kids running around I sometimes think we might have to do something similar to you although it wouldn't be as much space. I think my chooks will always continually look through the wire like "the grass is greener on the other side" no matter what we do!!!

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  28. That's one lovely pen! We've wanted to make a pen for our chickens for a long time, but don't know how to do it. If you saw our yard you'd understand why. We have a lot of rocky terrain, none of which is straight - it basically looks like giant stairs. We barely found enough flat space to stick a coop! So either they're cooped up or they're free-ranging. :)

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  29. Rhonda, Because we arn't allowed to have chickens on our property, I just love reading all the posts about yours. Hanno did a great job on the new pen. Your chooks are lucky that you take such good care of them. I always enjoy what ever you post, but the chickens are my favorites!
    Susan from Michigan

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  30. WOW looks great! I was out mowing my back yard today and thinking why do we have this grass? Why not till it under and grow more food and perhaps some chickens? Rhonda you keep me thinking and staying the course.....thank you.

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  31. Rhonda, I keep 5 hens all Orpingtons and they have trashed the part of the garden they live in. We have a project due to start at the beginning of October to give them their own space and reclaim the grass. They have a WIR (Walk in Run) but they free range in the part of the garden which is now just bare earth with large hollows that they use for dust bathing - when the sunshines. Here in England its been raining nonstop since April.
    MummyHen

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  32. Rhonda,

    Just so you know you really are making a difference in people's lives......


    http://prayingforparker.com/multi-tasking-my-life-away/

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  33. Will the crooks bother the shallow roots of the lemon tree? I thought a quite while back you mentioned a problem with them being around an orange tree. So now they have an even bigger area than they used to? Won't they now just kill out the grass in the new area over time? I know some people grow grass/weeds and such in half a range area then set the crooks free there then switch to the other half when it regrows. I love all the posts about your crooks. ...or for that matter any of your posts! Thanks Rhonda. You and Hanno give us so much information and inspiration!! Sarah

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  34. Sarah, the lemon tree has been in the chook run for almost 15 years. It loves it. We have a small covering of wire, surrounding the tree, over the roots. As for the rest of the run, I'm not sure what we'll do yet. It will be a matter of watching what happens, not having too many chooks, and modifying what we're doing if or when we need to.

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  35. I could have written this myself! We have a small backyard, and I let the chooks free range in it - but now there is no grass left, way too much poo for the girls to safely play, and since the chooks are in the backyard, the dogs go in the courtyard, so the girls can no longer play in the sandpit unmolested by our huge excitable puppy. Problem.

    Ufortunately for our two hens, since we're moving to a hen-free house at the end of this year, they are being given away. To a butcher. Yum!

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  36. Hmmmm, chooks LOVE sweet peas. I've never been able to grow much on my chook fence.

    We have a large fenced area for chooks and cordon off small areas inside with chook wire to grow green fodder for them throughout the year. I usually have two or three on the go at once, some growing, some being eaten down and others just germinating. It mitigates (somewhat) against the marauding of chookdom. It's amazing how quickly they will turn any enclosed area into a blasted heath!

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  37. I love our chooks! Our run has become SO muddy that we let them out to wander the paddocks at the moment. I love how social they are. When I come home the walk up to the house to greet me. If the dog goes down there they go and see him - it almost looks as though they sniff him back when he sniffs them! We have a rooster named Bruce, and you'll often hear us commenting on 'Bruce and his girls out for a walk'!! It's great fun :)
    Kristy

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