Symbioses at its best in the backyard

26 April 2016
It's exhilarating and exciting settling in new chickens and setting up a vegetable garden for another year. Of course the chickens require more thought and time because not only do we provide nutrition and water, they also need shelter, security, comfort, nests, roosts and we want them to have the opportunity to spread their wings, scratch the ground, chase insects and live a good life. We have an unspoken agreement with our chooks - they provide eggs and entertainment for us and we give them an environment that supports them in a life that is far removed from the confinement, distress and limitations that millions of their cousins live with every day.

 Ginger frizzle Tricia with silver laced and gold laced Barnevelders Dora and Thora.
 Cora, a light Sussex.
 Farmyard crosses Lora and Flora.

 Flora, Lora, Thora, Cora and Dora.
 Jezebel, Miss Tammy, Patrick (losing her feathers) Kathleen and Nora.
 Annabel, a blue Australorpe.
Our older ladies free ranging to the side of the house.

We've already introduced the new chooks to bread soaked in milk, which they loved, and live worms, which they were confused by. There is much more in store for them in the coming weeks and months. Soon they'll be out free ranging with their older sisters, walking around on the grass, enjoying the sunshine and the freedom to go where they choose within their large secure garden.

To recap for all the new readers, we now have 12 chickens which give us enough eggs for ourselves and our family. We get our girls from Kate at Beautiful Chickens over at Mount Samson, just to the west of Brisbane. Kate's chickens are mostly pure breeds with a few farmyard crosses and they're healthy, wormed and vaccinated.

Our new girls are Flora - buff and white farmyard cross, Lora - farmyard cross that looks like a New Hampshire, Dora - silver laced Barnevelder,  Thora - gold laced Barneveldver and Cora - light Sussex. They have joined our older girls Nora - blue laced Barnevelder, Miss Tammy - silver laced Wyandotte,  Patrick - barred Plymouth Rock (named Patrick because I was convinced she was a boy when she was younger), Tricia and Kathleen - two ginger Frizzles, and Jezabel and Annabel - two blue Australorpes.  At the moment the two sets of girls are living in the same shed, separated by a wall with a door they can see through. During the day we let the older chooks out to free range and the younger girls out into the run just outside the coop.

And what of the garden, you ask? It's getting there. We're much slower this year. We've been slowed by age and the desire to enjoy the process. But even thought it's harder for us we still relish the opportunity we have to make the most of the land we live on. Sure we have aches and pains sometimes but we push through it and just get on with it. We also stop for tea, to watch the chooks, to sit and talk in the shade of the umbrella and to discuss the important topics of seasonal food, rainfall, soil fertility, compost, worms, bugs, mulch, trellises and sweet peas.  Hanno bought me a garden arch for my birthday, which is now at the entrance to the garden with sweet peas planted at the base. Soon those delightful plants will scramble up the arch and flower, hopefully for a few months. When they finish flowering, we'll plant cucumbers there.

The new arch way will soon hold a swag of sweet peas.

 Front bed planted up, back bed still needs a lot of work.

 Waiting to be planted - penstemon, roses and salvias.
Roses soaking in Seasol, they'll be planted out today after I chop off all that old wood.
View from the back door.

Yesterday I dug up two roses in the front garden and have them sitting in Seasol before planting them out in large pots today. I also have two small carpet roses - The Fairy - that will be grown in smaller pots among the vegetables. My other flowers are stocks, salvias, primroses, Japanese wind anemones and no doubt, self-sown Cosmos will appear as time goes on.

Our vegetables this year are snap peas, bok choy, several types of lettuce, turnips, kohl rabi, beetroot, ruby chard, green beans, butter beans, swedes, kale and Welsh onions. Soon there will be daikon, tomatoes and ginger and I've left in a mild pepper that won't grow during the cold months but won't die either. I'll cut it back a bit in spring and it till start producing chillies again.  Our herbs are parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary and basil, and we have raspberries, oranges, lemons, passionfruit, cumquats, loquats and bananas. We've just harvested 5.7 kg of rosellas that are now in the freezer waiting to be made into jam and tea. Those bushes were removed last week.

It a good combination having chickens with a vegetable garden. They each supply the other with some of their needs - the chickens give fertility to the garden in the form of manure, the garden gives green leaves and fruit to the chickens which boosts the nutrition level of their eggs. It's symbioses at its best and it plays out everyday right outside our backdoor. We are indeed two lucky ducks.


  1. Hi Rhonda

    I have been waiting (not very patiently) for this long hot summer to end so I could get out in the garden too. I hope you are a bit more protected from the wind then we are. I think if I plant anything today it will get blown away or dried out by the wind.

    I am going to plant a raspberry this year to add to the mulberries, passionfruit and bananas. We have citrus but they aren't fruiting yet and I planted a Tamarillo tree earlier in the year and that is doing really well. Have you ever grown Tamarillo? They are very fast growing and are beautiful fresh or in jam. I am going to plant rosellas again this year as I haven't grown them for a couple of years.

    Love the pics of your back yard and your very lucky chooks.

  2. Your garden looks great Rhonda and I really love your garden arch. It will look beautiful with all those sweet peas growing over it!
    I'm sure your chickens love their place in the garden. Hope you and Hanno have a lovely day.

  3. Love the names you've given your chooks Rhonda! Would love to have a few myself but we're in a built up suburban area and I'm concerned they would attract rodents.

  4. I love everything you have done. I also adore your chickens . Those frizzles are adorable.

  5. What a beautiful oasis to relax and enjoy after your hard work in the garden. You mentioned the inevitable aches and pains of being older and still active in the garden. (I think we all get that way after yard work) but I think we also need to acknowledge that with age comes experience and if you've been gardening for soon years some of those aches can be compensated for with how to plant smarter and what not to do and how to do it better. I'm still yet to plant, wishing your garden grows abundantly.

  6. I do like those rhyming names you've given your chooks, Rhonda and Hanno:) I love your new arch too Rhonda and can imagine how beautiful and fragrant the sweet peas will be when they grow up and bloom. I have my fingers crossed that my sweet peas will grow and blossom this year too. Meg:)

  7. How do you use your chicken manure on n the garden? I have 2 chooks & am not sure how to use the manure. I've heard it can burn plants if it's too fresh...
    Thanks, maria

    1. Maria, that's right, fresh chook manure can burn plants. We shovel up the straw and manure from the coop floor and put it in the compost. It acts as an accelerant on the compost, speeding up decomposition, and after a couple of months, we use the compost as a soil additive. You could also collect the manure from your two chickens, leave it to sit for a week or so, then put some in an old pillow case or hessian bag, and drop that in a bucket of water, like a tea bag. Let it steep in the water for 24 hours and you'll get a good nutritious tea. However, this must be diluted with water so it looks like weak tea. You can use that as a good fertiliser for green leafy vegetables.

  8. Oh golly I dont believe I have seen Tricia the ginger frizzle before - how cute. Wow it must be quite a temptation to just sit and watch your chicken antics all day long! I love your arch - and can just imagine it covered with sweet peas. I love sweet peas, but we are just unable to grow them up here.

  9. 5.7kg of rosellas! I shall speak with the seeds you kindly gave me.

  10. Coming home an hour late today from a very busy day at the medical centre where I work, it was so nice to read your blog and get lost in your garden. I hope to get in mine this weekend. It
    's great therapy. So nice to see you settled in back at home. Jenny From Falls Creek ( we met in Wollongong remember?)

    1. A weekend of gardening is something good to look forward to, Jenny. Of course I remember you. All of us packed around that table for morning tea. It was delightful. I bet Falls Creek is cold now. We have cool nights and warm days but hopefully the warmth will turn to cooler days soon. xx

    2. Strangely it is very mild still. When we lived in our old 8 square fibro house, now in various stages of disrepair just 10 metres from our cosy newish strawbale, we always knew it was time to start up the old Wellstood range around our sons birthday 23rd of April. He was born in that loungeroom with the Wellstood pumping. Hot nappies for pain relief.
      Well it's nowhere near that cold yet so we'll see. Usually we'd see a frost by now.
      I really find your blog as a peaceful mindful experience, thanks again.

  11. Love the new chickens names, they reminded of 5 dolls my eldest daughter had when she was young: Holly, Dolly, Molly, Polly and Iris, I still get a kick out of them!



Thank you for your comment. They are an important part of my blog because they help build the community here. Please don't add links or email addresses to your comment. This is a family-friendly blog and I don't have the time to check all the links before I publish them.

These comments are moderated so yours won't appear until after I've read it.