The Chicken Sitter

Hi Keepers,  as it is summer now in this part of the world it’s holiday season, and we are going off camping. It’s the first time we’ve left the chickens, fortunately we have a great friend with chicken keeping experience who is going to look after the place while we’re away.

It feels a bit strange, that i’m worrying about the welfare of our chickens, I look at it as a sign of getting older, having things at home to worry about, of course in my younger days I would have packed up a bag and off I’d go, with everything I owned in the bag probably, therefore nothing at home at all.

Well on reflection of all the things that I need to ask Terry to do, I have realised how much effort is required to keep everything alive, in this climate if you leave the tomatoe plants unwatered for 1 day they will wilt, and so on. I have been telling myself I need to do more in the new year, which I will, so I definately have my work cut out if we are going to be more self sufficient.

Once the civil engineers have left the garden and returned it somewhat to a habitable situation, I shall set about it like a man posessed, I want to turn the piece on the otherside of the creek into one big veggie patch, using the water as a natural barrier to stop the hens messing it all up.

Lots to do, not to mention then writing about it on here, which takes some considerable time being dyslexic, I think I spend more time correcting than writing, however I did realise yesterday that I type faster than I read, strange.


Hi there folks, while at the cemetry in Southend, I got talking to a lady about plants that rabbits wouldn’t eat, as the cemetry is overrun with rabbits, and most flowers that the loving families place on the graves, are demolished the very same night, so I put a small spikey succulent type plant on my fathers grave to deter the little furry critters. I noticed the grave the lady was tending was in full bloom, several flowering plants, so I asked her how she stopped the rabbits from eating them, ‘ Dog hair’ she said, she combs hair from her sisters greyhounds and places it around the area of the grave and plants, she reckons the rabbits smell the dog hair and believe it could still be close so they go and eat someone else’s plants. Maybe this theory can be transferred to other predators, i.e essence of cat to keep vermin away, essense of foxhound etc etc. Maybe these products are already on the market somewhere, please let me know if you know of any.

 I’m am faced with a tricky one when it comes to the swamp hens, as if it repells them it may repell the girls too, maybe a visual deterant might be better, like a cut out of a cat in the garden, a scarecat mounted on a spring to give it movement.

I raced out this morning apon hearing one of the girls doing her best alarm call yet, not to find Pukeko’s raiding the nest or rats stealing their food, but all the noise was to alert me to the fact that the chicks were out roaming the garden, Nancy the ‘ Boss’ was most upset that the chicks were in HER garden, was wasn’t happy until i had put them back into the brooder, infact she wasn’t happy then either as she stood infront of the brooder reading out more of the riot act to the chicks, until some feed was produced and she forgot all about it.

Abandonned Nest

Hi there, well I hope you all had a nice couple of days off work. There have been movements on the nest front, it seems that the girls do not want to lay in the nest that got attacked, I don’t blame them, it makes alot of sense. After the swamp hens demolished 2 eggs, only one of the girls laid an egg there, it was the very next morning, I suppose in her panic to lay she didn’t know where else to go, but that was it, the following day they all laid under the house, beneath a piece of wood the lies up against the wall with a piece of plastic sheeting over it. That was good we knew where all the eggs would be, but not for long, the next day we appeared to be 2 eggs down, I assumed that they were having a day off, but this has continued now for three days, so this morning I watched they’re movments, and it was Daphne that gave away the new nest, for she sprinted for it as soon as she was let out, and it is where I imagined it would be, underneath a load of bamboo that i had cut down and piled up on the boundry of the neighbours garden, It’s just so thick I can’t see them in there.  

I will once the laying is over today, slowly lift up each piece of bamboo and look for the treasure, I guesstimate the new nest will contain 6 eggs

Chicks Out

Hi there, yesterday we allowed the chicks out for a proper free range in the garden, they have been in the run before now, but never just let roam free in the garden, so ofcourse this was a bit scary for them, also mixed with excitment Í think because they reminded me of a bunch of school kids in Hamley’s toy shop,  ‘  and look what they have over here, wow,  oh oh look at this’  running around not stopping anywhere for more than a second, too many things to explore.

The entertainment value for us was great , but the highlight had to be when Maria the biggest of the chicks, she is probably as big as the shavers now, got frightened of a Monarch butterfly flying overhead, I know they are larger than some, but really, she hopped and skipped, ran, tried to fly away, ducked down as the buttterfly swooped overhead.

I keep saying she, as we are hoping that she is a she and not a he, as we’re not allowed roosters, however her comb is very large as is her tail and to top it off she has on occasion framed up to the bigger girls through the fence, time will tell. After loooking at pics of black Minorcan’s, the females do tend to have bigger features than some other breeds, fingers crossed.

Minorca hen

Minorca hen

Bartering with Free Range Eggs

Hi there , well new developements, yesterday as we were cycling back from the school where t.o.h works, I saw a lady carrying a large cabbage, to which I remarked, ‘ nice cabbage!’, carried on cycling, she called out to me ‘ do you want it?’, not often you get offered free food on the road, ‘ pardon?’ I said, ‘ Would you like the cabbage, I’m trying to find a home for it, I have too many’ she replied.

So ofcourse I stopped turned around and introduce myself to the bearer of the cabbage, who turned out to be called Jenny, today we went back as promised with 6 eggs, and Jenny let us take a bag full of fresh organic veggies, so I think we have struck up a bartering relationship there, as Jenny and her son seemed very pleased with the eggs.

On the not so good news front, we lost two eggs today at the beaks of Pukeko’s ( swamp hens, pic below), a rather noisey and aggressive bird that will kill the chicks of other birds in their surroundings, the hens see them off when they come over to our garden, but they must of been stealthy to get the eggs, as I’m sure if the girls had seen them they would have steamed in claws flying.

pukeko-nz swamp hen-(wild bird)

pukeko-nz swamp hen-(wild bird)

A Flaw in my Floor

Hi there reader, well I was thinking that all of the work being carried out in the back yard was upsetting the hens, as we have been down an egg or two each day, not so. As it happens the floor I made, from a single pallet, and hinged the bottom front of the coop to enable me to slide the floor in and out for easy cleaning, however what I didn’t think of, is not all eggs are the same size, and what had occurred was two eggs had infact slipped through the gaps, they can only of been there for 3 days at the most, because we got all the eggs on the previous days, still I gave them the floating test, to be doubly sure, so I think some adjustments will ahve to be made to the floor.

On another subject, is there anyone out there who has suggestions for hen bullying, one of the girls is constantly picked on by the others, mainly one bird ofcourse starts it then the others join in, Nancy is the Boss of the run, and today she had poor Nellie cornered against the fence, pecking at her furiously, which then made Daphne and Gloria join the afray, Nellie was helpless, liked a tired boxer caught it the corner with Mike Tyson bashing ten bells out of you, not very pleasant to watch either i might add, so I picked up a bit of bamboo, and gave Nancy a whack across the arse, she ran into the coop, an didn’t come back out til i’d gone inside, I know it’s nature’s way the pecking order and all that, but are there any ways to reduce it without seperating them?

Welcome One and All

dsc01819Hi there, and welcome to The Chicken Keeper, my name is Rob and this blog is devoted to the keeping of chickens, and the trials and tribulations that go with it.

We started keeping chickens in September 2008, the list of poultry we have at present,  one Minorca, and four Wyandotte Golden Laced .  At present we live on a 1/4 of an acre with a creek running through the back, in Waitakere City, which is part of the greater Auckland area in the North Island of New Zealand, although I’m originally  London/Irish from Hackney, and the other half  is from Waterford, in Ireland.  We are just keeping enough hens to provide eggs for the family, we also grow some herbs and vegetables.  I’ve built the coop and run from recycled materials, see DIY corner for more details.

Comments are very welcome, I hope you enjoy the site and maybe find some of it useful.             If reading is not for you then check out the pics in the Secret Layer ^.

Putting the new birds in the Run

Hi there reader,



Today I thought I would give Maria, our Minorca hen, a run with the big girls, as she is nearly the same size as them now, well feathers  wise, her body doesn’t have much weight about it at the moment, she will grow to be quite a bit larger than the shavers, so we’re hoping she’ll be able to cope with the aggressive nature of the shaver.

She didn’t cope to well today though, in hindsight it was a bad idea, as her first experience with the shavers has been, well , not ideal, as in they chased her around the run until they had her in a corner, then stood there looking menacing, frightening the poor wits out of Maria. She stood her ground with beak ajar in that defensive posture, but didn’t move for 5mins, so I thought it best to remove her back to the brooder.

Ofcourse the other angle which slipped my mind in my eagerness to mixed the birds in together, is that if Maria should pick up any little illness from the big girls, and then I put her back into the brooder with the young ones, she could past it on to them. As they are still very young their immune system isn’t quite ready for battle yet. Hopefully no damage done.

Am I bothered?

It seems not, the girls just sat there watching , there has been much activity in the garden today with the bridge for the sewer works being completed, one of the engineers has been welding up the metal plates, to the girders most of the day, and the hens nestled down in some straw and watched him, I hope they don’t have arc eye from looking at the welding, terrible affliction, like having sand in your eyes.

So in the end I didn’t have to move the run after all, they are doing all the work from one side of the creek, oh well, it got me motivated, and it has stopped the roaming around so much. On that note, I left a nice note on a trading message board, under enviroment, about this blog, ‘ anyone who wishes to take a look etc etc etc,’ ,well i recieved mainly good feedback, however this one individual, steamed in with, ‘dopey  this chickenkeeper,  i’ve been keeping hens 40yrs, amateurs, blah blah blah’,  not very constructive, so I left them a return note saying, ‘ why not part with some of your 40yrs experience, rather than judge my 3mth worth of chicken keeping skills against your 40’, 

Low and behold they did respond with some advice and tips on fences, which was nice of them, most people are nice given half a chance, don’t give them a whole chance though, that’s asking for trouble. Take a chance now and again yourself, I recommend twice a week to start, with food, please do not take chances while driving or operating heavy machinery, as this could result in an accident.


worker not 100% sure

worker not 100% sure

Rain Water

Rain Water In the Waitakere's

Hi reader, well my new project is to collect rain water, surprised really that I haven’t been doing it in winter when there was lots and lots of rain, more than usual, broke some records. Well, to excuse the pun, I have found my source of rain water, it’s a guttering pipe that runs off of the carport roof, I had noticed the small gutter on one end of he carport, but it was so over grown with Ivy that I couldn’t see the down pipe.

This very morning I cleared the Ivy and Jasmine away from the downpipe and have for the moment placed the hens water trough under the dripping pipe, it’s a start, all I need do now is aquire a butt, finar finar, as the lady out in Kumeu said ‘ e wants one, doesn’t want to pay for though ‘ , ofcourse she’s half right, I do want one, but I also know there’s one sitting somewhere about to be thrown away.

Today is a good day for collecting  rain  water, as it is lashing down, still need a butt.

I have found a temporary water butt, infact it may turn out to be great, I’ve used an ex/ disused wheelie bin, donated by a friend with too many wheelie bins, it makes it mobile for one, I think i shall place a tap on it, and eventually cut a hole in the lid for a downpipe, at present i just have the lid open with the water dripping in, not the best as leaves and such can fall in too. It’s a start as they say, who ever they are? I find out one day, who they are, and when I do, I’ll let you know their email address.