Daisy – you drive me crazy

Daisy is the White Cross. She is a Leghorn/New Hampshire and she produces beautiful white eggs. 

Right from the start, I noticed Daisy was the – shall we say – ‘special one’.  She was the last one to venture from her cardboard box when we opened them up in their run. Instead, she sat there making disgruntled clucking noises. She had decided the cardboard box was fine for her. 

She is also the one that refuses point blank to go in her run at night.  The only thing that may lure her in is the promise of mealworms – but there’s only so many trips I can make to CRT before they think I’m some sort of addict.

She will stand there watching her gang wander up to the run, ready for their evening feed and drink, before settling down in their cosy coop. They chat away to themselves and seem happy their day is done. But Daisy follows them for a bit – and right at the last gasp, just before the threshold she stops and thinks “Fu*$ that. I’m off.” 

What then ensues is half an hour of me gently coaxing, talking sweetly, or trying to lure her with blueberries  in stooped back-breaking fashion. She is not interested in my pathetic begging or my blueberries and runs in the opposite direction! Some nights I have to confess I get so irritated with her I walk off. “OK see how you survive out there on your own through the night – see if I care.” 

The trouble is I do care – so after 15 minutes I’m thinking about predators and I’m back out there doing the same routine. There are some occasions where she will surrender and squat down so I can pick her up – but generally, it’s bribery that gets her back in the run with the others. 

All the other girls work around Angus quite happily. Millie and Maisie are not the least bit bothered by Angus. They will walk beside him, duck under him or huddle with him around the watering bowl -quite happy. Maggie-May takes that to another level and actually seeks Angus out to play with or eat with. But Daisy just has to see Angus and she gets herself in a frenzy. waargh … waargh… help…. help …. waargh … waargh!  The thing is Angus literally stands and waits for the girls to walk ahead of him. He has somehow learned just to wait his turn and no-one gets flapped in the face. No I’m afraid Daisy is like that annoying little brother that cries, ‘mwah she looked at me the wrong way’.

It’s my own fault of course.  I had read that Leghorns were a bit scatty and easily freaked out. In actual fact, Leghorns and Leghorn Crosses don’t make the best ‘pets’ – but I wanted to ‘experience’ what they were like for myself which is why I only wanted one. I was possibly swayed by the fact Leghorns originate from Italy – Tuscany in fact – and well – I am a sucker for Italians and have a special place in my heart for Tuscany.

If I were to describe Daisy’s personality I would say she is as stubborn as a mule – deliberately dense – or perhaps she is just a bit up herself (I’m just not sure which it is). Either way – she is a frustrating bird when it comes to getting her in that coop at night.  For all her faults – she is a beautiful girl and I wouldn’t want to be without her. She adds an interesting dimension to the social order in the coop. Maybe I should try to woo her a bit more and speak Italian to her … bella gallina  …per l’amor di dio, ti prego, gentilmente, di andare a correre …perhaps she is just a little misunderstood chook.

Duncan’s in town

Well the day is finally here.  After over a year of research, and a couple of false starts, we got the message -Duncan’s Poultry’ is in town and he has a supply of 18-week-old pullets ready to go. I suspect these are the same pullets we had to turn down a few weeks back.

A combination of factors – bush fires, extreme heat, and then the sudden realisation we were going to be away for 3 days just after we picked them up – meant it hadn’t seemed the responsible thing to do, to bring these girls home just before Christmas. But now there was nothing stopping us.

So what do you need when you pick up 18 week-old pullets?

Given we literally lived 5 minutes along the road for Coastal Rural Traders (CRT) which is where Duncan parks up with his lorry, all we needed was a cardboard box or two with enough holes for them to breathe (and the air con going in the car). The first week of February on the East Coast of Australia is extremely hot so it was important to keep the girls comfortable even for such a short ride – they get dehydrated very quickly.

As we parked our own car and walked across the road to the squawking, rocking, feather wagon, I felt all the giddy excitement I used to feel going to the Pet Shop as a child (and you know how that turned out …Freedom for all Puppies).

And then it hit me …”phwoa – what’s that sme-eell?” I screw my nose and face up as though I’m eating a Brussel Sprout.

“That’s how chicken’s smell” Mr P answers simply (in that ‘everyone knows that’ tone of voice ) “Or at least that’s the smell of chicken sh*t.”

Well, not my chickens, I thought.

‘What yis afta?’ Duncan says amiably enough in his slow Australian drawl.

I was ready for this – I had done my research.

“Two black cross, one white white cross and a Brown.”  I hand over my cash and feel like I just had handed all my pocket money over to the ice cream van man. I then offer up our open boxes.

The next scene wasn’t quite as shall we say ‘gentle and fluffy’ as I had anticipated. Duncan made his way unseen around the truck (in a manner that made it clear why it was rocking from a distance) and then appeared with four birds swinging upside down. I suppressed a squeal of horror inside. I’ll never be the blasé style of farmer that can swing a pullet by its feet and I’m still easily shocked by this when I see birds handled this way.

“No I want 2 blacks”, I say as he tried to hand me another white. “oh right yeah’ he says as he darts off again and I feel sorry for the white pullet that is being unceremoniously swung back into her box. 

After a few scuffles and scraggly legs going everywhere, we have possession of our 4 girls.

“Now when you get back home don’t let them sit in the coop – just put them in the run – because if you let them go up to the coop they’ll just stay there – and it’s too hot for them to stay in the coop – they’ll die – alright?’ 

We nod our agreements and thanks and head off. 

“We have chickens!!!” I squeal. Another of those things I had always wanted in life had just come true.

“Time to go home girls. You’re going to love it.” 

As I looked at the two boxes in the back of the car, I couldn’t help thinking ‘Chicken to go – who ordered the chicken to go?’

NSW Hen Rescue

If you read my fist post on my desire to keep chickens, you may remember I had wanted to provide a home for some rescue chickens. I had done my research and knew what was involved. These birds would come with a range of health issues and would have to go to people who could commit to their rehabilitation and vet bills. And I was ready. Right up until I realised that the nearest Hen Rescue was over 4 hours away in the car – so an 8 hour trip all in. No matter which way we tried to work it out – it just didn’t seem do-able.  It’s a long way for a poorly chicken to sit in a box.

So we made the decision that if we happened to come across any local hens needing our assistance, we would step in.  Perhaps, we could help Rescue Hens in other ways.

If you live in NSW, and you are interested in rehabilitating these poor birds, then check out https://www.facebook.com/NSWHenRescue  (or http://henrescue.org ) as they are doing amazing work – voluntary work.

They rescue, rehabilitate and rehome all sick, injured, abused, and abandoned animals that come into their care. They are 100% volunteer-run and provide the individuals rescued the veterinary care and love they need. I’m sure there will be similar organisations nearby wherever you live (though by the very nature of Australia – it’s a big place – you may have to travel – unless of course, you start your own rescue). 

In the meantime, we have decided to donate to NSW Hen Rescue and look closer to home for our girls.

I just wanna be your fren’ …

Next door’s chickens decided they wanted a change of scenery today. We found them pecking around in the long grass under the fruit trees quite oblivious to the ducks who had made camp further up the bank near the Macadamias.

I had a Reiki client and Peter was on a call. Angus was asleep in the house so all was well. Tranquil you might say.

Two hours later I was standing on the deck sipping a cool glass of water. With my client gone I wanted to take a few moments to give thanks for the energy that had flowed and the healing that had taken place. But my eye was drawn to Angus who had somehow found his way down to the fruit trees.

What is he doing? I watched in amusement as he seemed to be doing his downward facing dog routine. To my horror, I realised he was crouched down in front of a huge orange ball of feathers. Oh my God, Angus. Please – not the chickens …

I mean who could blame him? It’s only instinct after all …’Peter, that’s a chicken down there,” I yelled over my shoulder.  “I’m going down.’ My heart was in my mouth. I didn’t particularly want to see the gory innards of a chicken, but if my boy had acted as nature dictated then I wanted to be the one who dealt with it. I felt a strange maternal urge to want to ‘protect’ Angus from what he had done – even though the notion repelled me. 

I prepared myself for the worst case scenario. Guts, feathers, a glazed eye and lolling head as Angus tore into his kill. My heart was pounding …Oh please Angus, please don’t be a killer … I don’t want to have to be that neighbour that turns up holding a murdered chicken in their arms and a gleeful panting dog by my side, feathers still in mouth.

As I approached, Angus turned and wagged his tail and then he bowed down in front of the chicken again. He leant forward with his nose and oh so gently nudged the big orange bird. She responded with a few disgruntled clucks before looking at me, blinking.  Angus backed away. He was doing all his best ‘play bow’ moves and was so gentle with the clucky girl it took my breath away. He cocked his head when she clucked, he gently reached out with his paw and backed away again. Every part of him was saying ‘play with me’.

The chicken stared up at me and then resumed her clucking as if she was tutting at the intrusion. I didn’t allow relief to sweep through me just yet though. I picked her up.

Now I should explain something here. I have never picked up a chicken in my life. Never. I’ve never even touched one when I think about it. Somehow nature took over though. Before I knew it I had the chatty girl cuddled into me and I swear she was happy. She chatted away as I strode up to the house. Better just giver her a once over before I take her home I thought.

A couple of weird things happened at that moment. A huge whoosh of love for Angus. My boy just wanted the chicken to play. He was so gentle with her. I mean, I have never seen a dog behave like that with a bird – and especially when those particular chickens normally flap and shout at him from across the boundary fence.  That’s got to say something about his gentle nature. Of course, I’m not naive – at any moment he may have ‘accidentally’ stunned her with his massive paws – but his ‘intent’ was not to kill her. But more than that – I felt a huge surge of emotion for this big fat clucking hen. She seemed to actually enjoy being lifted up and carried.  She had some weight to her too. Out of nowhere, I felt this huge affection – for a chicken! For goodness sake …

So turns out she was absolutely fine. She loved her adventure hanging out in my kitchen until I was 100% sure she was fine.  Angus hadn’t harmed so much as a feather and the bird seemed totally fine. Fearless in fact. Satisfied all was well I took her back home. ‘Off you go now’ I said gently guiding her on her way. She called out to her fellow hens who all came rushing to see her – all eager to hear about her adventure no doubt. 

Angus looked up at me with his great tongue lolling out the side of his mouth. ‘Good Boy Angus. You’re a very good boy.’ And for the second time that day I thanked the Universe.

The chicken and the egg situation

It breaks my heart to think of any animal being abused or hurt in any way. I mean it actually does affect me deeply on an emotional level. I can’t bear it. I only wish I was made of tougher stuff because recently I’ve been reading about various cruelties inflicted on chickens and it’s enough to give anyone nightmares. How in the world have we allowed (and continue to allow) these things to happen?

I’ll apologise in advance – I don’t want to be one of those activists thrusting confronting images in front of my friends on Facebook. That in itself is cruel and makes people shut down. I know myself if I see an article or photograph depicting cruelty to an animal I scroll right past it quickly – not because I don’t care – because I can’t bear it!

Why do I mention cruelty to chickens? Well, I’m in the midst of some research, preparing the way for some chickens of our own. We both decided we wanted to give a home to some ex-battery hens – hens that had been saved from their cages and just needed a loving home to relax without the pressure of having to lay hundreds of eggs.

And boy oh boy, since reading about rescue hens I’ve learned a great deal.

I’d never heard of de-beaking (it makes me cringe just to think of it). I didn’t know all the male chickens were killed at birth and I certainly didn’t realise that hens are slaughtered by the time they reach the ripe old age of 18 months. I love eggs and prefer chicken to red meat but I am horrified I have been a party to these cruelties.

Many of us buy Organic or Free Range eggs in the belief that these eggs are somehow ‘better’ because the hens are not in cages, but the truth is even those hens are de-beaked and still don’t have the best lives. I had naively thought of them running around a farm quite happily but the truth is far from the fairy tale I convinced myself of.

If we do commit to rescuing a few ex-battery hens, these girls are going to need healing and real care. It won’t be just a case of ‘ah don’t worry you don’t need to lay eggs anymore’ – many of them are sick because their little bodies have been through so much.

Once we’ve given a home to a few of these ladies and nursed them back to health, we might get a couple of birds to lay (at their leisure – if they felt so inclined). I’m excited about learning something new, though I felt it was important to face some of the realities we’ll be encountering. We owe it to our feathered friends. I just hope I’m up to the job.



Down to the wire

chicken coop
rickety old chicken coop

There are two projects we really must get a start on. One is suitable fencing for Angus and the other is to figure out what we’re going to do with the ramshackle chicken coop that seems to be held up by willpower alone. There is a tin shed wedged between the chicken coop and a slightly newer, though badly damaged metal shed. Beside this, there is an old bath filled with water, plants and green gunk. I figure just by knocking this all down we are going to significantly improve the value of the whole property – it’s so uncared for.

As far as the fencing goes, the perimeter fencing around the property seems pretty secure so it’s more a case of creating a fenced area where Angus can run freely without getting himself into too much mischief. To the right side of us, the neighbours have chickens, an alpaca and a dog, while the neighbours down the drive have a rather cantankerous German Shepherd (the one that doesn’t like people or other animals – or life in general by the sounds of it). I think our nearest neighbours on the left have just said goodbye to their own dog recently though of course, they may get another one soon. The next nearest neighbours have cattle and horses. This is pretty good news for us because aside from the property boundaries, our neighbours have made sure their respective animals/livestock can’t break out. All we have to do is designate an area for Angus where he can’t eat poisonous plants or do his own creative landscaping – and – when the time comes keep him from trying to herd the chickens too much.

After a quick measure up and a trip to good old Bunnings to price some options we think we’ve got a handle on what needs to be done … until I spied wood and various rolls of chicken wire in the chicken coop.  This in itself sorted the priorities between the two projects.

The timing was good. I had spent a couple of weeks feeling very frustrated with my lack of progress in any of my writing/business projects. My motivation seemed to have melted in the searing heat and humidity of an NSW, Central Coast Summer. What better therapy than to get outside and get my hands dirty… hmm … did I mention the heat?

Still, when I decide to do something, I want to get on with it there and then. Patience is not my middle name. On with the big hats, thick gloves, hard boots –shade and ice drinks on standby. It was hot, dusty work, not to mention a bit scary, walking into the unknown in the deepest recess of the chicken coop. Either it was going to fall down around my ears or I was going to find something living in there. This was a job for my big girl pants (‘undies’ if you are in Australia). Thankfully none of our neighbours visited at that point.

The first step was to empty all the contents of the coup out onto the grass so we could see what was worth keeping and what was old/rotten. This in itself was a big job lugging lengths of wood and countless rusty star poles. Then the removal of glass from the roof!! I know glass – and surprise, surprise under a canopy of trees, a branch had fallen and broken the glass. In their wisdom, someone had laid a glass shower curtain across the chicken wire. The whole thing was a rigged, ready to go death trap.

Luckily for me, Mr P’s middle name is Patience, so he began the delicate operation of removing the glass ceiling!  

It’s taken double the amount of time I expected, by the time we wrestled chicken wire from old wood, and rolled decent chicken wire up, threw out pots of white powder (probably bone meal – either that or we’ve just lost a fortune), random black stockings – which I hope were holding up plants – ashtrays and other odds and sods you find in a rickety old chicken coop.

water feature
Lorikeet Lane’s very own water feature
death trap
Ready to go death trap
the haul of wood and wire










To see the wobbly (yet stubborn) old wooden structure come crashing down was a joyous moment. There was suddenly a lightness, a brightness to that pocket of land that had been so dour and depressing before. I was beginning to get quite excited about knocking down the tin shed and taking my chances with the newer shed too.

It’s good to be on a roll – but it’s just the beginning.

Let the sunshine in!