Cock-a-doodle-doo and cackle cackle cackle

Here are the chooks. Six hens and a rooster. The hens are Rhode Island Red crossed with brown leghorns, and the rooster, no relation to the chooks (thankfully, otherwise there would be a lot of incest going on in the vineyard) is Brown Leghorn.chooks-009

Winston, the rooster, is a very smart cookie. He proudly leads his harem around the place, and every time they bend over to peck at something he…well, he does what a rooster is supposed to do. At least he tries, but the hens skip away if they see him coming. He’s the boss, no question. He sometimes separates off two hens and takes them under the verandah of the shearers’ quarters. I hate to think what they get up to under there; no good, I’ll be bound.chooks-001

They have a lovely, snug chookhouse, with five nesting boxes, and at the moment I’m getting three pullet eggs a day. It means I no longer buy eggs (though my friend Jacquie has ducks, and she’s been giving me duck eggs, so I’ve been doing lots of baking). One problem, is they all pile into the nests at night to roost, and do their kaka in there, so in the morning I have enough manure to grow a market garden of strawberries. To save me using up all my lovely pea straw too soon, I’ve today devised a netting cover which I will draw down at night over the boxes, and I’ve added a natural perch in the chookhouse – the dead Christmas tree minus the needles. I don’t think they like the skinny wooden built-in perch. We’ll see what happens.chooks-002

But yesterday the funniest thing happened. I went out for lunch, and Colin was at home working. He went down to the pigsty for a while, and left the front door open. When he came back he saw Winston and a hen on the front verandah peering in the window of the French doors. He shooed them away, then thought he saw a hen inside. When he came in, sure enough, a red hen was in the lounge, and what’s more, she’d laid an egg on the floor of the lounge and it was still warm! I couldn’t stop laughing when I came home and he told me what had happened, particularly since animals inside is strictly verboten.chooks-006

But I find it fascinating the way these chooks interact. They are really mean to Dusty, the one hen which has thrown back to the brown leghorn. She is different so she’s the bottom of the pecking order. Even Winston is mean to her, so I’ll have to keep an eye on her otherwise they’ll kill her. I called her Dusty because she’s so pretty, and was the first to have a dust bath.

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Most of the time they stick together, wandering through the vines, singing to each other happily. Winston will flap his wings, stretch his wings out, and crow at some imaginary threat, like Kete, who is absolutely terrified of these bird-monsters.chooks-008

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At night they go into a sort of trance, and I can go into the chookhouse and move them off the nests, stroke them, and they just sort of cluck softly. Last Friday I had to get up at 4am to go to Wellington to catch a plane, and so I fed them at 4.30am before I left, and there was great consternation. It was still dark! Winston hadn’t even started crowing!

I love my chooks.

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