It’s just a year since I traveled (with some apprehension), out to visit Julie at Country Chooks to pick up my three Barnevelder girls. When I look at photos of them taken that day, I can’t get over how those three scrawny, timid, little feathered things have grown into the three, huge, healthy-looking, Fluffy Bums they are now (although they’re still fairly timid). At that early stage names were out of the question; it was impossible to tell them apart, so they just became, “the Girls“.
They were 3 months old then and not laying, but gradually their combs and wattles grew and reddened and they began to lay just before Christmas at about 21 weeks old. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of collecting that first egg, even though it was a tiddler weighing only 37 g!
By that time I could see slight differences in their combs and wattles and it seemed about time to find some names for them. One had already become the dominant hen, bossing the others (gently) off their food and always seemed to be up front when treats were being handed out, so she became Cheeky. The first one to lay became First Lady, or just Lady. My friend Y liked Molly as a name, so Molly became the third member of the trio.
They began their autumn moult in late February and stopped laying in early March. They managed 103 eggs in that first session and by the end of it, egg weights had climbed into the 40-50 g range. I was eating more eggs and giving them away as well.
I needn’t have worried about them coping with the winter cold; they just seemed to sail through it. Since they wouldn’t roost at night in the enclosed section of the coop (or lay in the above-ground boxes provided), I covered in the exposed outer section with light plastic panels, just to keep the wind off them.
I wasn’t expecting any more eggs until spring had kicked in, and was pleasantly surprised when they began to lay again in the middle of July. Eggs, like all the other food that I produce myself, are going to be seasonal, too.
Eggs weights for Molly & Lady have climbed into the middle 60’s. Cheeky, for all the noise she makes about laying and the time she takes to do it, hasn’t managed one above 60 g yet. She’s in the high 50’s and I’m still hoping.
They were very timid at first and didn’t like me anywhere near them, so I’m pleased they’re becoming tamer, or at least used to me. I still can’t pick them up or touch them, but Cheeky will eat hulled sunflower seeds (a treat), out of my hand now. The others will do it as long as there’s a fence between us. If I go into their playground to turn the compacted soil over with a fork, they don’t run and cower in the corner any more, they stand close by ready to grab any titbits that might get turned up.
They love their greens and are getting plenty of parsley, chickweed and kale at the moment. Comfrey is just starting to sprout again and that’s a favourite, too. They get grated carrot as a treat and that, with all the greens, is probably the reason why their yolks are such a beautiful deep yellow. Everyone I give eggs to, comments on it. Breakfast at the moment is half a cup of quick oats and water, 30 seconds in the microwave, and a good dollop of yoghurt mixed in after that. They love it and get it splattered all over their faces.
They can be amazingly dumb and just as amazingly intelligent. They can snap up low-flying mosquitoes with ease. They make me laugh every day.
Twelve months down the track and I don’t regret any part of having chooks. If you’re attempting self-sufficiency and don’t have chooks yet, go for it! You won’t regret it.