So long chooks, and thanks for all the eggs
Lemmy, McNulty and Ginger went to their new home today, a rather palatial coop where they have a whole house rather than a tractor, two giant nesting boxes which are so big that both McNulty and Lemmy, who are huge chooks, can fit in one at once and a run with plenty of interesting nooks to explore.
I'm sad to see them go, but when their run here at Wild Estate flooded in Saturday's inclement weather, and the lid came off the coop in the wind, it really cemented for me that finding them somewhere else to be was the best thing for them.
We took them to their new home yesterday morning, and not only did the neighbours turn up with lettuce for the chooks to nibble, but so did another friend who had helped transform the chook house from an aviary. I don't know if the chooks felt like film stars, or just wanted to hide from the excitement, but Lemmy didn't hold back when the lettuce came out.
So I spent part of the afternoon taking the tarp off the tractor, clearing out the house, and raking up some of the straw that covered their run. I'm going to use this straw, which is composted with chook poo and oak leaves, as mulch on the vegetable beds. I put away their movable fence, scraped up some poo from the lawn and flung it on the compost heap, and planted out the last of the silverbeet I sowed for them to eat in the main vege plot. I had been growing the silverbeet in pots to pop into the run when the chooks needed greens.
There are parts of the garden I feel I can claim back - there was a strip by the back wall (pictured right) where the chooks liked to dust-bathe, right next to a patch of onions. Not only had they made a bowl to sit in and spread dirt all over the path, but had come perilously close to digging up the onions. I claimed it back by filling the bowl back up and planting it with lettuces.
I'm also able to get on with planting out a bed that I've been letting the chooks dig through. The advantage of having a movable run meant I could fence off sections for them to hang out in. The bed is about 3m by 1m and it's the future home of sweetcorn and beans. It's a no-dig bed, and I've layered shredded tree prunings, seaweed, compost, and horse poo in there, which the chooks have gone through and mixed up. The developing soil will be topped up again with more compost and seaweed before I plant the vegetables out.
And finally I can plant the kowhai tree I got for my birthday last December - it will live in the back corner by the compost bins which was until today a big part of the chook run.
As night fell, I watered the tomato plants catching the sunset on my lounge windowsill and gazed out to where I'm used to seeing Lemmy, McNulty and Ginger having a last-minute peck before pottering off to bed. But they weren't there. I realised it will be a while before I stop looking out the window to check on them. And I will miss this view in the morning.