Don't underestimate the cunning nature of chooks

Chooks are smarter than they look, especially when there are apples to be got at, writes Mandy Evans.

Chooks are smarter than they look, especially when there are apples to be got at, writes Mandy Evans.

COLUMN: There have been demands, scolding, gnashing of teeth and possibly (although if you ask me directly, I will deny it) begging.

It sounds a little like an episode of a reality television show. In reality, it was all about harvesting apples.

One of my favourite apple trees is in the chook run. You may recall I previously wrote about our current chooks' propensity for ignoring clipped wings and flapping until they got vertical anyway.

Eventually the girls got the idea I wanted them to sleep on the perches in the main chook house, not in the trees.

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Harder to break was their habit of hanging out in and under the apple tree during the daytime. The tree has always had a fence a metre and-a-half high around it.

That was sufficient for our previous mob of chooks during apple season. Once the apples are harvested I pull back a section of fence to let them in to control weeds.

However, our current girls decided that the coolest hangout for trendy young chooks is in the apple tree. They reckoned an added advantage was that while perched on a branch you had snacks within pecking distance.

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After my first debate with them about whose territory this was I pegged bird netting on top of the lower fence, doubling the height of the fence.

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Despite this, I came home from work one day to find a flock of chooks parked in the tree. I was mostly annoyed with myself, figuring I had not secured the netting well enough.

That was not the problem though. Twice more they broke in over the top and all I can figure is that they just kept flying up at the netting until, under the onslaught of a bunch of fully grown chooks, it just gave way.

Eventually, thanks to half a clothesline worth of pegs, I made the netting chook-proof.

I was therefore pretty perturbed when I came home and again found two chooks inside the enclosure and more pecked apples on the ground.

They had decided if they pushed hard enough at the netting where it was joined to the chook run fence, they would prevail. They did. About four times (this might have been when the begging started, but I am admitting to nothing).

"The chook run is their place," reasoned the other half. "If they want to hang out there, who are we to stop them," he commented.

Clearly, I like those particular apples more than him. At that point I gave up and might have been heard to mutter a grumpy "whatever" in the direction of both man and chooks.

Last weekend we harvested the apples. While there were definitely no low-hanging fruit left, and several of the higher level fruit had to be discarded due to excessive pecking, it was still a pretty good harvest.

Not that I got to pick any. My role was to guard the apple box sitting on the ground in the chook run, while our feisty girls ignored the apples we threw them and stalked the box, tossing in a random peck whenever my attention strayed.

 - The Marlborough Express


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