“What about the chooks?” they ask.
Girragirra sits on the flood plain of the Lachlan River and every so often she floods, putting us well and truly under water just as she did last week. And it’s always about the chooks!
Oh the odd person asks if we’re OK … usually after they ask about the chooks! So let me put your minds to rest. Here’s Scruff, Sally Muffet and Millie McGroder (who’s having a sleepover) all walking down to jump in the flood boat and check on the chooks. OK?
Why the fuss? Well everyone knows our chooks live in the paddock in the ChookVan so I get the concern. But what a lot of you don’t know is that the ChookVan is mobile. Yup, we move it every couple of weeks. If you’ve ever had anything to do with chickens, you will know that if they are confined to barracks they trash their yard. Simple as that. Handy if you’re wanting to cultivate that bit of your garden/ yard / paddock, really handy in fact, but otherwise not so great for the chooks or for the land.
So first up down comes the portable electric fencing – amazing stuff called electranet. Fired up by a solar panel on top of the van, it keeps the chooks in and the foxes and dogs out and couldn’t be easier to move. We bought ours from the very wonderful people at Allsun Farm.
If you need a testimonial to its effectiveness, just ask Sally Muffet. A few years back Sal was in the mood for a bit of chook herding, or maybe she just fancied chicken for lunch? Dropping into the classic slow Kelpie crouch and creep, big brown eyes fixed firmly on a plump little Muriel (all of our chooks are called Muriel), Sal could almost taste success …. until zot! One wet brown nose connected with 8,000 volts. Sal’s convinced Muriel did it and wont even look at the chooks now – just in case…. scary, scary electric chickens.
Next up we tow the ChookVan to fresh feed, pop the fence back up and we’re done! Easy peasy.
Actually, taking the girls for a ride is a Very Good Thing for many reasons. They get to do what chooks love to do, in fact what nature hard wired them to do, or as that oracle Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms says “they get to express the chickeness of the chicken.”
That’s a bit of a win all ’round really.
A chook doing what a chook loves to do is a happy chook and it’s important to us. We respect the animals that work for us. And what they really love to do, more than any thing else, is chase bugs, their absolute favourite food. So they clean up any insects lurking around in the pasture as we rotate them through, including sheep and cattle worm eggs… and that ‘s a good thing for the stock that follow.
Using their beak to peck and pull apart greens as nature intended gives them exercise and a biodiverse, healthy diet giving us naturally bright golden yolks chock full of Omega 3 fatty acids. Yum. We also give our girls access to add lib biodynamic grain grown by local farmers Judi and Ray Unger, shell grit and a mineral lick we make up ourselves using a recipe from Pat Coleby’s very excellent book Natural farming – Practical Guide. It contains dolomite, seaweed meal, copper sulphate and sulphur. We never need to medicate our chooks.
Constantly moving the chookvan to fresh pasture means chook parasites like worms don’t get the chance to build up and it gives the girls fresh country to make dust baths, another way in which they rid themselves of parasites like mites. And of course the pasture gets the benefit of all that chook poo. Excellent!
After our chooks had their five minutes of fame on the tellie recently ( as I said, it’s always about the chooks), local legend and all round poultry expert Marg Girot was asked “why do those Girragirra chooks look so healthy?” Her answer was simple, “They live outside.”
Exactly. Outside doing whatever it is chooks like to do, getting plenty of exercise, eating a healthy biodiverse diet and doing their bit to regenerate the landscape.
And if you subscribe to the theory that you eat what you eat eats… we win too!