Summer Loadsman, 6, and her brother Jordan, 8, up close and personal with one very happy backyard chook.
Summer Loadsman, 6, and her brother Jordan, 8, up close and personal with one very happy backyard chook. Tim Howard

How do you coop yours?

HAVING a few chooks in the backyard to recycle food scraps and supply dozens of delicious, golden-yolked eggs would make anyone happy.

But what about the hard-working chooks? What can we do to put a smile on their beaks?

The Clarence has endured weeks of regular rain, which has turned our chook pen into a quagmire.

We dump a bale of straw in there now and again to keep the pen dry and clean, but the wet weather and trampling chooks were turning the straw into a muddy mess.

Despite this, our seven Isa Reds and two black Australorps had been laying seven and eight eggs a day.

Suddenly there was rebellion in the fowl yard. Egg production slumped to three and then two eggs a day.

The first dry weekend we had we dumped some hay into the pen and the chooks went to work scratching and spreading it around the place.

Next day: six eggs in the zotbox (our name for the chooks' favourite nesting box).

It seems our house-proud hens were sick of muddy feet and protested in the only manner they could.

Looking after chooks is not rocket science. Food, water and shelter is all they need and they're not overly fussy.

Letting your flock out of their pen to scratch around in the yard is something they love.

The happiest chook I've ever seen was one of our current flock who scratched up a legless lizard that must have been 30cm long.

In about five seconds she scoffed it down and began strutting around like she'd won the lottery. I suppose in chook world she just had.

They love the chance to find a few tasty worms and grubs and get a bit of green pick into their diets.

And even though I haven't been able to ask them, I think they love the chance to stretch their legs (and wings) scooting about the yard.

Our chooks get all the kitchen scraps, plus a couple of tins of commercial chook chow a day. And when the vegie garden is pumping, there is plenty of rocket, lettuce, spinach and other leaves to spare for our girls.

We make sure they have fresh water every day, although I have noticed the girls are more than happy to stand around a big muddy puddle in the backyard having a drink when they get out.

But then again, who doesn't mind going out for a drink?



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